Introduction: Black and White With Partial Color Effect

About: Hi everybody! I'm Filippo from Bologna, Italy! My friends call me Orso (Bear) :) I follow Instructables since 2009, and it has always been one of my favourite websites. I've bulit a lot of fantastic things tha…

Hi friends!

Everybody loves those black & white photos with a splash of color! They are so unique, and that's because every image is different, so are the color areas.

This technique is often called "Splash Color Technique".

But, alas, obtaining this great effect is not a Instragram-like filter, we have to work out a little more than that!

Do not despair, my friends! I will gladly share with you this easy peasy Photoshop tutorial, just some easy step to get your unique and original splash color photo.

Tune up your holiday photos, or create a great (and free) Valentine Day gift! :)

What we'll need?

- Adobe Photoshop (I suggest at least CS3, the version used in this tutorial is CS6)

- some patience :)

NOTE: the screenshots are in my language (Italian, but everything is noted so you can follow it with ease).

NOTE2: this is a beginner tutorial, I will NOT stop on precise definitions of menu and tools, I want just to show you an easy way for the Splash Color Technique! :)

Step 1: Choosing the Right Photo

An important step is CHOOSING THE RIGHT PHOTO: you can easily apply these steps to any image file that you have, but only some photos have the potential for a great outcome with the splash color technique.

How we can understand that?

Usually, I suggest to use photos where the main subject (the one that we will leave colored) has a good color contrast with the background.

Also, subject colors' should be strong and noticeable.

A frozen blue, a warm red, a powerful green.

Absolutely avoid grey, black, too bright/too dark details, you'll lose them in the black&white background.

Take a look at our photo: the background in simple, mainly a grey bricks street. The girls, instead, has some colorful sunglasses and beautiful red hair.

Step 2: Enhance Colors

Before working on the black and white effect, we should enhance our photo colors.

That way, the final effect will be more spectacular.

To do that, we will only work on the Brightness/Contrast value.

Note: more experienced Photoshop users may obtain even better results by working on level curves, color tones and other values, but this is an EASY TO DO tutorial! :D

So, from the top menu choose

Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast

A little window with two sliders will pop up.

Work on Brightness and Contrast value to power up your colors. Be sure to have the Preview checked to see real time results of your variations.

The value that you see in image 2 are just example of my needs. Every photo has different needs! Just try out some regulation to find out the better ones.

Usually, for this technique, you'll have to add a bit of brightness (to enhance details and darker colors) and much more contrast (to intensify colors).

Just be sure to not overdue, or you'll have an irrealistic subject.

Click OK to apply your variations.

Step 3: Apply the Black and White Mask

For the next step, we'll have to create a New Adjustment Layer.

In easy words, this layer is a Black & White top layer of our photo, that we can paint out to reveal colors beneath!

Why we don't just duplicate the layer and desaturate it?

Because the Adjustmen Layer act as a Mask. We can PAINT OUT the layer to reveal colors, but we can also PAINT IN the Adjustmen Layer to correct some errors! Much better than a normal layer!

So, click on the icon to create the New Adjustmen Layer (see image 1) and choose Black and White.

You can also do this from the top menu:

Layer > New Adjustmen Layer > Black and White

Now we have a new layer. Be sure that this level is ON TOP of the original photo layer.

You should now see a black and white version of your photo.

Step 4: Brush Job

Now the key passage!

Be sure to have the checklist done:

  • Select brush tool, with the right dimension and a Hardness below 40/50%
  • Select base white and black colors, to do so press D key on you keyboard with the brush tool selected
  • Select the Black and White layer mask, the white shape near the level icon

(image1 show these checklist)

Brush Tool

We use a Hardness below 40/50% to obtain soft edges. In my case the image is very big, so I've chosen a 0% Hardness. That way you won't have sharp, innatural edges of erased colors, and your final result will be nice and clean. Dimension should be the right one to work on details, you can (and should!) change it during the process to better fit your needs.

Base Colors

As we said before, this Adjustment Layer is like a Mask. In fact, it HAS a mask!. Like for any other raster masks, White Color paints the mask in, therefore covering the below image; while Black Color paints the mask out, revealing the below colored layer.

Select the Mask

To work on the mask, we obviously have to select it :D Just click on the white rectangular shape near the level icon.

Now, select Black color for the brush and star brushing on the subject. You will see colors appearing!

You are just painting out the Adjustment Layer mask, revealing the layer beneath.

Continue working on it with no hurry and no worries, you can always switch to White color and paint the mask in to correct your errors.

You'll be a master of this very soon, believe me!

Step 5: Finished


After some brush training and with the right photos, you'll be able to obtain these beautiful and professional looking effect in minutes!

Isn't it spectacular? :D

Stay great my friends!


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