Using Colorways in Photoshop Elements

In this previous post (I know it’s been a while–golf season has arrived) I talked about how to color-reduce a photo and then change the colors to create different colorways of the same image.  In this post I’ll show how you can use the colorways to create coordinating designs.

Below is the daylily photo I used in the earlier post (on the left), along with its color-reduced version (middle) and the purple colorway (right).


1.  I’m going to start with the purple image, opening it in Photoshop Elements.  Once it’s opened, from the menu  click Image –> Mode  (as shown below).   If the check mark is in front of the “Indexed Color” option, skip ahead to step 3.

2.  In this example the image was in RGB mode, so I need to change it to Indexed Color mode.  Simply click on the “Indexed Color” option shown in the picture above.  This will open up the “Indexed Color” pop-up menu show here.  Select the “exact” option from the Palette drop-down, and the click OK.

3.  Now the image is in Indexed Color mode.  To see the colors in the image, go to the menu and select Image –> Mode –> Color Table.

4.  This opens the Color Table, shown here.  I want to save this color table so that I can use these colors when creating other images.  Click on the “Save” button and then give the file a name.  Remember where you save it, and note that the file has an extension of “.ACT” for Adobe Color Table.  I named my file purple daylily.act


1.  Now I can use my Purple Daylily colors to create a new image.  I’ll start with a blank file (File –> New –> Blank File).

2.  From the menu, click Window –> Color Swatches to bring up the color swatches panel with a default set of colors (shown here).  Click on the “More” option and then select “Replace Swatches” at the bottom of the list.

3.  The “Load” window opens so I can navigate to the folder where I saved my color table.  Note that the “Load” window defaults to files of type Swatches (*.ACO) — change this to files of type Color Table (* .ACT).  I’ll select the Purple Daylily.act file and click the Load button.

4.  The Color Swatches window now shows only the colors from the Purple Daylily file.  Clicking on any of the colors in the Color Swatches window makes it the foreground color.

5.  Going back to the new, blank file, I’ll quickly create a coordinating stripe to go with the purple daylily photo.  I selected one of the lighter purple-grays from the Color Swatches window, then using the Paint Bucket, I filled in the background of the new file.

6.  Using the brush tool, and selecting different colors from the Color Swatches, I added a bunch of wavy stripes to get this coordinating design.

And here’s another design example.

Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.   Oscar Wilde

Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.   Pablo Picasso


One thought on “Using Colorways in Photoshop Elements

  1. Thank you! I will certainly be able to use this information. Love all your posts on photoshop.

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