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How to Selectively Color part of a Monochrome Image Using Photoshop

Updated on January 1, 2017

Selective Colouring

I had such a good response to my first tutorial that I thought I would have a go at doing a second one. This time I thought I would show you how to selectively colour an image.

We are going to take a colour photograph change it into a black and white image. We are going to select a part of the image to reveal the original colour to accent a selected part.

Accenting a monochrome image with a splash of colour draws the eye to the key area of the photograph. It helps you to focus the viewer on the part you want your viewer to focus on.

I am self taught and there are other ways to get this effect. Some of these ways are possibly better than the one I am going to show you.

But I am going to share with you in the best way I possibly can the way that I do it. Hopefully if you follow the steps I show you then you will be able to do this on any of your own photographs.

Selective Colouring is an effect used to great effect by many wedding photographers.

I have often seen photographs with the bride in black and white with her bouquet in colour. This is a pleasing and impressive effect which has proved to be very popular with brides.

I haven’t got a wedding photograph as an example. But here is one I took when I was walking the dog. It is of a man carrying a burden in the Spanish countryside and I think it illustrates the technique well.

An example of a colour accented photograph

I think this shows how it draws the eye of the viewer to the part of the image that you want them to focus on
I think this shows how it draws the eye of the viewer to the part of the image that you want them to focus on

My Way

I will use a before and after photo so that you can see for yourself the kind of result that you can expect to get. All you have to do is follow the steps laid out in this tutorial.

I know that a lot of people are already familiar with Photoshop and already know how to operate the software. But please be patient with me as I go step by step stating what to you might seem obvious.

I know that often in other tutorials there is an assumption of some knowledge.

Often the assumption of prior knowledge even of some quite basic stuff is wrong.

In my case this led to some really good tutorials being of no use to me at all. They were no use because they started from a point that was already beyond my ability.

I could nearly always follow what they were doing in the tutorial. But I couldn’t do the same because I couldn’t even get to the starting point, using layers being a case in point.

I will try to cover all aspects of the process with illustrations of the steps. Hopefully even a complete novice will be able to follow it.

The Before Photograph

This is the photograph that I am going to use to illustrate this technique. Please feel free to use this image when you try this out for yourselves.

Make a copy of the Before Photograph by placing your cursor on the photograph and right clicking. Right clicking will give you a drop down menu select the ‘save picture as’ option. Click save the image and place it where you can find it.

Normally when I am working on something I make a folder on my desktop. I put all the photos that I am using then I can go strait to them.

I chose this particular photograph as I thought that it would be fairly easy to use. The part that I have chosen to accent is clearly defined and easy to identify from the rest of the photograph.

The Before Photograph

The After Photograph

You can see quite clearly how using this technique greatly changes the impact of this photograph and draws the eye straight to the flowers.


The flowers pop right out of the monochrome background giving the photograph much more impact.  

The After Photograph

Fig One

Open the Photograph you want to work on

Open Photoshop and select the photograph that you are going to work in my case it is the before photo above.

To open your chosen photograph go to the top left hand side of the screen put your cursor on file and you should now have a drop down menu that looks like fig one

From this drop down menu chose the option Open which is the one highlighted in blue on fig one

Then locate your photograph and select it.

If you have chosen to use my Before Photograph you should now have a screen that looks like fig two below.

Fig Two

Fig Three

The Layer tab is the first of three tabs on this pallet notice the x against layer signifying that the layer tab is the one selected.
The Layer tab is the first of three tabs on this pallet notice the x against layer signifying that the layer tab is the one selected.

Open a New Adjustment Layer

Now we are going to open a new adjustment layer.

We do this by going to the layer pallet

The layer pallet is located on the lower right hand side of your screen and looks like fig three.

You will notice that there is a cross alongside the layer tab which signifies that this is the tab that is open.

If the cross is not alongside the layers tab, don’t worry. All you need to do to select the tab is place your cursor on it and click. The layer pallet will open up and it should look like fig three.

Along the bottom of this layer pallet you will see some small icons.

To open a new adjustment layer we are going to click on the one that looks like a circle that is half white and half black. This it the icon which will open our layer.

I have highlighted the icon in blue to help you identify it.

Fig Four

Select Black and White Option


Click on the circle icon and you will get a drop down menu that looks like fig four

From the list of options on this drop down menu select the option Black and White….


Once you have clicked on the adjustment layer icon and selected the black and white option a new box will open up. Your screen should now look like fig five.

Make sure that the preview option has a tick next to it. If it has not just put your cursor in the box next to it and click to select.

If preview is not selected you will not see the changes that you have made until after you have clicked ok. So it is important that you have preview selected.

This way you will be able to see how the image changes as you move any of the sliders.

fig five


You will notice that my photo looks a little dull so I just moved the yellow slider to the right hand side until it looked a bit brighter the figure against my slider after I moved it read 95.

If you are not pleased with the way the black and white image looks try clicking on the Auto button which is one of the options on the right hand side of the box.

If you are still not happy with the image play about with these sliders until you get the black and white image that you are pleased with.


When you are satisfied with the result click ok and your screen should now look like fig six


Don’t worry if you mess up and don’t like what you have done to the image click on Auto and it will take it back to the computers idea of what it should look like.


Remember this is your image and it only has to please you so have fun messing with the sliders until you get the look that satisfies you.



fig six

You can see in fig six that the layer pallet now has two layers. The new Adjustment Layer is highlighted in blue showing that this is the active layer.

We shall be working on this layer so make sure that it is this layer that is highlighted.

If not you will be working on the layer underneath instead. You will not get the desired effect and plus you will be painting on the colour layer underneath.

Fig seven illustrates what the layer pallet looks like when the other layer is selected . Then instead of uncovering the underlying colour you will being doing something else.

You can see on the flower where I have painted there is a part that has been coloured grey.

The part I coloured is not a solid colour because my brush was only set on about 40% opacity at the time. If it had been set on 100% then the colour would be solid. Then where I painted would have obscured the flower underneath.

Fig Seven

I will click on the eye icon on the adjustment layer. This will make this layer invisible so that you can see what has happened.

You can see from fig eight how I have painted on the underneath layer.

If you switch the visibility off don’t forget to switch it back on again. To turn it to visible click in the empty box at the side of the Adjustment layer so that the eye and the layer will reappear.

Fig eight

Fig nine

How to put things right

If the above has happened and you have made a mess of it you don’t have to worry it is easily put right.

To put it right go up to the top left hand side of your screen. Click on Edit and choose the Step Backward option on drop down menu see fig nine

Just keep on stepping backwards until you reach the point where you started to go wrong.

fig ten

Select the brush tool

After making sure that the Adjustment layer is active your layer pallet will look like that in fig six.

Go over to the left hand side of the screen and select the brush icon see fig ten.

Most of the icons on the left hand side of the screen have a tiny little triangle alongside the tool icon.

The tiny triangle means that there is more than one option available on this tool.

Put your cursor on the brush icon and right click. and a drop down menu will appear with three options choose the brush tool. See fig ten

I have highlighted the brush to select.

Up on the top of your screen now is the brush tool bar

Mode should read Normal

Opacity should read 100%

Flow should read 100%

If any of these settings are not correct then just go to the little blue tick box that is along side each icon.

Click on the item that you want to change if it is the mode you want to change Normal is the first option on the drop down menu.

To change the Opacity or the Flow move the slider right over to the left until it reads 100% in the box.

See fig eleven to see what you now should have on your screen.

Fig eleven

Fig twelve

Revealing the colour

One more thing before we begin to paint.

Go down to the bottom left hand side of your screen to where you can see the colour that is currently selected.

In fig twelve you will see that black is the foreground colour and white the background colour.

If yours is not the same just click on the miniature icon directly above the box. This should give you the default colours of black and white. If the white box is on top just click on the two headed arrow icon next to it and this will switch the colours over.

We are working on a mask. So black will reveal the underlying colour when we paint and white will conceal it.

We are now ready to begin painting on the petals of our flower to reveal the yellow underneath.

If you want to zoom in on the image just click on the magnifying glass icon which I have highlighted in fig twelve

Take your brush make it what ever size you want to work with. To change the size go up to the top left hand side of the screen.

Click on the triangle that is next to the number shown by the Brush see fig eleven

Move the slider to the right to increase the size and to the left to decrease the size.

When you are satisfied with the size of your brush begin to paint the petals of the flower.

Don't forget to use black so that the yellow of the flower in the layer below will be revealed.

Don’t worry if you go over onto the green of the leaves. Using a mask does not harm the layer itself.

So if you have colour showing that you don't want it is easy to undo. Just switch the brush colour black to white and paint over what bit you want to conceal again.

The white mask on the active Adjustment Layer will show the shape in black of what you colour see fig thirteen.

Where I have painted in black the yellow on the level below has been revealed in the image. The corresponding shape in black has appeared in the mask icon in the layer pallet.

Fig thirteen

Just take your time and reveal as much or as little as pleases you.

I hope that in the future you will get a lot of fun out of playing with your own photos using this technique.


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    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Thank you for your kind comments I am so happy that you have found this useful I am on my way to check out your link to your Paris photo :D

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This tutorial is so awesome, i was searching everywhere for something like this. I had a picture from Paris that I did this technique to.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Thank you so much maheshpatwal for your comments and for voting up both are really appreciated.

      I am glad that you came across my hub too :D

    • maheshpatwal profile image


      7 years ago from MUMBAI

      Maggs superb hub on how to do selective coloring using photoshop. I've been trying to do selective colors to my pictures for a long time, i'm very happy that i came across your hub. Now i can complete my long pending task.. Thank you for writing so much detailed hub. Voted up

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Thanks for the comments sasa I will be posting some more tutorials soon. I am glad that you found it useful and I hope that you will have lots of fun playing with this software.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      hi maggs,

      im actually new at photoshop..been stucked at google looking for stuff to help me and i found your link. i just so love it.. i got the result i some more tutorials..

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi Angela yes it is fun to do and you can get some really interesting results. Let me know what you are interested in learning to do and if I know how to do it I will write a tutorial hub for you.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      9 years ago from United States

      I have tried doing this as well! I have found it really fun, I'm still trying to learn some other things on photoshop, so I'm rooting for more photoshop tutorials!

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      J.P. I am glad that you found it interesting I hope you have fun trying it out for yourself.

    • J.P. Gardie profile image

      J.P. Gardie 

      9 years ago from Europe

      This was a really interesting tutorial. Now this will keep me busy for quite some time. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      50 Caliber, I look forward to seeing some when you do them, if you do put a link don't forget to use your referal tracker then if anyone comes to my page via your URL tracker and I earn anything on adsense then you will also get a percentage of that earning at no cost to me.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      9 years ago from Arizona

      Maggs, I will try a few and share them also I will give link to where I learned how! I've got a box full right here with the idea that I will have them all on the computer and on discs for keeping them sorted out.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Thanks for your kind words, I have just read your Childhood Experiences hub

      which I enjoyed very much. I spent quite a lot of time scanning all my old photographs but it was so worth it. I am sure you will have a great deal of fun manipulating your old photographs.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      9 years ago from Arizona

      Great tutorial! Dummies like me need them. I have been computing for just over 1 1/2 years. I think it was about 11 months before I figured out how to make a hub. I've a scanner and I'm learning how to get some pictures scanned and this will assist in me fixing them up for use in hubs and e-mails.

      Thank you.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Meza, thanks for the praise and you are welcome

    • Mezo profile image


      9 years ago from Egypt

      great hub...thnx alot :)

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      hi Watch Tower thank you very much for your kind comments they are a big encouragement to me.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi Ann glad that you ae enjoying them I will try to do some more and I might repoduce these two that I have done already but using the free to download program GIMP which I downloaded tonight, that is once I get my head round it.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Thanks Ethel for the well done, it means a lot coming from you.

    • Watch Tower profile image

      Watch Tower 

      9 years ago from New Zealand

      another brilliant, extremly well written how to Hub, thanks Magg's

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 

      9 years ago from Virginia

      This is great maggs...You have a photoshop series going with clear, distinct instructions and pictures too! Count me in!

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Great detailed information but in a nice and simple step by step guide. well done

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hello, I am so glad that you are finding these tutorials helpful, I hope to do more but I am going to look at GIMP to see if I can get to grips with this free software that anyone can download for free.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi Shalini, I am so glad that you are finding the instructions clear I hope you have fun manipulating your photos.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi Al, your hub was the inspiration for these tutorials so I should be the one thanking you. Lol Thanks for the thumbs up and the blessings I am always glad to receive both.

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi Candie as always you are so encouraging and kind it is such a blessing to see your name in my comments. I am going to look at a program called GIMP which some one recommended on my previous hub. This program does many of the same things that Photoshop does but it is open source and doesn’t cost you anything to download unlike Photoshop which costs an arm and both legs.Lol

      So I am going to see if I can get to grips with this software and do a tutorial that anyone can try out for themselves using free software.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      That was so fabelous, I couldn't stop reading. Thank you a different subject with great information.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 

      9 years ago from India

      maggs224 - I loved your other Photoshop hub - and love this one just as much! You give such detailed, clear instructions - I'm off to try and experiment right away!

    • Mystique1957 profile image


      9 years ago from Caracas-Venezuela

      Wow Maggs!

      Great hub you have right here!

      Great info! I am having a very good time learning from your tutorials!

      Keep on Photoshoping!

      Thumbs up!

      Warm regards and blessings,


    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 

      9 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      What an incredible hub on Photo Shop! Maggs - you are amazing! I've bookmarked it, in case I get this program.. then I'll know how to do it! You put a lot of work in to this one! Hmmm... anymore secrets?

    • maggs224 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Sunny Spain

      alekhouse glad you found it interesting, I hope you have fun trying it out.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      9 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Really interesting. I have photoshop, so I'll have to try this. Good hub.


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