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The selective color effect in Photoshop is a great way to make interesting wall art.

Or, perhaps a unique image to show off your skills on Behance, Flickr or even Facebook.

This is a very easy method to do something creative. Follow these steps and get started today!

What Is the Selective Color Effect?

The selective color effect is a really cool way to pick out a color from an image and make it the focal point of the whole scene.

We do this by turning the entire photo black and white but keeping the color of the object.

It is a very easy method of adding interest to your image. It forces the viewer to look at the color first, making it more prominent and powerful.

Let’s see how it’s done.

A profile portrait of a woman in a brightly colored headscarf - using selective colour orange edited in Photoshop

How to Make a Selective Color Effect?

First, you need to open your image in Photoshop. This will work for any version of Photoshop, 4 and above.

NB: Look for images with one strong and prominent color, as this will make it easier to separate. Here, our image consists of one item, one color.

As you learn, you can try more complicated images once you get the hang of the method.

photo of a bright yellow van parked on the side of the road in front of a blue and pink building with large windows

Copy the image by click-dragging it to Create A New Layer at the bottom of the Layer Panel.

This will allow you to non-destructively edit your image.

NB: If things turn out bad, and you need to start again, delete the copy layer you have been working on, and work on the original. Make sure you copy it again before you start.

editing photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop . making a copy

First, we need to select the image. For me, I find it easier to use the Color Range for this, as we are focusing on the color, and not shape or form.

There are many ways you can select objects or parts of your image. See here for all the possible selection options.

editing photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop. Selecting color range option using selective color photoshop

After selecting the Color Range, it will give you an eyedropper/pipet tool. Click on the color you want to select.

In this case, it is the orange-yellow on the camper van.

editing photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop. selecting primary color

Immediately it will pick out all pixels that inhabit that color. There will be parts missing, as the tones in the color will change.

Let’s fix that.

A screenshot of editing a photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop. using magic wand to select colour

I Select the Magic Wand tool from the left-hand tool panel. While keeping shift pressed, I click on the unselected areas of the van.

Holding Shift allows you to add to the selection. If you make a mistake, holding Alt will take areas away with a click.

Shift+Click = Add

Alt+Click = Subtract

A screenshot of editing photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop. refining colour selection

Next, after you are satisfied, we need to inverse the selection. This is because we want to turn the rest of the image black and white, not the van.

If we didn’t inverse our selection, we would only turn the selected pixels black and white. Go to Select>Inverse.

A screenshot of editing photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop. Selecting inverse

You will see the inversion was successful as the marching ants will be seen around the edges of the photograph.

A screenshot of editing a photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop. inverse selected

Next, we need to change the images to black and white. To do this, go to Create New Fill Or Adjustment Layer.

A screenshot of editing a photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop. adding adjustment layer

Click on it, and then on Black and White.

A screenshot of editing a photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop. selecting black and white adjustment layer

Turning the Image Black and White

There you go. The image is now black and white, except for the selected van color.

A box will pop up giving you options to adjust the color information.

NB: A black and white image still has color information, and you can use the greens blues reds etc to change the tones and look of the other areas of the photograph.

A screenshot of editing a photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop. adjustment layer applied, adjusting tones

Here, I moved the sliders to create a more desirable and stronger image.

Feel free to experiment and move them around.

A screenshot of editing a photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop. adjustment layer applied, moving sliders to adjust tones further

Here is our final image. It would look great as a present for someone looking for some unique wall art.

A screenshot of editing a photo of parked yellow van in Photoshop. Final result

The before and after. Notice how the color of the van didn’t change.

before and after comparison of editing photo of parked yellow van using selective color photoshop

Some Examples

These are a few images that I whipped together in about ten minutes.

It may take you longer, but I have had a lot of practice in the areas mentioned above.

Find some easy shots to practise on. We recommend Unsplash for free stock images.

black and white photo of woman holding yellow balloon with a face drawn on it in front of her face. selective color yellow applied.

moving red double decker bus on a night street. selective color red applied

worker at a construction site. selective colour yellow applied using selective color photoshop

Looking for some more great Photoshop tips? Check out our article on how to use frequency separation for stunning portraits or how to Photoshop portrait photos.

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

Thank you for reading...

CLICK HERE if you want to capture breathtaking images, without the frustration of a complicated camera.

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Thanks again for reading our articles!

Craig Hull

Craig is a photographer currently based in Budapest. His favourite photographic areas are street and documentary photography. Show him a darkroom and he'll be happy there for days. As long as there are music and snacks. Find him at craighullphotography.co.uk and Instagram/craighullphoto

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