Selective Color Photoshop Tutorial: The Quick & Easy Way

May 27, 2010 · 37 comments

in Photoshop Tutorials

Selective color is a cool post-processing technique that can really make your subject and photo stand out. You might have seen a photo where one thing might be in color and the rest of the photo is all in monotone (black and white or sepia). Today, I’m going to show you how to achieve this effect in Photoshop by using a quick and easy technique.

For this photo, I just want the red Union Jack part of the Australian flag to stand out, and the rest I want it to be in black and white.

As you can see, there are other red colors present in this photo, so we need to firstly separate the Australian flag.

1.) Separate the subject

Use the magnetic lasso tool to select the subject.

Once you’re done, right click the selection and select Layer via Copy.

Call this layer, Color Layer.

2.) Desaturate the Background layer

Let’s make everything but the Australian flag black and white. Click on the background layer and desaturate it.
Image > Adjustments > Desaturate

You should end up with something like this:

That looks good, but I just want the red Union Jack part to show. So let’s desaturate the blue color. Click on the color layer and go to Hue/Saturation
Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation


In the Edit drop down tab, change Master into Blues.

For Saturation, slide that right down to -100.

Flatten the image and you should have a black and white photo with only the red Union Jack showing!

Article by

1 part ad agency. 2 parts freelancer. An avid urban photographer, traveler, and streetwear lover. Geeky curator of all things awesome. Sustains on Vegemite, meat pies and lamingtons. Follow me on Twitter or Flickr.

Yi has written 69 awesome articles for us at Photoble

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  • Michael W.

    Nice tutorial! That is so much easier than trying to copy the layer and delete the desaturated layer area manually for the desired area. Thanks!

  • Michael W.

    Nice tutorial! That is so much easier than trying to copy the layer and delete the desaturated layer area manually for the desired area. Thanks!

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Thanks Michael! Glad that you found the tutorial helpful.

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Thanks Michael! Glad that you found the tutorial helpful.

  • missF

    extra ! thanks for the tips with the saturation on only one colour

  • missF

    extra ! thanks for the tips with the saturation on only one colour

  • http://www.mindwarpentertainment.com MindWarp

    The non destructive way would be to use masks and adjustment layers. It would also give you a higher level of control around whatever you want to ‘cut out’

  • http://www.mindwarpentertainment.com MindWarp

    The non destructive way would be to use masks and adjustment layers. It would also give you a higher level of control around whatever you want to ‘cut out’

  • Michael W.

    Nice tutorial! That is so much easier than trying to copy the layer and delete the desaturated layer area manually for the desired area. Thanks!

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiie

    Thanks Michael! Glad that you found the tutorial helpful.

  • missF

    extra ! thanks for the tips with the saturation on only one colour

  • http://www.mindwarpentertainment.com MindWarp

    The non destructive way would be to use masks and adjustment layers. It would also give you a higher level of control around whatever you want to 'cut out'

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Masking is definitely a great tool. I was actually going to include this technique as well, but decided to go through masking in a separate tutorial.

    Btw, great design with Paloma Films website!

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Masking is definitely a great tool. I was actually going to include this technique as well, but decided to go through masking in a separate tutorial.

    Btw, great design with Paloma Films website!

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yiie

    Masking is definitely a great tool. I was actually going to include this technique as well, but decided to go through masking in a separate tutorial.

    Btw, great design with Paloma Films website!

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  • http://twitter.com/allertseairam Ella Danga

    its easy to understand! *two thumbs up* good for the beginners :)

  • http://twitter.com/allertseairam Ella Danga

    its easy to understand! *two thumbs up* good for the beginners :)

  • http://twitter.com/allertseairam Ella Danga

    its easy to understand! *two thumbs up* good for the beginners :)

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  • Dail

    Great tip, thanks!

  • Dail

    Great tip, thanks!

  • Chelsea

    I use mask to to this kind of thing, but I never though of using the Hue/Saturation. That’s really cool! I’m excited to have learned a new technique. Thank you!

  • Chelsea

    I use mask to to this kind of thing, but I never though of using the Hue/Saturation. That's really cool! I'm excited to have learned a new technique. Thank you!

  • http://boxedindesign.com BoxedinDesign

    It’s interesting because I do it this way and not with a mask.

  • http://boxedindesign.com BoxedinDesign

    It's interesting because I do it this way and not with a mask.

  • http://pixelr3ap3r.com theR3AP3R

    Hi Yi.

    Great article. I wrote one similar to this just the other day on my blog.

    Selective Coloring Tutorial.

    Anyway. Good job!

  • http://lyrical-dew.blogspot.com/ Dev Rex

    nice tutorial…thanks. really useful !

  • https://www.facebook.com/ByCosaPhotography By Cosa – Photography -

    thanks

  • http://www.e-crm.co.uk Jim Bath

    Excellent. I’ve done images like this before, but never so simply…!

  • guest

    where can i download photoshop?

  • guest

    what photoshop did u use?

  • Lynn

    so easily explained and to follow, thank you…

  • Claudia Rodas

    Just loved this tutorial, so easy and fast and understandable, txs a lot

  • http://graphicexpertsbd.com Brian Dean

    This is what I
    have been searching in many websites and I finally found it here. Amazing
    article. I am so impressed. Could never think of such a thing is possible
    with it…I think you have a great knowledge especially while dealings with
    such subjects.

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