This is a popular effect, that’s really easy to create. By using only a small block of colour in a black and white image, you can create an interesting focal point. Some photographers feel this look is overused, and maybe it is, I suppose like any effect applied to an photographic image, the key to using this is moderation. There are numerous ways to partially colour an image in Photoshop, but in this case I’m using an adjustment layer and a layer mask.

So here’s how to do it.
1. Open up the image you want to apply the effect to.


(This is a picture I took recently at an event with jousting knights. If you’d like to see more photography from the event, check out my photography on

2. We’re going to add an adjustment layer now, to convert the image to black and white. Click on the Add Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Palette and choose Black & White.


3. The Black & White dialog box opens, and from here you can play around with the sliders to get the kind of contrast you like. Click OK, to close, you now have a nice black and white image, and importantly by using an adjustment layer you haven’t harmed any pixels!

4. Click once on the new adjustment layer mask (it’s the white thumbnail on the left). Then select the Brush tool (B).


5. Select a small, round brush tip and make sure that your foreground colour is set to black and your background colour is set to white. The shortcut for this is to hit D, followed by X.

6. Start painting on the parts of the image that you want to leave in colour. By painting with a black brush on a white mask, you are basically cutting a hole in the mask, which allows you to see through to the layer underneath.

Don’t be afraid to zoom right in so that you can see individual pixels when you’re painting the mask.


7. If you make any mistakes, just hit X again to swap your foreground and background colours. When you paint with the white brush, you can cover up any errors.

And my final image looks like this … ta, da!


So what do you think of this effect? Is it overused these days?