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How to Pull Out Specific Colors in Photographs Using Adobe Photoshop

Pulling out Selected Color in Adobe Photoshop Is Fun and Easy

This method can make boring photographs into favorites by just highlighting one or two colors.

This method can make boring photographs into favorites by just highlighting one or two colors.

You Can Use Any Version of Adobe Photoshop

One of the main photography campaigns that I work on requires that the color “red” is pulled out from various photos. These photos range from people, to apparel, to shoes to jewelry and sometimes I have to produce a large amount to meet the client's needs. There are other campaigns that require me to be a little more creative and pull out 2 or 3 colors. There are several different ways to get these results successfully, and sometimes this process will not work for the photo that you are attempting to deliver. However, if this is the correct method for your project, you will appreciate how quick it is to complete.

I took a photo of a butterfly a few years ago and decided to start a new project to display photos. It consists of me pulling out the main yellow of images, and leaving the rest black and white. I have about 50 photos that I will be doing this to, so this is the quickest and easiest solution for my project.

I am using Adobe Photoshop CS4 , but this color range option is available in multiple versions as well as in Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Once you have chosen the photograph that you will be pulling the color out, you need to decide what color you will be focusing on, as well as if it will be contained to the subject, or the entire photo. From there follow these steps. The amount of work will depend on the kind of photo that you are working on and what kind of outcome you are looking to achieve.

  • Open the photograph in your version of Adobe Photoshop
  • Go to “select” → “color range”

Select Color Range


Hold the "shift" key to select multiple colors

  • Begin by selecting the color, in this case the bright yellow. You want to choose several different hues of this color to ensure that the yellow is selected. To select more than just one color, hold down the shift key until you have selected the best you can according to the color range color graph.
  • When you are finished, select “ok” and you will see that your photo now has a selection marquee around the portions of color that you selected.
  • You will notice that the selection is not perfect, you will need to go in and manually select the rest of the color that is not currently selected. To do this go to the Magic Wand selection tool and while holding down the shift key select the remaining color that you want to include. If there was too much selected originally, or if you select something by accident. Release the shift key and hold down the option / alt key, and while holding this down click on the spots you want to exclude. You will notice that the selection marquee will go away.
  • Once you have the selection that you want, you want to focus on turning the rest of the image black and white while still keeping the bright yellow. To do this go to “select” and choose “inverse. You will see that now instead of the yellow being selected, everything else is now selected.

Use the Magic Wand to make final detailed changes


Choose to desaturate your selection

Scroll to Continue
  • Now you want to change that selection to black and white, but if you change the color settings within the image (RGB, CMYK or BW) the entire image will change ignoring your selection. Instead of changing the color mode, you will be desaturating specific parts of the image. Go to “image” → “adjustments” → and choose “desaturate”.

You will be left with an image that has kept the colors that you have chosen, and the rest of the image is now black and white.

Have Fun and Experiment

Sometimes you will notice on more detailed photos that bits of color are showing up where they should not be. You can then go in and select those using whatever marquee is best and desaturate that selected portion.

You do not need to only select one color using this method, you can choose multiple colors. Just remember that when choosing multiple colors, you will pick up a lot of portions of the photo that you most likely do not want. It is easier to select the color that you want to keep and then desaturate it later instead of changing too much of the image to black and white.

Have fun with pulling out the colors in your photographs; sometimes boring photos can be turned into favorites using this simple technique.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


maggs224 from Sunny Spain on April 01, 2012:

I loved this hub it is always a joy to learn something new in PhotoShop and your explanations were so easy to follow.

I opened an image and followed your instructions as I read through the Hub and it all happened just as you said it would.

I have voted this Hub up and hit the useful and interesting buttons too, thanks for sharing your skill and knowledge with us :D

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