This blog captures my journey to take a break from jewelry designing to learn something new. Join me as I learn the art of photography and Photoshop Elements and watch me create through my lens. ~ Dee

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Adding a Splash of Color to B&W in Photoshop Elements 9

I will start this post with a rant....It has taken me months to figure out in plain English how to add a splash of color to a black and white photo!!  Yes...I've Googled and Yes I read the manual, but I wasn't able to find anything in plain english until a light bulb went off and I picked up a book I purchased several months ago and what do you know...right there in plain English, in How To Cheat in Photoshop Elements 9 by David Asch & Steve Caplin was a chapter called A Splash of Color!  I won't go into explaining or trying to reason why I had not done this early, but lets just say SHAME ON ME!! if you find this post, I hope it helps, if you don't - I hope you telepathically know that I feel your frustration.  These instructions are specifally for Elements 9, as I have learned that different versions and different bloggers, authors and teachers have different methods.  Let's just say this is the dummies version without all the technical stuff and move on from there.

1.  Start by opening a color photo in Elements that you'd like to convert to black and white and add back a splash of color. 

2.  In the tools bar to the left, click on the smart brush tool.  It's right next to the pencil and looks like a paint brush with a metal ring beside it. 

3.  Next in the drop down menu that pops up, select photographic.  The drop down box will dissappear.  Next scroll down and look for the Neutral Tone BW option and double click.  the box will dissappear. 

4.  Next at the top of the view bar, select a brush size.  I prefer to work with 5pix, but it's a personal preference as I feel I have more control over the brush.  If you decide to use this same size, make sure you zoom in on your view so that you have a closer look at the image.  You can play around with the other options (hardness, pressure) later, but this will get your started with the concept. 

5. Now, left click in the corner of the image or item you want to remain in color and begin to drag the mouse over the image.  You will begin to see the color selection turn to black and white.  Hold your horses, I know what you're thinking...just trust me!  Once you've highlight the item in black and white, you may notice that there is some spill over into areas you didn't want to change.  There is a fix for this.  Release your mouse and click on the ALT button.  While holding down the ALT button, place your mouse in the area that SHOULD NOT be colored and begin to pull back the flashing line.  You will notice that the line will begin to receed back and reveal color in those areas again. This may take some practice, but that is why I choose to work with a small brush.  

6.  Once you have the photo like you want, you should see black and white in the area you want color and color in the area you want black and white. 

7.  Next, in the top menu bar, next to refine edge, select the inverse button.  Like magic, you should now see color in what you want colored and black and white in the remainder of the photo. 

8.  At this point, I always just click on the crop button to make all the other little stuff (you'll see) go away so that I can see a clear version of my new photo. 

9.  If the picture is what you wanted, you can now do a Save As and rename your new file. I also prefer to save my format as a .jpg instead of the PSE. 

So, there you have plain english. If you're still trying to learn to use Photoshop Elements I recommend that you pick up a copy of this book. It also comes with a CD that is loaded with photos you can play with.  This is one of my personal photos, but the photos on the CD match the photos in the book. 

Lesson Learned:
Try, try again and don't give up...there's something out there in a dummies version that is written in plain english, you just have to keep looking!


  1. I'm thinking of taking a photoshop class. I love using Picnik but now that it's closing I guess it's time to learn how to do Photoshop. I've heard it's very difficult but obviously you seem to be finding your way around just fine.

    I just subscribed to you by email Dee so now you can help teach me Photoshop as well. Then when I take a class maybe I can help you as well.

    Great pics by the way!

  2. I've never heard of picnik. I have elements, a cheaper version of photoshop, but still by Adobe. It's all I need for now. I'm doing an online class now in portraits, hoping t learn a know I'll help if I can.



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