Alibony Lessons for Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, and Digital Photography

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Photoshop Elements: Convert to Black and White with Selected Color

Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 6

June 16, 2008

For a trendy look, you can convert a color photo to black and white, then add back color to selected areas of the photo.

Before After
Before black and white conversion After black and white conversion

To convert to black and white:

  1. Open the photo you want to convert.
  2. Press Ctrl+J to duplicate the photo on a new layer. Apply the conversion to the duplicate layer.
  3. From the Enhance menu, select Convert to Black and White. The Convert to Black and White window is displayed:

    Convert to Black and White window
  4. In the Convert to Black and White window, select a style of conversion from the list on the left. Try different styles until you find one you like.
  5. Use the sliders on the right to adjust the conversion. For this photo, we used the Urban/Snapshots style and moved the Contrast slider slightly to the right to add more contrast.

  6. To finish the conversion, click OK.

    Black and white image

To add back color, create a layer mask for the black and white image and paint with black to reveal the color below:

  1. Select the background layer (with the color in it).
  2. In the Layers palette, add a Levels adjustment layer between the background layer and the black and white layer.
  3. In the Levels dialog, click OK without making any changes.
  4. Click the black and white layer to select it.
  5. Press Ctrl+G to create a clipping group with the Levels adjustment layer below. The layer mask on the Levels adjustment layer now applies to the black and white layer as well.

    Layer mask for black and white image
  6. Paint the mask on the Levels adjustment layer to reveal the color below:
    1. Click the layer mask on the Levels adjustment layer.
    2. Using a soft round brush, paint with black to reveal color below. The opacity of the brush will determine how much color is recovered. For this image, we set the brush opacity to 90%.
    3. If you make a mistake, you can paint with white to hide color and black to show color until you are satisfied with the result.
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Updated on July 31, 2013