Making your entire photo black & white except for one colour – also known as “Selective Colour” – can make your photo feel more sophisticated, and also make your subject even more striking. Choosing one vibrant colour to highlight will make your subject pop right out of the photo!
Achieving this effect can seem like a daunting task, though. There are a lot of different tones in your photos, and the coloured areas you wanted to highlight may be irregularly shaped and seem like they would be hard to properly select. It really is not as difficult as it seems!
If you keep reading, you will find two methods you can use to achieve this effect in Photoshop, and one you can use to achieve it in Lightroom Classic!
Photoshop Method #1
This method works really well for photos where you are trying to highlight just one colour, but there are a lot of different shades of that colour in the photo, or there are multiple areas of the same colour you want to highlight, like the multiple roses in the image we used as a demo!
Step 1: Duplicate the Layer
The first thing you will want to do is duplicate your image in a new layer. To do this, simply select your Background layer, right click, and choose “Duplicate Layer”.
Step 2: Desaturate the Image
For now, make your new duplicate layer invisible (do this by toggling the eye icon next to the layer!). Select your background layer and totally desaturate it to make it grayscale. To do this, press Command + Shift + U on a Mac or CRTL + Shift + U on Windows.
Step 3: Select Your Accent Colour
First, make your duplicate layer visible again, and make sure you have this layer selected. In Photoshop’s top menu, go to “Select”, and choose “Colour Range” from this drop-down menu. This opens the Colour Range Dialog.
Within this dialog, choose the “Add to Sample” tool – the icon of the eyedropper with the plus sign. This tool will help you select all the tones of the colour you are aiming to highlight. To select your colour, click your desired object in multiple areas to add multiple shades of your colour to the same. The more shades you click, the more accurate the selection will be!
As you click around your image, selecting shades, the dialog box will show which areas of your image have been selected. Use this as an indicator of which shades you have selected, and which areas you still need to select shades from in order to make your colour range as accurate as possible.
Step 4: Invert Your Selection
Press Command + Shift + I on a Mac, or CTRL + Shift + I on Windows to Invert your selection. Once you have done this, Photoshop will have selected everything except the colour you have chosen to highlight. After making your inverted selection, simply delete that portion of your photo!
Step 5: Touch Ups
The selection tool may not have been perfect, so you may have a few areas that you want to touch up. Simply use the eraser tool to brush away any unwanted areas that remained after you deleted the inverse selection!
Photoshop Method #2
If you want to accentuate a certain area of a photo, rather than just one colour, this method may work better for you!
Step 1: Select Your Main Subject
Using the selection tool of you choice (lasso selection, quick selection, pen, etc.) draw an outline around the area of your photo you want to remain in colour.
Step 2: Invert the Selection
Press Command + Shift + I on a Mac, or CTRL + Shift + I on Windows to Invert your selection. You have now selected everything outside of your initial selection, meaning you should now have selected the area of your photo you want to change to black and white.
Step 3: Add a Black and White Adjustment Layer
From the “Layer” menu at the top of your screen, select “New Adjustment Layer”, and then “Black and White” from the list of different adjustment layers.
Once you have applied the adjustment layer, you can stick with Photoshop’s default black and white conversion, or you can adjust it using the various colour sliders to lighten or darken areas based on their original colours. For example, dragging red sliders to the right will lighten any areas that were originally red, or had red in them, and so on!
Step 4: Touch Ups
Your selection may not have been perfect, meaning you will need to make a few small adjustments in order to perfect your image. To do this, use the paintbrush tool, with your Black & White Adjustment Layer Selected. If you want to add colour back to certain areas, paint the layer black, and if you want to remove colour from an area, paint the layer white.
If you look to the right panel of your window, you will see that the thumbnail for your adjustment layer shows exactly where the effect is being applied. The white areas are where the black and white effect is active, and the black areas are the ones that will appear in colour.
After completing these steps, you will have successfully created a photo that is black and white, except for one section!
If you are more comfortable with Lightroom than Photoshop, don’t worry! You can definitely achieve this effect in Lightroom as well. Simply follow the steps below!
Step 1: Import the Photo to Lightroom Classic
Import your photo to Lightroom Classic by going to the “Library” tab once you have opened Lightroom, and simply select “Import” from the bottom left corner of the screen. After your photo has been imported, this is the time to make changes to the sharpness, exposure, clarity, and other basic edits.
Once you are satisfied with the general look of your photo, you can move on to the colour editing!
Step 2: Desaturate the Image
Once you know which colour you want to highlight, go into the “HSL/Color” menu on the right side of your screen, and select “Saturation”. Now, slide the desaturation of every colour except for the one you want to highlight all the way to the left, giving it a value of -100. This turns every colour grayscale, except for your chosen one.
If you want your selected colour to pop more, increase its saturation.
Step 3: Touch Ups
There may be some tones of your selected colour outside of the area you want to highlight, especially with this method. In the photo we used as an example, there were red tones in the skin of the people holding the bowl, which remained after the rest of the colours had been desaturated. In addition, in order for the photo to look its best, we had to bring back the orange and green tones in the tomatoes, which brought them back in other areas of the photo as well.
To remove these unwanted hues, simply use the Adjustment Brush Tool. Select the brush, then change the settings so the Saturation settings are -100, and brush over the areas you want to be black and white.
As you can see, there are many ways you can transform your photo and make it all black and white, except for one colour! No matter what your skill level, or what look you are aiming for, you can create a great look and really make your photos pop.