How to Make One Object Color in a Black-and-White Image Using Photoshop

By Nicole Hamilton

Coloring part of an image is a classic technique that creates a focal point and captures the viewer's attention. Enhance your black-and-white photos, or remove distraction from a color photo by using a selective coloring method. Photoshop selection tools allow you to edit or protect areas of the photo that you define. An adjustment layer will let you convert part of a color image to black and white, or you can use the Paintbrush tool to add color to a grayscale image.

Select Object

Step 1

Open your image in Photoshop and select the "Quick Selection" tool from the "Tools" panel. Click and drag the cursor over the object that you want to color. This initial selection does not need to be precise.

Step 2

Click on the "Quick Mask Mode" button at the bottom of the "Tools" panel. This mode allows you to refine your selection using the Paintbrush tool. You should see a red mask surrounding your selection and overlaying the unselected portion of the image.

Step 3

Select a Paintbrush with a soft edge in the "Options" bar. Adjust the brush size to fit the area you need to color.

Step 4

Select either white or black in the Foreground/Background selector at the bottom of the Toolbar. Press the X key to swap between the two options.

Step 5

Click and drag the cursor to modify your selection, paying special attention to the edges of area. As you paint with black, the selected area will decrease. Paint with white to increase the selected area.

Step 6

Click the "Quick Mask Mode" button when you are finished editing to view the selection edges.

Black-and-White Photo

Step 1

Go to "Image," select "Mode" and set the mode to "RGB Color."

Step 2

Press the Shift, Ctrl and N keys to create a new layer. Name the new layer "Color" and click "OK."

Step 3

Click the "Foreground" color swatch, select a color to use for colorizing the object, then click "OK."

Step 4

Click the Paintbrush, then pick a brush type and size in the "Options" bar.

Step 5

Click and drag your cursor over the object to add color. The selection will prevent the color from affecting the rest of the image.

Color Photo

Step 1

Press the Ctrl, Shift, and I keys to invert the selection. This selects everything outside of the object.

Step 2

Click on the "Adjustment Layer" icon located at the bottom of the "Layers" panel, and select "Hue/Saturation."

Step 3

Go to the "Adjustments" panel and slide the middle "Saturation" setting all the way to the left to desaturate the image. The object will remain in color, but the rest of the image becomes black and white. Use an adjustment layer to preserve the original image.

Tips & Warnings

  • In a black-and-white image, tint the entire object with one shade, or paint the object in steps using multiple colors. Decide whether you want to color the object realistically, or be creative and use whimsical colors.
  • Create multiple color layers for different sections of the object to organize the file.