I like selective colouring, when it’s done properly of course. Good thing is that it is relatively easy to do and can certainly add drama and impact to an image.

Grab yourself an image, use an adjustment layer (well I hope you use an adjustment layer) to desaturate the image, or use one of the many other methods available in Photoshop to do it, add a mask, paint back in the colour you want – easy – the problem with that is that people mostly do it that way and end up with a B&W image with a bit of colour on it. Lets try another variation on this to get an image just a bit different from the norm 🙂

You can get the image below to practise on if you like, copyright is mine etc., (because though it’s a sucky image, it’s still my sucky image)


Open the Image, duplicate the image by either dragging it to the new layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette or pressing Ctrl + J on the keyboard, then hide the b/ground layer by clicking on the eyeball. This is just a habit with me, in this case you probably have no need to do it. Go to the create new adjustment layer at the bottom of the layers palette and choose Hue/Saturation to bring up the dialogue box. Check the Colorize box and choose a colour that you would like the background of your image to be. You can see what I have chosen in the screenshot below, don’t forget that you can fiddle around with the Saturation and Lightness – I haven’t.


Grab a brush, check that the f/ground is set to black, click on the Hue/Sat mask to make it active and paint back in the area that you would to have colour. You could have made a selection prior to doing the Hue/Sat adjustment with an Alpha Channel, the pen tool, quick mask etc., I prefer to paint back in the selective colour. If you make a boo boo whilst painting on the mask, just switch the f/ground to white, correct and then switch back to black.

And that is it basically. I’ve gone ahead in my example and used a curves adjustment to lighten my son, held down the Alt key, then dragged the mask from the Hue/Sat layer onto the curves adjustment layer, then pressed Ctrl + i on the keyboard to invert it. I then did a Stamp Visible Ctrl + Shift + Alt + E (make sure you are on the topmost layer before you do this) or, if you run out of fingers, you can hold down the Alt key go to the little downward facing arrow at the top right of the layers palette and select Merge Visible – don’t let go of the Alt key until you have clicked on Merge Visible, you’ll figure out how to make sure it does work, when it doesn’t work for you 🙂 On the newly merged layer I then did an Unsharp Mask (how primitive of me), added a layer mask and grabbed the layer mask from the curves layer to make sure that it only affected the selectively coloured area. Have fun with it. As an end thought to this, make sure you do all your image corrections before you do this process – you’ll probably notice that I didn’t with my image.