For such a complex effect, it’s an easy one to achieve with modern editing software. The specific process for the program you use may vary slightly, but the instructions on the next two pages will give you a big head start toward learning to add color accents to black-and-white photos.
Think about how many times you’ve flipped through a magazine and seen it: a black-and-white image spread across the page, with a bold splash of color highlighting part of the scene. Maybe it’s the blue eyes of a model, or the bright plumage of a bird as it wings across the page, but that simple break from the monochrome background draws your eye and captures your attention.
Brush over the parts of the photo where you want to bring back color. You’re not actually painting on the photo; youre painting with black on the adjustment layer mask, which hides the adjustment and lets the original color show through.
How to Create Black-and-White Photographs with Color Accents
The white rectangle on the Black & White adjustment layer in the Layers panel is a layer mask, which you can use to control where the black and white adjustment affects the photo.
Select the Brush tool in the Tools panel. Open the Brush picker in the Tool Options bar and change the Size and Hardness of the brush tip. The values you choose depend on the photo. For the sample photo, try Size: 100 px and Hardness: 50%.
The amount of color you reveal will depend on the image and your artistic goal. But the mechanics behind the effect are really that simple.
A new Black & White adjustment layer appears in the Layers panel, causing the photo on the layer below to change to black and white.
Go to the color boxes at the bottom of the tools panel to set black as the color to paint with. First click the small default colors icon above the color boxes. Then click the double-pointed arrow icon to switch to black as the Foreground Color.
If you brush over an area you don’t want in color, switch from black paint to white paint by pressing the X key on your keyboard. Then brush over that area again. You’re actually painting with white on the layer mask, which makes the black and white adjustment visible again.
The use of color accents in a black-and-white photograph is an old technique — older, in fact, than color photography. (Originally, the color was painted onto photographic prints.) The trick goes in and out of vogue with advertisers, but peruse any magazine rack long enough and you’re almost guaranteed to find at least one example. And although this special effect is most often found in professional photography, modern photo editing software puts it within easy reach of any interested amateur.
To fine-tune the black and white adjustment, make sure the Black & White adjustment layer is selected in the Layers panel. Then click the Auto button in the Properties panel (Window > Properties). In the sample photo, this brightens areas that were yellow in the original photo and darkens areas of other colors, giving the black and white version more tonal contrast.
Adding color accents to your black-and-white photos isn’t hard to do, but, like any artistic technique, it’s most effective when used judiciously. Study the color photo: Where do you want to direct the viewer’s attention? Maybe the main subject has a colorful feature, such as a bright red bow in a model’s hair. On the other hand, you might want to colorize a small background detail, pulling the viewer away from the subject and adding mystery — the viewer will wonder what’s so important about the seemingly tiny detail. Sometimes, after all, the fun is in making your audience think and keeping them guessing.
Hint: You can zoom in for a closer view by pressing Command + (Windows: Control +) on your keyboard. To zoom back out, press Command – (Windows: Control –).
Click the Adjustments panel tab or choose Window > Adjustments to open the Adjustments panel. Then click the Black & White adjustment icon in the Adjustments panel.
The adjustment will be visible wherever the layer mask is white, but will be hidden from view wherever the layer mask is black, letting the original color show through there. In the next steps you’ll add black to the layer mask, bringing some color back into part of the image.
Download and unzip the sample file, or use a color photo of your own. Click the Open button in Photoshop’s Start Screen or choose File > Open. Then navigate to the photo and click Open.
Adding a selective splash of color to a black-and-white image leverages the most powerful features of both black-and-white and color photography. The color provides striking contrast that immediately draws your eye to the colorized subject — most often the main focal point of the photo. You instinctively scan the rest of the picture and pick up on the emphasized pattern and texture play against the color contrast, causing a truly enhanced viewing experience [sources: Design-Lib; Morton; Ghodke].
You can brush over more than one part of the photo, bringing in color wherever you like. Try lowering the Opacity of the brush in the Tool Options bar to get a tinted color look in some areas.
What if the color you want to bring out in your photo is located in tiny bits and splashes throughout the image?
Undo the filter, returning your photo to its original state. Then:
But in an era when color photography can capture the most subtle shades nature throws at us, why does black-and-white photography still hold such sway? Part of the answer has to do with how we’re wired to process visual information. Color is a powerful force for driving our focus — the hunter-gatherer instincts that helped us spot animals hiding in the bush now draw us to pick out the color that doesn’t seem to belong in a scene. Take away the color from even a familiar image, however, and our minds are thrown for a perceptual loop. We may impose remembered hues on an object seen in black-and-white, but we’re also likely to become much more aware of the texture, patterns and shading in the image. These attributes would still be there in a color photo, but they take front-and-center in black-and-white.
Use your editor’s selection tools to select the spot you wish to highlight with color. With a little practice, you can highlight tiny, precise sections of the image.Next, invert your selection (in Photoshop, go to Select > Inverse).
This selects the rest of the photo, effectively masking your subject area from whatever changes you apply to the rest of your photo.Finally, apply a black-and-white filter or effect. The mask will preserve the color in your subject area.
Save your edited photo under a new name (using Save As) so that you’ll still have the original color photo.
Converting a photo to black and white and bringing back creative splashes of color is a great way to add drama and focus to your photograph.
Optional: You can drag the individual color sliders to change the brightness of corresponding parts of the black and white photo. Try dragging the Yellows slider to the right to make the flowers and grass even brighter.
Learn how to convert a photo to black and white in Photoshop CC. Then bring color back to part of the photo for drama and focus.
But what if you placed the filter over only part of the photo?
Stunning Images Win 2016 International Drone Photography Contest
You can change the size of the brush tip as you’re painting. Press the [ (left bracket) key on your keyboard to make the brush tip smaller. Press the ] (right bracket) key to make the brush tip larger.
In the Layers panel, make sure the white layer mask thumbnail on the Black & White adjustment layer is selected. The white border around that thumbnail tells you it’s selected.
Digital editing tools allow you to apply various filters and effects over your original image. After opening a color photo in your editor, apply a black-and-white filter to it. (You may find this option in the Filter, Enhance, or Adjustment menu — in Adobe Photoshop, go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate.) The on-screen image will change to black-and-white, but the software will retain the color data. The black-and-white reduction you see would vanish if you undid the filter. Just don’t convert the image to black and white — that will prompt the software to ditch the color data entirely.