Have you seen those lovely black-and-white photos with just one item in colour?
This is a longer and slightly more involved tutorial than normal this week. It is, however, perfectly attainable for a Photoshop beginner. Just choose an image that has a simple, easy-to-select area. The selection is the hardest part. After that, Photoshop makes it easy for you.
If you are completely new to Photoshop, I would suggest working through my free intro to Photoshop course, to get familiar with the workspace and terminology, and to have a go at making your first blog image.
HOW PHOTOSHOP CREATES COLOUR AND B&W ON ONE PHOTO
It's simply a case of two copies of the same photo - the original colour image and a black-and-white copy.
The two photos are stacked on top of each other, the colour image on the bottom. You select the area you want to keep coloured. This is then masked - protected from the black-and-white effect. This gives the impression that the colour below is showing through.
CONVERTING TO BLACK AND WHITE
As always with Photoshop, there are many ways to achieve the same thing. In this example, we're simply desaturating the copy of the photo. This will result in a black-and-white image, but one that looks a little washed out.
Black-and-white images need good contrast to work well. To achieve this, I’ll show you how to use a Levels Adjustment Layer to add depth and boost the black and white.
Levels adjustment? It sounds far more complicated than it is, trust me. For professional photographers, levels are a powerful tool used in photo editing.
For this project, you don’t need to understand the ins and outs of levels. I’ll show you how to add the adjustment layer. Then, it’s simply a case of moving sliders until you like what you see.
In this video, I’ll show you how to:
- duplicate a photo and make it black and white;
- select and mask an area of a photo; and
- use adjustment layers to add contrast.
DUPLICATE AND DESATURATE
- With your photo layer selected, click Cmd or Ctrl J to duplicate the layer.
- With your photo copy layer selected, go to Image—Adjustments—Black and white... on the top menu.
- This will open the Black and White Panel. Click Okay.
- Open your Layers Panel again.
SELECT YOUR COLOUR AREA
- With your black-and-white photo layer selected, choose the Quick Selection Tool from the Tool Bar on the left (keyboard shortcut W).
- Increase or decrease the size of the brush to suit the area you are selecting using the Left and Right Square Bracket keys.
- When you hover over your photo, you’ll notice the tool has a + symbol on it. This means as you click and drag, anything you touch with the selection brush will be added to your selection.
- Click down somewhere inside the area you want to select. Drag the selection brush around the edge of the object. Don’t worry if Photoshop selects more than you intended. It looks for areas of high contrast and doesn’t always make a perfect selection, although it’s pretty good.
- When you're happy with the selection, release your mouse to see the marching ants.
- Now go back and rein in any ants that are busy marching outside the desired area.
- Just click and drag as before, this time holding down the Alt or Option key. This will change the symbol in the centre of the selection tool from + to - (i.e. anywhere you drag will be subtracted from your selection).
CREATING A MASK
- With your black-and-white layer selected and your marching ants busy marching, click on the Mask icon at the bottom of the layer stack (white rectangle with a black circle inside).
- You'll see a layer mask appear to the right of the black-and-white image thumbnail. Your selection will show in white and the rest of the photo will be black.
- We want the opposite of this, so need to Invert the Mask.
- Click once on the Mask thumbnail on the black-and-white layer. You’ll see a white border appear around it to show you it’s selected.
- Click Cmd/Ctrl I to invert the mask. Your selection will now be black, the rest of the mask white.
BOOST THE BLACK AND WHITE
- With the top layer in the stack selected, click on the Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the layer stack (half black/half white circle).
- Choose Levels from the drop-down menu.
- You'll see a chart showing you all the pixels in your image, from black on the left to white on the right.
- To bump up the contrast, pull the black slider in a little and the white slider in.
- Play with the sliders until you are happy with the look of the photo. It doesn’t take much to boost the contrast, so unless you are aiming for a cinematic look, less is usually more.
- Your image is now ready to save as a jpeg.
CHANGING THE COLOUR OF THE OBJECT YOU SELECT
You can take this one step further by combining this tutorial with the one on using Colour Adjustment Layers and Blending Modes.
I like this method because it's quick. Just one extra layer and you’re done.
Red balloons not a good fit? No problem...
HAVE A GO
This technique isn’t suitable for all photos. But, when it is, the effect is fantastic.
Start by choosing a simple shape, with a clear boundary between the object and the background. Photoshop uses contrast to determine its selection. The stronger the contrast, the easier it is to select.
Once you’ve had a bit of practice with the selection tool, you can move on to more complex shapes and advanced selection techniques.
Don’t forget, if you’d like a simple introduction to Photoshop before you attempt this, you can find out more here.