Photoshop Tip: Locking Transparent Pixels

Jennifer Farley

If you look on the Layers palette in Photoshop, near the top of the palette, you’ll see the word “Lock” followed by four symbols. From left to right, the icons are Lock Transparent Pixels, Lock Image Pixels, Lock Position and Lock All. Today’s little tip relates to the first button, Lock Transparent Pixel and how you might use it in your work.


It’s very easy to change a block of color in Photoshop if it has strong, defined edges. You could use the Paint Bucket or Color Replacement tool to change the color, but if you want to change the color of an object that has faded edges or is semi-transparent you need to apply press the “Lock Transparent Pixels” button on the layers palette to do just that.

Here’s an example. Let’s say for example you have some sort of colored shaped with soft edges. Take the green heart shape below. It’s solid on the outside but the inside fades to transparent.


Now let’s say we wanted to change the heart from green to red using the Paint Bucket. If we click on a green section with the Paint Bucket tool with red as a foreground color, this is what we get.


We’ve lost the faded edge and it looks pretty rough all around.

To deal with this problem, click on the “Lock Transparent Pixels” button near the top of the layers palette in Photoshop. The important thing to remember is that this only works on layers with transparency, it has absolutely no effect if the object is part of the background layer.


Once the button is press, the transparent pixels are locked and we will only be able to manipulate the opaque parts of the layer. Now when we click on the green heart, the fade to white is preserved.


This effect is useful for both web and print work.  Have you used it before?