Selective Colour – B&W With a Splash

It is quite popular to convert your images to black and white, but then to return part of the image to its original colour. This is done to create a small splash of colour that is instantly picked out of its surroundings to draw the eye to that point. It is a simple and fun way to enhance your black and white images. We show you how it’s done in this simple tutorial.

Step 1 – First of all, you will need a colour original. We have used a shot of some coloured pencils on a neutral background. We have a great range of colours that should convert to black and white with no issue.

Step 2 – Create a duplicate image by pressing Cmd + J and name it ‘mono’. Select that duplicate and go to Image > Adjustments > Black & White.

Step 3 – We do our conversion to mono. We’ve brought out a lot of mid-tone detail and added some contrast to make the image quite punchy, but keeping a good range of tones.

Step 4 – You now have the newly created black and white copy ‘mono’ as your top layer, and your colour original on the layer below.

Step 5 – Make sure the ‘mono’ layer is active and go to the toolbar and choose the Lasso Tool (L). We will be using this tool to define an area of the image that will reappear in colour.

Step 6 – You can draw in a free form fashion using the Lasso Tool as if you were drawing with a pencil. If you prefer, you can use the Polygonal Lasso Tool which draws in a series of connected straight lines by by clicking on a point-to-point basis.

Step 7 – Whatever your preferred selection method, select the main body of one pencil. When you have drawn around an area and join up the selection, you will see the marching ants appear.

Step 8 – Now, Go to the content menu at the top left of the screen and choose Add to selection. Your cursor will now have a small + symbol, indicating it will now be able to add another selection to the one you have already.

Step 9 – Using the method from step 6, add the pencil tip to the selection. Again, when you join up the tip selection, marching ants will show you now have the pencil body and tip selected.

Step 10 – Now we can create a mask. With the ‘mono’ layer still active, go to the bottom of your layers palette and click on the Add layer mask button. A layer mask will be added to the ‘mono’ layer in the shape of your selection.

Step 11 – The mask needs to be white, with the actual selection filled in black. If it is the other way around, just press Cmd + I to invert the colours of the mask. The mask on the ‘mono’ layer is allowing part of the coloured original to show through.

selective colour effect 2

Step 12 – If you Alt + left-click on the layer mask, you can view the mask in isolation. Press Alt + left-click on the mask thumbnail again to go back to your main view.

Step 13 – Click on the layer mask thumbnail to make sure it is active and then click on the properties panel and add a small amount of feather to the mask. About 2-3 pixels is enough to soften the hard edges of the mask.

Step 14 – There is your black and white image with a splash of colour. Now you know how to do it. How about converting more of your favourite image to mono and finding a cool, colourful, point of interest to ‘pop’ out of your shot.

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Mark Frost

Mark started work as a commercial artist during the good old days of Letraset, spray mount and having to process your photos at a local chemist. Having discovered his passion for photography, Photoshop and the wonders of digital image manipulation, he has not looked back. He is well on his way to owning more cameras than he’s had hot dinners.

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