Selective Color Photoshop Tutorial (CS4)

Written by chanie on March 29th, 2011

Now that I’ve already given away my age, it’s no shame in sharing that back in 2001, I completed the web design and web master program at the CCT (computer career training) institute, under Long Island University. Back then, web design was not what it is now, but it definitely gave me the foundation I needed for future jobs and hobbies. Just to give you an idea of where we were in 2001, I still remember our teacher, Ira, sharing with us the new up-and-coming search engine, Google. It promised to deliver much better results than the other popular engines. Nowadays, the term “googled” is part of the english dictionary and our every day vocabulary!

One of the many things we learned in the program was an introduction to Photoshop. I don’t remember what version of Photoshop we used at the time, but I can assure you, it has changed immensely. I, on the other hand, have not. Since the core functions in Photoshop are the same as they’ve always been, I tend to do things the old fashioned way. If there’s a tool I’m not familiar with, I just ask my husband, and he speeds his way through with every shortcut in the book.

Last year, I started a Facebook group called Photo Magician, in the hopes of doing some photo editing part-time. It never materialized. Recently, I was looking back at some of the stuff I’d posted there, because one of my blog followers, Sara Chana, had asked me to post some tips on how to use photoshop to enhance her pictures. I’ve definitely got some ideas, but for starters, I figured I’d start with something easy.

Selective coloring on an image makes it POP. You can draw attention to the focal point of the picture, allowing everything else to blur in the background. Here are some examples:


1. Start by coverting your picture to black and white.

2. Click OK for the default function. Feel free to play around with the options for a more customized finish.

3. Save the black and white image as a copy, and reopen the original colored image.

4. Copy the black and white image and paste it on top of the colored image. If you look in the layers pallette, you’ll see it above the colored image.

5. Making sure that the black and white layer is selected, select the eraser tool (adjust the size of your brush, if needed, and for a softer finish, set the hardness to about 75) and erase the area where you want the color to come through. Here, I erased the hat and scarf (which I knitted, btw!).

6. You are done, but if you’d like, you can play around with different tools at this point, to draw more contrast. Here, I selected the contrast option and set it to 25 to enhance the photograph a bit more.

Here is your before and after! Look how my daughters eyes POP in the altered photograph. I blew it up and have it hanging at the entrance to my house.

Use your creativity to find the right style picture that you want to enhance. In a bridal photo, you can make the bride black and white, and have her flower bouquet in color (this is typical). In a portrait, you might want to draw attention to blue eyes, or red lipstick. The ideas are endless, you are limited only by your imagination!

Of course if you need any help, tips, or have any questions, feel free to email me at :)

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4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Sue says:

    Many thanks for this – it showed me exactly how to achieve the affect I wanted.


  2. Olwyn Fleury says:

    Your work is wonderful.
    I just returned from a great trip to South Africa and shot a lovely pic of a leopard in a tree. The photo was taken in a hurry, and the sky is blown out.
    Of course the cat is surrounded by tree branches of all shapes and sizes and I have been trying to find a way to replace the white with a blue sky.
    Any suggestions for a novice?
    I am happy to have someone else do it who knows what they are doing.
    Thanks so much,
    Olwyn Fleury

    • chanie says:

      Thank you Olwyn! South Africa is the best place to practice your photography skills. There are so many great shots to be taken out in the wild. I’ve actually been there twice! In Photoshop, you can use the “replace” option to change the sky from white to blue. You can also select the white sky and change the levels to reach your desired effect.

  3. Color is a major factor of image. The tutorial nicely describe selective color in photoshop. Thanks a lot.

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