How To Edit Selective Colour Images

Selective Colour editing

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Today I’m going to share how I edit photographs and create selective colour images. Whenever I have completed a photography shoot, I always download my images from the memory card to the computer. After I’ve completed the transfer to the computer, I also transfer my pictures to my backup storage device. That’s always a good habit to get into.


Photo Editing Software

The next stage I follow is to filter out under or overexposed photos. The software of choice for editing my photographs in Adobe Lightroom. If I need to do more sophisticated editing, then I will use Photoshop.

Adobe Lightroom allows me to see all of the photographs I have taken and make subtle changes where necessary.

One project I love doing from time to time is a selective colour photos. On a recent trip to London, Sylvia and I were in Covent Gardens, London. There were lots of tourists taking photos of the Red Phone booths. When doing a Selective colour photo, photographs with strong colours like Red and Yellows are great photographs to manipulate.

Selective Colour Editing

To start any selective colour project, you first need to launch Lightroom and find the photograph you are interested in manipulating. The next step is to press the ‘Brush button’ at the Top Right-hand side of Lightroom. It will then open the Brush Slider dialogue as shown below

Brush-Pallet - Selective Colour Editing

If you have used the Brush before, it will remember the last settings you used. You will need to change the effect from the drop-down menu. My last used setting was exposure, so as soon as I change something, it then becomes a custom setting.

Selective Colour and Saturation

For a Selective colour project, you will need to move the Saturation slider all the way down to -100.

100-Saturation - Selective Colour Editing

Now you have your slider settings as near perfect as possible. The last stage is the brush size.

Brush-Size - Selective Colour Editing

Feather size and Density: If like me you use a Mac and touch mouse, you can alter the size of the brush very easily by using the mouse.

Selective Colour Editing and Brush Techniques

The other things you really need to pay attention to is the Feather and Density. The Feather size is a personal preference and I usually set this slider to around 50% and my density coverage all the way up to 100%.

With Density, you need to make sure everything you brush gives the maximum effect and nothing is wasted when you start the brush. The Feather means you can get as close to the object you wish, without erasing any of the colours you want to keep.

Show-Selective-Mask-Overlay-On - Selective Colour

There are two methods to make sure you cover all of the background colours with your brush.

Selective Mask Overlay

1. Press ‘O’ and it will activate the ‘Show Selective Mask Overlay’. This will allow you to see just how much of your brush has covered and which areas you wish to keep. (shown in the image above).

2. Press ‘O’ again to turn off the ‘Show Selective Mask Overlay’ and you see the actual effect the brush has already created.


The other reason for turning off the ‘Show Selective Mask Overlay’ is to see if you have missed any areas with the brush. You can then go back over any areas which may need an extra touch up.


Once you are certain you have covered all the background you wish to turn Black and White, there is one final process which will give a more refined image.

Selective Colour and Refined Images

I like to ‘Duplicate’ the bottom layer by right-clicking on the black and white dot. This gives me this dialogue: Duplicate’, ‘Delete’ or ‘Reset Brushing’ as shown in the image above.

Mouse over the Duplicate and it will copy and paste a new layer exactly the same as the one you have just created.

Here is the finished version and as you can see, the background is totally black and white while the phone boxes have retained their original colour.

Finished Selective Image

The time for this type of project is roughly around 30 to 45 minutes and the level of expertise is around a ‘3’ or ‘4’ out of 5. It all depends on the type of photo and the level of detail you wish to keep.

Selective Colour on Other Images

Another photo I took from the same day is the Battlebus which was used in the EU Referendum and recoated with the words ‘Time For Truth’. Both of these projects were very easy to do and took around 30 minutes each. I am was very pleased with the outcome of both projects.


Please feel free to like and comment.

John M

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