Skip to main content

Photoshop Elements: Adding Color to Black and White Photography

Angela, a lover of photography and the beauty it creates, has taken courses and read many books to help with this artform.

There are so many amazing things you can do in Photoshop. Have you ever seen those gorgeous black and white pictures of children holding roses, where the photo is in all black and white except for red roses that pop with vibrant color?

I'm going to teach you a simple way to achieve that effect using Photoshop Elements. This step-by-step instructional guide portrays a photo of what your screen will look like as you complete each step. You will see what buttons to press and where they are on the display.

This is our test photo, which we're going to transform.

This is our test photo, which we're going to transform.

Step One: Click on the Smart Tool

The smart tool is on the right, emphasized by the darkened area around it. If you are uncertain if you are clicking on the correct icon, hover above it for a few seconds:
You should see a bar coming that will tell you what the icon is. If it says "smart tool," click on it. Once you do this, you will see a new drop-down menu on the top of the screen.

Step Two: Scroll Down & Click on "Black and White in Reverse"

The drop-down menu will be right above your work area, below the main menus. Click on the arrow clicking down, and you will find "black and white in reverse." Assuming you have the same version as me, it will be the one with a flower icon.

Step Three: Highlight the Area That You Want To Color

When you first press "black and white in reverse," you may feel like nothing happened. So take your cursor and click on an area you want to remain in color. The moment you release the right button on your mouse, all except the highlighted area will turn black and white. You will want to keep putting the mouse over the range, highlighting the desired areas. There will be a lot of tweaking, which can take several minutes.

Step Four: Coloring Inside the Lines

Next to the drop-down menu, you will see three essential buttons. The first two you will see are a brush with a (+) next to it and one with a (-) on it. These are essential for tweaking. Click on the plus area when you want to continue to add color to the picture. If you have gotten places you don't want to be colored, use the minus button and spread over those areas. This will be the most time-consuming part. Maximizing your image will be much easier.

Step Five: Changing Brush Sizes Help

The tweaking will be the most tedious part. By adjusting the diameter of the brush, it's easier to make the object perfect. You will find this button next to the plus and minus brushes. You will probably want to start with a larger brush (I start with 20). Then when you start tweaking, use smaller (I usually use between one and seven for refining the area). Tweaking will be a long game of going between the plus and minus, adjusting the brush size until it's perfect and to your liking.

Step Six: Flatten The Image

When you start editing, the program will automatically make another layer to your picture. Everything you do will be on this separate layer. The background, which is the image you started with, will always be there until you flatten your image. Photoshop does this so that if you do a lot of work and want to scratch it, it is an easy one-step change. Or, if you have several layers going, and you realize you want to scratch a previous layer without scratching what you just did, you can delete that layer without affecting what you've done. Once you become familiar with Photoshop, this will make more sense.

The important thing to note before flattening a layer is that once it is flattened, you can not change it. If you want to undo anything you already did, you will have to get your original and start from scratch. So before you flatten the image, you need to make sure you are pleased with your work.

Once you are pleased with it, you will want to click on the top layer. A menu will appear. It should look like the one to the right. The darkened area is the layer I clicked on to do my project. It should help you locate it on your screen. On the menu, "flatten image" will be the very bottom item on the pop-up menu. Click on it to complete!

Step Seven: Save and Enjoy!

Once you save your final project, you can enjoy your beautiful masterpiece. Show it off to all of your friends.

After when pulling color out!

After when pulling color out!

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz

Scroll to Continue


Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 29, 2012:

Thank you so much!

Alex Jose from Cleveland, Ohio on May 29, 2012:

Awesome and will definitely try this out at home next time. Voted up for this hub.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on November 30, 2011:

Hope you have fun with it!

photobackdrop from Michigan on November 24, 2011:

Amazing! I must try this out. Thanks!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on April 25, 2011:

This is a lot of fun! I hope you enjoy doing this as much as I do!!

Eiddwen from Wales on April 22, 2011:

A very useful hub which I will bookmark.

Thanks for sharing and take care


Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on August 16, 2010:

Thank you so much for that really nice compliment. I liked the photo a lot. I actually love Photoshop Elements, I have so much fun with it. Which reminds me I have a lot of pictures to download. If this wasn't such a crazy world, I'd show some of the amazing things I do with pictures of people (especially my daughter).

Peter from Australia on August 14, 2010:

angela_michelle, terrific Hub. I did not realize that Photoshop Elements was so versatile !

The image is quite striking when you have a black and white background.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on August 04, 2010:

Gateway6 to Jesus, weren't those photos so gorgeous. I did some of those with pictures of my daughter. The pictures with little kids or even people turn out the best with black and white, but I don't want to show pictures of my daughter on the Internet. So this was the next best picture.

gatewaytoJesus from victoria australia on August 04, 2010:

thankyou for this angela_michellei love doing things like this i used to color black and white photos too that's good fun thanks again

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on July 12, 2010:

I actually got mine for 20 dollars off of ebay. It was just the disk and did not come with anything but the disk. I love it, and I found out how to do a lot of the stuff through tutorials online either through youtube or even on here!!! It's so much fun, worth buying.

Elements is a lot of fun, but it's more for the hobbyist, not for a professional photographer. :)

Pamela Dapples from Arizona. on July 12, 2010:

When I saw this title, I clicked on it right away. I want to learn to do photoshop. I thought, though, that it's about $400 for the program, but I see in your Amazon ads it's about $70? Or is that just for a segment of what one needs -- I don't know.

You've done a great job on this hub. It opens up my eyes to what I'm missing out on.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on March 28, 2010:

Thanks, by the way cool avatar!

mhuze from USA on March 28, 2010:


Related Articles