How to make Photos Black and White with Some Color
using Photoshop Elements

You can make photos black and white with some color in Photoshop Elements. See how to bring color back to just the areas where you want it to be.

You'll also see how to have part of the photo full color and other parts muted color.

Click on the video below to see exactly what to do. Under the video is a step-by-step illustrated outline for your reference.

How To Make Photos Black And White With Some Color Using Photoshop Elements

STEP ONE- Duplicate The Background Layer.

Make a duplicate of the Background Layer by pressing Command-J on a Mac or Control-J on a Windows PC.

You can see the new Layer in the Layers Panel. It's named "Layer 1" by default.

STEP TWO- Convert New Layer To Black and White.

Next we’re gonna convert Layer 1 to black and white.

To do that go up to the Enhance Menu and choose Convert to Black and White… by clicking on it.

The Convert To Black and White dialog box appears.

Near the bottom of the box is choice of different styles to choose from. You can click on each style to see how they look from the preview in the top right of the dialog box.

There’s also some sliders over to the right that you can mess around with if you want.

I’m gonna choose the style called Scenic Landscape and press OK to close the dialog box apply the change.

You can see the black and white version in the Active Image Area and also over in the Layers Panel you can see that the thumbnail for Layer 1 is black and white.

We still have our full color version safely unchanged on the Background Layer.

STEP THREE- Add A Layer Mask.

Now let’s add a Layer Mask to Layer 1.

To do that click on the little Add a Mask icon in the Layers Panel. It looks like a circle inside of a square.

Click the "Add a Mask" icon to add a Layer mask to the active Layer

Now we see our Layer Mask thumbnail to the right of our regular thumbnail on Layer 1.

Notice that there's a light blue border around the thumbnail of the Layer Mask. That indicates that the Layer Mask is active.

STEP FOUR- Paint Color Back Into Your Photo.

Now we can just paint over the area of our photo where we want to bring the color back. Let’s bring it back to the big flower in the center of the photo.

To do that we need to use the Brush tool and the Brush tool paints with whatever the Foreground Color is. So let’s make the Brush tool active by clicking on it in the toolbox. It’s located at the top of the Draw Section of the Toolbox.

The Brush tool paints with whatever color the Foreground Color is. With Layer Masks white reveals and black conceals. And we want to conceal the black and white version of that big flower in our photo so that the color version of the flower can show through from the Background Layer. So we need the Foreground Color to be black.

In the screenshot below, the Foreground Color is white and the square below the Foreground Color which is called the Background Color is black.

If we can just switch around the colors of the Foreground and Background Colors we would have our black Foreground Color.

That’s exactly what the little curved arrow in the upper-right area does. When you click on it it switches around the Foreground Color and the Background Color.

Before Clicking on the Curved Arrow the FG Color is White and the Background Color is Black
After Clicking on the Curved Arrow the FG Color is Black and the Background Color is White

Now we’re ready to paint the color back in where we want it.

Move your cursor over the area where you want the color to be. Then just click and continue holding down the mouse button as you drag over the the area where you want the color to show. In this case the flower.

If you accidentally include an area that you don’t want, for this example we included a petal from different flower.

A petal from a different flower was accidentally colored

To bring the petal back to b&w, switch the Foreground Color to white by clicking on the tiny curved arrow next to the Foreground Color and the Background Color squares.

Then paint over that area with the Foreground Color set to white.

And that’s all there is to it!

Those are the four easy steps to making your photo black and white with some color in it.

Here's a look at the Before and After:


You can stop here if that's the result that you want but there's one optional step I want to show you.

STEP FIVE(OPTIONAL)- Bring Back A Hint Of Color.

Sometimes the photo might look a little better if instead of being black and white you have just a hint of the original color show through.

You can quickly do that by lowering the Opacity a little on the Black and White Layer.

Place your cursor over the word Opacity in the Layers Panel and click and drag to the left. I’m gonna bring the Opacity down to 75%.

Opacity is set to 100%
To lower the opacity click-&-drag to the left over the word "Opacity"

Here's a look at the two versions side-by-side:

Opacity is set to 100%
Opacity is set to 75%

It's easy enough to try. If you don't like the results you can always change the Opacity back to 100%.

That completes this tutorial on how to make your photo black and white with some color added back using Photoshop Elements.

Until next time, this is Rick saying . . . Take care!

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