Selective Color Editing in Under 5 Minutes!

Selective color editing is a lot of fun and something that I’ve really started to enjoy when done correctly. Sometimes I feel like selective color can be a bit annoying, or distracting, but when done in moderation or in a way that brings something to the table it can be a really great addition to a photograph.

Selective Color Editing Fall Trees

Today we’re going to look at exactly how I created the selective color edits in A Touch of Fall, a photo I recently published here on the site, which was very well received on Facebook. I’m using Adobe Lightroom 4 for my basic edits and Photoshop to create the final layered composite although any program that allows you to layer images should do the trick just fine.

The Basics of a Good Selective Color Image

The best kind of scene to photograph is one which has a prominent and vibrant color. The color should be part of the main focal point of the image and also be something that holds the veiwers attention. In my first selective color photograph Double Yellow, I used the double yellow line on the road as my color option and the remainder of the image is in black and white.

Double Yellow - Selective Color Editing

For this tutorial I’m using the image at the top of this post, A Touch of Fall, and as you can see I used the orange leaves on the trees and the ground below them as the focus color, but both of these images were processed in the same manner. So how did I process them?

My Simple Selective Color Editing Process

I know there are other ways to achieve this kind of edit, but this is how I stumbled upon selective color editing and I hope that you’re interested in trying it out for yourself.

  • Start With Basic Edits – Get your color, contrast, and exposure the way you want them first. You can always modify it later, but this way you’re going to be in good shape when you start to remove some colors. Selective Color Editing - Step One Basic Edits
  • Using the HSL sliders remove unwanted color – In Lightroom 4, as well as many other editing programs, there is an option to remove or amplify the saturation of various colors. You’re going to remove the saturation from all the colors that you don’t want in your image. Depending on your needs this may or may not work, but it’s a good place to start. Selective Color Editing - Step Two Remove Unwanted Color
  • Create a 100% Black and White Image – After saving the image you created above, convert the entire image to black and white. This image will be used in our clean up step which will enable us to remove the rest of the unwanted color.Selective Color Editing - Step Three Create Black and White
  • Clean Up – Odds are there are still some unwanted colors in the image so this is where Photoshop and the black and white image come into play. By opening both the black and white and our selective color image we can apply a layer mask to remove the unwanted colors.Selective Color Editing - Step Four Clean Up with Layer Mask
  • Final Edits – Now we’re basically done – All that’s left is some final edits. For this image I used Topaz Adjust to add a vignette and a frame as well as some more detail, but you’re free to do whatever you feel necessary to make the image yours.Selective Color Editing - Step Five Final Edits
And that’s that.
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For those that prefer to watch instead of read I made a Youtube video of this entire process.

Selective Color Editing in Under 5 Minutes!


  1. Leif-Harald

    I really enjoyed this one.
    Looking forward to testing it out myself.

  2. John Davenport Post author

    Glad you liked it – Selective color editing can be a lot of fun definitely give it a try – I’d love to see some of your results! 🙂