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Creating Color Accents with Free Photo Programs or Photoshop - Black and White with Color Accents

Updated on June 21, 2011

Color Accents

Color Accented Photographs are images which are both black and white as well as color.

Correct use of color accents can create a dramatic impact to your photographs. By using color accenting you can isolate your subject from the rest of the photograph.

You may be familiar with the dramatic photographs by Kim Anderson, with children wearing old fashioned adult clothing. These are excellent examples of Color Accented Photographs.

Hand coloring can be used to add color to black and white images. But, with digital color images you can easily create color accents on your computer.

Using the methods below you can learn how to create your own Color Accented Photographs.

Original Color Photograph

Color Accented Photograph

Selecting an Image to Color Accent

No matter the method you use the first and most import step to creating a color accented photograph is selecting the right image.

You can use color accents to remove distracting colors from the background, like the red flower above. You can also select a certain color from an image and only keep that color, like with the blue in the dragon flies to the right.

When selecting an image to color accent, think about how you are going to accent the image and how it will look like afterward.

The hardest part of creating color accents are the borders between the colored and black and white elements. For your first attempts at color accents try to use images where the area you want to accent has a black or white border and is not ajecent to another color.

How to Create a Color Accent

Method 1

One simple way to create a color accent is to use the Layer, Desaturate, Erase Method.

  1. Layer - Create a new layer from the original visible image.
  2. Desaturate - Convert the top layer to black and white by dropping the saturation of the layer to zero.
  3. Erase - Simply use the eraser tool erase the area which you would like to restore the color to.

Method 2

Another way to create a color accent is to use the Select, Invert, Desaturate Method.

  1. Select - Make a selection of the area that you would like to leave colored.
  2. Invert - Invert the selection so that you now have the area you would like to be black and white selected.
  3. Desaturate - Convert the selection to black and white.

Method 3

If you have just one color that you would like to accent than you can use the Select By Color, Invert, Desaturate Method.

This method works great when creating a color accent with one just one color.

  1. Select By Color - Use the Select By Color tool to select the color range you would like to keep in your color accent.
  2. Invert - Use the selection invert to select the area to be converted to black and white.
  3. Desaturate - Convert the selection to black and white, leaving just the color range you selected to accent the image.

The exact proceedure for these steps can vary depending on the image editing software you are using. As basic programs like MS Paint do not support layers you will need a decent image editing program like Adobe Photshop or Corel Paint Shop Pro. If you do not want to spend the money on Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, The Gimp is a great free alternative.

100% Opacity

80% Opacity


By default the eraser is set to 100% opacity. This will completely erase the area from the desaturated layer and give you the full original color, which you may not always want.

By adjusting the opacity of the eraser you can desaturate the color slightly, so it is not as over powering.

Using a lower opacity can also give your image a more rustic look.

You can see a noticeable difference in the in the examples to the right. The top image was made with 100% and the lower image was made with 80% opacity.

Tip: First create your color accent with 100% opacity. Then, create another new layer from the visiable layers. Now use varying opacities until you find the desired opacity. Since you already cleaned up the borders on the layer below you can quickly and carelessly erase at the edges.


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    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for the tutorial, I am looking forward to trying this.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Would like to learn how to do this. Thanks for the tutorial. Bookmarked!

    • DenverPhotography profile image

      DenverPhotography 7 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Beautiful photo. The reds are so dark and deep I love it! Thanks for sharing.

    • nikki1 profile image

      nikki1 7 years ago

      Thank you for sharing. Beautiful photos.