The color highlight effect in simulated b&w A popular technique in advertising is to have everything except the highlighted "product" be in black and white. This is usually done by copying the highlight area, changing to b&w, changing back to color and then pasting the copied area back in. That's fine if all you want is the highlight in it's original color. What if you want to use a different color. This technique shows you how you can use different colors. It also includes a couple of color-to-b&w hints.
Original picture Highlighted picture




Open your image.

For this example I used an RGB stock photo at 72 pixels/inch.


Select the area to highlight.

Use any of the selection tools with anti-aliasing turned off. I used the magic wand with a tolerance of 32. By holding down the shift key, I kept adding to my selection by clicking in different areas of the shirt.


Save the selection.

Select Save Selection. Channel:new. Select OK.



Ctrl+D (Cmnd+D on Mac)


Change the image to grayscale.

Image Mode Grayscale. Select OK.


Adjust the levels.

Image Adjust Levels. Set midtone slider to middle of large center clump. Select OK.

I find that setting the midtone lighter gives a truer sense of b&w photography than just changing the mode to grayscale. It will also help in some of the following steps.


"Enhance" the picture.

Filter Sharpen Unsharp Mask.

This step is not necessary but creates a pop to the picture that enhances the overall effect. For this example I used settings of amount:100%, radius:9.4 and threshold:0.


Change the image to RGB.

Image Mode RGB. Select OK.


Load the saved selection.

Select Load Selection. Channel:#4. Select OK.


Feather the selection.

Select Feather.

Feathering the selection slightly will blend the color into the background image. You can also expand the selection by a pixel or two before feathering. Try a couple of variations if the "coloring" doesn't look like it's fitting very well. I used a feather setting of 1 pixel.


Select the color to fill.

Select the foreground color box in the tool palette. Choose the color you want. Select OK.

Bright colors seem to work better. Of course this is up to your personal tastes. Have fun, try something you wouldn't normally associate with your picture.


Fill the highlight area.

Edit Fill. Foreground Color, opacity:100%, mode:color

You can try other mode settings such as hard light for different fill effects.


Adjust the saturation of the fill.

Image Adjust Hue/Saturation

Again, this step is up to your personal preferences. Just be aware that while the selection is still active, you can do different adjustments to your highlight. For this example I set the saturation to +100.


Save your image as a new file.

File Save As