HOW TO… Do Color Accent: B&W with a dash of Color

Here’s how to turn an image into black and white, leaving only one color as the accent. There are a number of ways of accomplishing this selective coloring effect depending on the image editing software you are using. In this tutorial, I will use Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0.

  1. Always make a copy of the image you want to work with, so you don’t muck up the original. Here is the image I will be using:
  2. Original Picture

    Original Picture


    In this example, I want to keep the leaf green while turning the rest of the picture B&W.

  3. Use the Magic Wand Tool to select the area (color) you want to accent.
  4. Select Color

    Select Color


    You may want to start with a Tolerance level of 30 and then switch to 10 as you get closer to selecting everything. You may also need to use the other selection tools to make it easier to select small areas of pixels. Use Shift + selection tool to add new areas to your selection and Alt + selection tool to remove areas selected by mistake. Ctrl-Z will undo your last selection.

  5. Now, do Select – Inverse to select everything except the colored area.
  6. Select Inverse

    Select Inverse


    Everything except colored area is now selected

    Everything except colored area is now selected

  7. In the Layers window, click on the Create adjustment layer icon and select Hue/Saturation…
  8. Create adjustment layer - Hue/Saturation...

    Create adjustment layer - Hue/Saturation...

  9. Move the Saturation slide all the way to the left to remove all colors.
  10. Desaturate all colors to B&W

    Desaturate all colors to B&W


    Final Result

    Final Result

Et voilà!

Other examples:


In the example above, I selected the whole sail boat (instead of just one color) and let everything else go B&W.

Need more inspiration?

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