Selective Colour in Photographs Tutorial

For some reason unknown to myself, I am fascinated by digital colouring. With such software as Photoshop and it’s layer modes, the job is made relatively simple if the original image works well with the techniques used.

In this short tutorial I will be showing you two very easy ways to create selective colour in a photograph. We will be looking at desaturating parts of a colour photo and colourising parts of a black and white photo. Each method works better with different subjects.

Selective Colour Tutorial

Desaturating and Masking Method

This is the original colour photograph – click on the image to get the download from

Balloons Original

Step 1

Open the balloons image, or coloured image of your choice.

Duplicate the layer – name this layer BlackWhite

With the BlackWhite layer active, hold down the Alt key and click and hold the right mouse button on the adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette.

Select Black & White and check the option ‘Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask’

Black & White Adjustment Layer

Step 2

Click on the Black & White adjustment layer thumbnail to bring up the settings, from the dropdown list select your chosen setting – you can try a few until you see the result you like. I chose Lighter for my image.

Black & White Settings

Step 3

Make the BlackWhite layer active and add a layer mask by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the layers palette.

Select the Brush tool, a soft round brush and zoom well into the part of your image that you want in colour.

Paint out all of the black and white from the balloon or your chosen object

Masked Balloon

Step 4

Duplicate the original image layer again

Create an adjustment layer with a clipping mask as in Step 1, this time choosing Hue/Saturation.

Make sure the Colorize option is checked and set the colour to your preference.

Set the layer mode for this adjustment layer to Overlay and reduce the opacity to around 90% – you may need to now adjust the Hue/Saturation settings – do so by the same method as in Step 2

These are the settings I used:

Hue/Saturation Settings

Step 5

Make the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer mask active, select the brush tool and using a small brush and viewing you image at a very large size, mask out the basket and the people to restore them to their original colours.

And that’s it – now you can cut your image as required and make any further changes you require.

As you can see from my image below, I added a little colour on the other balloon by exactly the same methods as above – I just masked out more where required.


Colourising Method

This is the original black and white photograph – click on the image to get the download from

Cat Original

Step 1

Open the cat image or black and white photo of your choice

Image>Mode – Change the mode from Grayscale to RGB Color

Step 2

Create a new layer and set the layer mode to Color

Select a soft round brush around 20px diameter and set the foreground colour to #6B6E0C

Zoom well into the image and paint over the cat’s eyes

That is all that is needed for this image – obviously flowers and other such images will be much more involved using this method, but if eyes are the only thing to be coloured, it is definitely best to use a black and white photo and manually colour the eyes.


I hope this tutorial was useful to you and that you can now have some fun and enjoy a very relaxing experience by creating selective colour photographs.

Please leave any comments or questions below.


I love using and learning Photoshop, and I also enjoy creating resources to share with the world. I am at my happiest when I have free time to further explore all that Photoshop has to offer and learn more about its powerful built-in tools. I hope people enjoy either using or learning from my free resources, and welcome any hints and tips - and of course, if you would like to offer a free resource on this site, please don't hesitate to contact me (top right of the page).


about 6 years ago

Cool techniques!!! I am really glad to learn!!



about 4 years ago

Another technique is to hand select the portion of the image,(IE, in GIMP, it's the free select tool), then you can desaturate that selection, or invert the selection, and desaturate all the rest, That's what I've done on the following image:


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