Turn an Image Black & White Except for One Area in Photoshop
This is probably an effect everyone has seen: a photo that is partly in color and partly in black and white. It's a striking effect that really draws the viewer's attention to the colored area and personally, it's one of my favorite effects.
So, how is it done? Well, you might have guessed that it was done in Adobe Photoshop - and you'd be right. But now you want to know how to do it yourself, don't you?
Well that's what this hub is here for. I'm going to show you a couple of ways to color or grey-out parts of a photo using Adobe Photoshop CS5. Don't worry if you don't have that exact version, the process is pretty much identical regardless of what version of Photoshop you're using, though some of the tools may be in different places,
Photoshop Tools At A Glance
Before we go any further, you might want to take a look at the image displayed on the right. It will show you some of the tools in the Photoshop toolbar that you will need to use during this tutorial. If you're not familiar with Photoshop, you should take a moment to familiarise yourself with the various tool icons.
Please note that the icon marked "Selection Brush" in this photo is the one I'm referring to if I talk about the quick selection tool.
Make a copy of the photo before you start editing. I cannot stress that enough. Alternatively, you can work on the photo and then save the edited version. For example, if you edit "MyPhoto", select "Save As" when you're done and save it as "MyPhoto_Edited", or something similar.
1. Using The Marquee Tool
To demonstrate how to remove color from different parts of a photo using the marquee tool, I'm going to use this image. In case you're interested, it's a photo of a musician called La Roux. She has bright ginger hair and a colorful jacket, and she is standing against a bold blue background, so you should be able to see the effects of selective coloring quite clearly.
Let's get started. Open up your chosen image in Photoshop. It should look something like the screenshot shown below.
Now select the "Rectangular Marquee" tool from the toolbar of the left-hand side of your screen. (It doesn't have to be rectangular; you could make it elliptical, for example).
Using the marquee tool, select the part of the image you wish to remove the color from. I've chosen to make the right-hand side of my image black and white and retain color in the rest of it.
Once you've selected the part of the photo you want to decolorize, you have to create a new adjustment layer. To do this go to your Layers panel (it should be on the bottom-right of the screen). Then select the icon that looks like a half shaded circle. If you hover over it with your mouse, text will appear saying "Create a new fill or adjustment layer". Click on that icon and then select "Hue/Saturation..." from the list.
Once you click on "Hue/Saturation.." a new panel will appear, shown here on the right. To remove the color from your selection, simply drag the "Saturation" slider all the way to the left. This will pull all the color out of your selection, turning it black and white while the rest of your image remains the same.
As, you can see from the picture below, all the color has been removed from the right-hand side of the image, while leaving the rest of it unchanged.
If your mind is already jumping ahead, it might have occurred to you that this panel lets you do more than remove color. For example, dragging the "Saturation" slider to the right would increase the intensity of the colors in your selection. Perhaps a more useful slider to play around would be the "Lightness" slider. This will let you control how light or dark your selected area is, allowing you to draw the viewer's eye to it or away from it, or to simply keep it more in line with the rest of your photo.
That's really cool!
Yes, yes it is. But it's also a little crude. And that was a very simple example. Let's kick it up a notch. What if you just want a small part of the photo to remain in full color? Well, Photoshop has this handy little option called "Select Inverse" which we're about to make use of.
Let's go. Open up the image you want to use, just like we did before. I'm going to use the same photo as I did last time.
Now use the marquee tool to select the part of the image you want to remain in color. I chose the area around the eyes for this example. Next, right-click on your selection and click the "Select Inverse" option from the list. This will deselect the area you chose and select every other part of the image. I drew a small rectangle around the eyes. Once I clicked "Select Inverse", the screen looked like this:
Okay, now you have the area you wish to decolorize selected. The next step is to create a new "Hue/Saturation" layer, just as we did in the first example. Once you've done that, move the "Saturation slider as far left as it'll go. Your original selection will stay colorful, while everything that was selected when you clicked "Select Inverse" will turn black and white.
When I did it, I ended up with the photo shown below. I rather like it actually, since it's rather more subtle than the end result in the previous example.
Colorizing More Complex Shapes
I won't lie to you; a lot of things in the world aren't rectangular. There will be times when you want to highlight more complex shapes than rectangles or circles. To perform more advanced selections, there are a number of tools at your disposal, including the lasso tool and the quick selection tool. The lasso tool allows you to free-draw selections, and is good for fiddly work on small areas. For most shapes however, the quick selection tool is the one to go for. It automatically selects areas based on color and tone, allowing you to select important areas quickly. You can also remove parts of the selection with this tool - which is handy, because although it's very intelligent, it's not perfect.
Let's have a look at the picture to the right of this text. It's a picture of the actor Dylan O'Brien and I want to make it black and white except for his top, which has some bold red colors I want to preserve. Clearly the marquee tool won't do here. Nor will the lasso tool since the area is quite large. The quick selection tool is therefore the best choice.
To select his shirt, I simply click and drag over the areas I want with the quick selection tool enabled.
It's not perfect though, as some areas like the fence and the handle of the bat have been included. Since I don't want those, I'll deselect them. To deselect areas you don't want, just hold down the Alt key while clicking that areas you don't want selected. I suggest zooming in and decreasing the radius of the quick selection tool when you putting the final touches to the selection. This will give you greater control over what is selected and what is not. You can change the radius of the brush near the top-left of the screen while you have the tool selected.
That's better, now only his red top is selected. Now, as that is the only part I want to retain its color, I have to right-click on the selection and choose the "Select Inverse" option.
With everything apart from the top selected, I can now create a "Hue/Saturation" layer. As in the other examples, sliding the "Saturation" slider to the left removes the color, leaving me with the image displayed below:
2. Fill from Background Color
As a general rule, Photoshop offers a lot of different methods for doing the same thing. We have already looked at how you can use selection tools and a "Hue/Saturation" layer to decolorize an image while leaving part of it in full color. That method gives us a fair bit of control over the image, but we don't always need that much control.
There are other ways of retaining color on part of an image while removing color from the rest. The only other one I'm going to show you though is how to desaturate and fill from background.
First, select an image and open it in Photoshop. Here is the image I'll be using for this demonstration. What I want to do is remove the color from this photo, then restore the color of a single lilypad. To be begin, I have to desaturate the photo.
Without selecting anything, create a new "Hue/Saturation" layer, either by clicking the "Create new fill or adjustment layer" icon, or by choosing the option from the "Layer" menu at the top of the screen.
Once the "Hue/Saturation" layer has been created, move the "Saturation" slider all the way to the left. Having done so, my image now looks like this:
Next, I select a single lilypad using the quick selection tool. You can use a different selection tool if you like. It depends on what you're selecting. Once you have made your selection and are happy with it, right-click on it and click the "Fill" option from the list. This will open the window shown on the right.
You don't have to worry about changing "Blending" as the default option will be fine. If "Opacity" is set to less than 100%, reset it to the default value of 100%.
Under "Contents" you should select "Use: Background Color". This will fill your selection with color from that area on the background layer. (Another way of looking at is that it removes the "Hue/Saturation" layer over your selection).
And there we have it! The selection has been filled with the background color. The finished product is shown below.
Well, there you go. You should now know how to turn images black and white while preserving color in one area using Adobe Photoshop.
Hopefully you found this article helpful. If you have any feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.