Lots of B&W, A Little Color

Ready for more Photoshop trickery?  This one is easy.  Officially this would be called working with Layer Masks.  We’ll call it taking a color image, making it black and white, and then leaving color in just one or two spots.  Like this, right?

Butterfly in Black and White with Color

Hit the jump to read how it works.

I didn’t understand layer masks until recently.  If you want to understand, imagine you have a color picture and an identical version in black and white.  Put the black and white version on top and then tear a small hole through just the top layer – voila, color, right?  This is the same thing.  Let’s get started.

1.  Open your color image in Photoshop.

2.  Create a duplicate layer.  Lots of ways to do this, but using Layer -> New -> Layer… and clicking Ok works pretty well.

3.  Turn this new layer black and white.  There are a lot of ways to do this too, and depending on your Photoshop version you might not have them all.  My favorite is to select your new layer (probably called “background copy”) and then choosing Image -> Adjustments -> Black & White… You can twiddle with the levels a bit until it makes you happy, and then press ok.  If you don’t have a newer version of Photoshop, you’re probably going to want to use Image -> Adjustments -> Desaturate.

4.  Alright – now we’ve got our black and white layer on top of our color layer.  Time to make a hole for the color to shine through.  Photoshop uses Masks for this, so choose Layer -> Layer Mask -> Reveal All.

5.  Photoshop is ready for us to make that hole now, and we do it with a paintbrush.  Select something that has soft edges (you don’t want a harsh line between color and black and white, right?).  The brush size depends on your image size and how big the object you’re colorizing is.  Play around.  Now one last important thing: Make sure your foreground color is set to black.  Painting in black will bring the color through.  If you go too far, painting in white will bring the black and white back.  Do it till you like it.

Parakeets in Black&White with Color

Got any questions?  I definitely suck at Photoshop and I can handle this, so let me know!

  • Aperture: ƒ/4
  • Camera: Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
  • Focal length: 105mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter speed: 1/30s

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