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How to Make a Photo B&W Except One Color in Photoshop

by Alexandra Bateman on Nov 15, 2019

Do you want to make an image black and white except for one color? You can add a dramatic flair to your photos by desaturating all of the colors except one. This technique, known as Color Splash, will ensure that one color really stands out against a muted background!

In this article, we will show you how to make a photo B&W except one color in Photoshop. The Color Splash technique is easy to master, and you can use it on a variety of images in your gallery.

First, make sure you’ve downloaded Photoshop. You can get the newest version of Photoshop together with Lightroom in Adobe’s Creative Cloud Plan for only $9.99/month. 

Making a Photo Black & White Except One Color

Once you’ve got Photoshop installed and up-to-date, we’re ready to begin.

Now, import your image to Photoshop. I’ll be working with this image, courtesy of Unsplash:

Photo by Bence Horvai via Unsplash

Step 1: Duplicate Layer

Right click on the Background layer in the Layers panel on the right-hand side of your Photoshop screen. Then select the Duplicate Layer option.

Duplicate Layer... in Photoshop

A dialog box will appear and ask you to name your new layer. Photoshop’s default name for this layer will likely be Background copy, but I find it’s easier to rename it for organizational purposes. I’m going to call my duplicate layer, Layer 1.

Duplicating the background layer allows us to complete our edit on two separate layers. While this may sound more complicated, or like extra work at the start, you’ll see why working on two layers makes our job easier in a bit.

Step 2: Desaturate the Image

Next, select the Background layer again and press Shift + Cmd+ U on Mac or Ctrl + Shift + U on Windows to desaturate all the colors in your image.

Desaturate layer in Photoshop

Notice that Layer 1 sits above the Background layer in the Layers panel. To see the effects of your desaturation, click the eye icon on the left of Layer 1 in the panel. Toggling the eye icon hides and reveals that layer.

Step 3: Select Accent Color

Next, click the eye icon to make Layer 1 visible again, and select it in the Layers panel.

Then go to Select Β» Color Range from the top menu bar in Photoshop.

Select >> Color Range in Photoshop

Here’s where you’ll select your accent color. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll choose to make my accent color blue. So, the goal at the end of this article will be to have an image that’s completely desaturated save for the blue water in the photo.

In the Color Range dialog box, choose the Eyedropper Tool with the plus sign. This tool is called “Add to Sample,” and it will help us select all of the blue tones in the photograph.

Add to Selection Tool in Photoshop

Using the Add to Sample Tool, click on the accent color in your image. Here, I’ll click on the blue water at multiple points in the image. Selecting multiple points allows me to add multiple shades of blue to the sample. The more shades I capture with the Add to Sample Tool, the more accurate my effect will be.

Sampled colors in Photoshop using Add to Selection Tool

Once you’ve selected your accent color at multiple points in your image, select the OK button to create a selection on your photo.

Step 4: Invert Your Selection

Then press Shift + Command + U on Mac, or Ctrl + Shift + I on Windows, to inverse the selection you just made. Now, Photoshop has selected your entire image except for the color you want to preserve.

Go ahead and press the Delete button from your keyboard to remove the selected area from Layer 1. Now your photo will be B&W except for one color!

Final color splash edit

We’re able to delete the portion of the top layer to reveal the bottom desaturated layer because we used two layers to create our effect. Pretty crafty!

You can press Ctrl + D to remove the selection from the image if your marching ants still remain on screen.

Step 5: Touch Up Your Image

If the Add to Selection Tool didn’t perfectly exclude all other colors from your image, use the Eraser Tool to brush away any unwanted hues.

Now you’ve got a perfect image! Here’s the before and after of our sample image created by making a photo B&W except one color in Photoshop:

Before and after of color splash effect edit in Photoshop

That’s It!

We hope this article helped you to learn how to make a photo B&W except one color in Photoshop. Now, you can apply this Color Splash technique to any of your vibrant photos.

Prefer working in Lightroom? Check out this tutorial to achieve the same effect in Adobe Lightroom.

The only thing your rockin’ image needs now is a place to be showcased! And, what better place for that than on your photography website? If you’re looking to create amazing galleries and speed up your WordPress website, you should check out Envira Gallery.

This amazing plugin allows you to create stunning, customizable and responsive WordPress galleries at the click of a button. Download the Envira Gallery demo and create create your first gallery today.

Wondering how to achieve more cool effects using Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop? Be sure to check out our most popular photography articles and how-to demonstrations below:

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You may also want to check out our other Photoshop guides:

Photoshop Actions for Wedding Photographers

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Guide to the Refine Edge Tool

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Comments

  1. Your tutorials are simply the best!` I don’t understand the other tutorials clearly, but you start from the very beginning and explain each step. Thanks so much! πŸ™‚

  2. What version of Photoshop do I need to do this? I am new to this but really want to be able to make images like this. Thanks for your help.

  3. Hi Waseem, How do I get the layers open? Mine has the temp, tint, exposure, contrast, highlights,shadows, whites, blacks, clarity, vibrance, saturation, open? Regards,

    Callie

  4. Wonderfully simple tutorial, got me started on the right path! It would perhaps be useful to mention adjusting the transparency of the colourful layer to vary the vibrancy of the colour, but that could be too obvious for most people.

    1. Hey Karina, you can see the mouse on check box of Layer 1. When you click on this check box, it will make the Layer 1 visible. πŸ™‚

  5. Good and concise!
    Just wanted to add that adding a layer mask instead of deleting gives you a non-destructive workflow

    Cheers

    1. Hey Lori, can you please tell us what didn’t work for you? Any brief details will help us understand the issue, so we can guide you accordingly. πŸ™‚

  6. thank you for the excellent instructions. it was not the same on my iMac but i got it working with your help. please tell me what you do if not everything was deselected.

  7. Thanks for the instructions, one question, how do I clear the color range after I am done, when I load a new picture the color range is still keeping the colors from the last picture, sorry if this is a dumb question

  8. The Photoshop technology is really nice. I am always trying to find a new thing on Photoshop. I really find this article interesting. Thank you for sharing this information.

  9. Thanks for the nice information. I am also using this photoshop technology. I always find new technics on photoshop

  10. There are some attention-grabbing deadlines in this article however I don抰 know if I see all of them middle to heart. There’s some validity however I will take hold opinion till I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we wish extra! Added to FeedBurner as effectively

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