Black & White with Selective Color Effect in Photoshop Elements

One of the more popular photo effects you may have seen is when a photo is converted to black and white, with the exception of one object in the photo that stands out while remaining in color. There are many different ways to achieve this effect. Below is a non-destructive way to do this using adjustment layers in Photoshop Elements. The same method works in Photoshop or other software that offers adjustment layers.

  1. Convert to black and white with the Desaturate . command
  2. Convert to Black & White with Hue/Saturation Adjustment
  3. Convert to black and white with gradient map adjustment
  4. Understanding Layer Masks
  5. Restore the color of apples by painting in a layer mask
  6. Clean up edges by painting in a layer mask
  7. Add noise for the finishing touch
  8. Finished image with selective coloring

Convert to black and white with the Desaturate . command

For the first step, we need to convert the image to black and white. There are many ways to do this. Let’s take a look at some of them so you can understand which method is preferable for this tutorial.

Start by opening your own image, or follow the photo shown here as a training model.

The most common way to remove color from an image is to go to Enhance > Adjust Color > Remove Color. (In Photoshop, this is called the Saturation command.) Try and try if you like, but then use the Undo command to return to your color photo. We’re not going to use this method because it constantly changes the image and we want to bring back the color in the selected areas.

Convert to Black & White with Hue/Saturation Adjustment

Another way to remove color is to use a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Now go to the layers palette and click the New Adjustment Layer button which looks like a black and white circle and then choose Hue/Saturation from the menu. In the Hue/Saturation dialog box, drag the center Saturation slider all the way to the left for a setting of -100, then click OK. You can see that the image has gone black and white, but if you look in the layers palette, you can see that the background layer is still in color, so the original hasn’t been permanently altered.

Click the eye icon next to the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to temporarily disable it. The eye is the switch to make the effect visible. Leave it now.

Saturation is one way to convert a photo to black and white, but unsaturated black and white has no contrast and looks washed out. Next, we will consider another method that gives a better result.

Convert to black and white with gradient map adjustment

Create another new adjustment layer, but this time choose Gradient Map as the adjustment instead of Hue/Saturation. In the Gradient Map dialog box, make sure the gradient from black to white is selected, as shown here. If you have a different gradient, click the arrow next to the gradient and select the “Black, White” gradient thumbnail. (You may need to click the little arrow on the gradient picker and load the default gradients.)

If your image looks infrared instead of black and white, you have an inverted gradient and you can just check the “Inverted” button below the gradient options.

Click OK to apply the gradient map.

Now click the eye again for the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and use the eye icon on the Gradient Map layer to compare the results of both black and white conversion methods. You will see that the gradient map version has better texture and more contrast.

You can now delete the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer by dragging it to the trash can icon in the layers palette.

Understanding Layer Masks

Now we’re going to give this photo a color boost by restoring the color of the apples. Since we used an adjustment layer, we still have the color image in the background layer. We’ll paint on the adjustment layer mask to reflect the color in the background layer below. You may already be familiar with layer masks, but if not, here’s a summary:

Take a look at your layers palette and notice that the gradient map layer has two icons. The left one indicates the type of adjustment layer and you can double-click it to change the adjustment. The thumbnail on the right is the layer mask, which will be all white for now. A layer mask allows you to erase your settings by painting on it. White shows the setting, black blocks completely and grayscale partially. We are going to get the color of the apples from the background layer by painting the layer mask with black.

Restore the color of apples by painting in a layer mask

Zoom in on the apples in the photo so they fill your workspace. Activate the brush, select a brush of the correct size and set the opacity to 100%. Set the foreground color to black (you do this by pressing D and then X). Now click on the layer mask thumbnail in the layers palette and then start painting apples on the photo. Now is a good time to use a graphics tablet if you have one.

When drawing, use the bracket keys to increase or decrease the brush size.
[уменьшает размер кисти
] increase the size of the brush
shift + [делает кисть более мягкой
Shift +] makes the brush harder

Be careful, but don’t panic if you go overboard. We’ll see how to remove it further.

Optional method: If you are more comfortable making selections than painting with color, you can use the selection to select the object you want to color. Click on the eye to turn off the gradient map adjustment layer, make your selection, turn the adjustment layer back on, click on the layer mask thumbnail, then go to Edit > Fill Selection with Black as Fill Color.

Clean up edges by painting in a layer mask

If you’re human, you probably painted some areas you didn’t intend to. Don’t worry – just change the foreground color to white by pressing X and erase the color back to gray with a small brush. Zoom in and remove all borders using the labels you learned.

When you think you’re done, reset the zoom level to 100% (actual pixels). You can do this by double clicking the scale tool in the toolbar or by pressing Alt + Ctrl + 0. If the colored edges look too harsh, you can soften them a bit by going to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Blur Radius to 1-2 pixels.

Add noise for the finishing touch

There is one last touch to add to this image. Traditional black and white photography usually has film grain. Since this was a digital photo, you won’t get that grainy quality, but we can add it with a noise filter.

Duplicate the background layer by dragging it to the new layer icon in the layers palette. This way we leave the original intact and we can remove the effect by simply deleting the layer.

With the background copy selected, go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Set the value between 3-5%, Gaussian distribution and controlled monochromatic. You can compare the difference with and without the noise effect by checking or unchecking the preview box in the Add Noise dialog box. If you like it, click OK. If not, adjust the sound level more to your liking or cancel it.

Finished image with selective coloring

Here is the end result of your efforts.

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