Mono, with a Dash of Colour - Photoshop CS2 Tutorial

Mono, with a Dash of Colour – Photoshop CS2 Tutorial

The following Photoshop Tutorial Was submitted by Digital Photography School Forum member Ian Potter (Flickr account.

Digg this Tutorial Here

Objective: To produce a black and white image that contains a hint or a splash of colour.

In this tutorial we are going to have a look at reproducing a very popular technique that is widely used by professional photographers to “wow” their clients. I see this frequently in wedding photography and it always seems make an impact.

Black-And-White-Colour-1 Black-And-White-Colour-2

Please Note: For the purposes of this tutorial I am going to assume that you understand the basics of Photoshop (opening files etc).

The Technique:

First of all you are going to need a picture that is suitable for the task. This should be a colour image that will make an impact in mono, and has an area of colour you wish to bring back to the photograph (please see examples above). Alternatively you can download the provided photograph.

1) Open the file and select IMAGE>ADJUSTMENTS>DESATURATE to remove all colour from the image. Please note that the file is still RGB. We must not turn the colour mode to Mono or the next bit won’t work.


2) Select the History Brush from the tool palette (2a). Then make your brush size around 10 – 11 px using the palette located just under the file menu bar (2b). Hardness should be 100%.


3) Using the History Brush we can now “paint” back in time to when our image was in it’s full colour glory. Remember and lift off now and then so you can undo any mistakes without having to start again.


4) Continue the process until the area is complete. Take extra special care by zooming in when necessary. I found the area near the ladies hand needed this treatment.


And that’s it!

The secret is just to take your time during the painting process and be careful around the edges. Use any size of brush (and indeed, more than one size) for each job that you are comfortable with.

n.b. all images and text are the sole copyright of Ian Potter and may not be reproduced for commercial or personal purposes. There is a thread in our forums dedicated to this post here. Try the technique and post your results there.

Digg this Tutorial Here

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Andrei Rinea December 3, 2012 09:46 am

    You can also do this in Lightroom with the local adjustment brush where you set the saturation to 0 and start desaturating everything except what you want to keep in color.

  • redevil February 24, 2012 04:00 am

    Great tutorial however this program makes it so much easier

  • toni January 25, 2012 08:16 am

    i have so many beautiful pictures i have taken and still dont know how to use... HELP

  • Mark Nicholas March 17, 2011 09:22 pm

    Hi, any idea what the equivalent (if there is ) in Paint Shop Pro X3? I currently use two layers (one colour, one mono) and erase the mono layer on the item I want in colour. Works but very time consuming.

  • Patricia T. February 1, 2011 03:12 pm

    I am trying to do the above exercise but my History Brush and Art History Brush keep painting ORANGE all over everything. I don't get it. I've even reset all my tools... did the command/alt/shift thing at start up.... I'd really love to be able to do this. Can someone figure out why I'm getting orange all over my black and white RGB image?
    I'm on a fairly new MacBook with CS2 installed. (It's the only copy I can afford)

  • Jessica January 10, 2011 03:44 am

    thank you! You made it so simple, no other tutorials were this good. THANKS AGAIN!

  • Dennis December 10, 2010 11:16 pm

    I really did not expect that to create this kind of effect is so easy.
    Thank you for the tutorial, it is very clear & easy to follow !
    I even can teach my kid to do this right away.
    Keep the good works.

  • Scharia Munnik December 9, 2010 12:11 am

    Thank you so much, this is the best I have seen it described!

  • collage frames November 18, 2010 07:30 pm

    Wow, so many thanks for this tutorial. I've been looking for this technique but no luck 'til now. I'm loving it, can't to do it myself, again, thanks a lot.

  • texas web design September 14, 2010 08:43 am

    Very simple and nice tutorial, I can use this to test on my new pictures.

  • safinoai23 June 18, 2010 06:41 am

    Is there a technical term of this technique? I just wonder

  • Utsav June 14, 2010 04:20 am

    Hey thanks for the tutorial! it really helped!

  • Destin Beach Wedding May 24, 2010 06:54 am

    Wow-Amazing Blog- Wow -Thanks for all the great information and i love the pictures, thanks for sharing this blog.

  • mark April 5, 2010 06:50 am

    thank you so much for that :) worked a treat

  • CJ April 3, 2010 11:00 pm

    In LW, again, it is just as easy but the logic of application is opposite. You can not desaturate the picture and apply the paint brush because all the color has been desaturated. Instead, the mission can be accomplished by simply applying the adjustment brush in "Develop" mode, with the "saturation" reduced to -100, on the area you would like to be b&w.

  • mo March 14, 2010 12:12 am

    thank you so much!

    worked like a chram

  • Jasmine March 2, 2010 12:38 pm

    Thank you! Very easy instructions. Worked great.

  • Mia Lowry February 25, 2010 04:02 pm

    Hi-I am trying to find a software (I don't know if you are allowed to recommend one or even if this exists) that does the following to photos:
    1-can desaturate and add the original color or color of my choosing
    2-warp a photo and make people look insanely strange
    3-make a photo look like a painting, comic, etc..
    4-edit blemishes, red eye, etc...
    Does this exist? I cannot find it out there. I hope you can help. Thanks so much!

  • Priyankur January 30, 2010 03:47 pm

    marvellous!! I was looking this tip for a while.

  • The Addison Wedding Photography December 21, 2009 06:30 am

    Super cool tips. Photoshop is so powerful, but sometimes so complex....

  • cancun photography December 6, 2009 05:52 am

    Nice post. Haven't thought of alot of these points before. Will come back and bookmark your site for future reference.

  • Josh November 26, 2009 11:48 am

    I just posted a quick video tutorial of this on my website...


  • Bryn September 26, 2009 01:34 am

    really helped me out! =D

  • Brian August 14, 2009 07:48 am

    Does anybody know if there's a way to achieve this effect suitable for 2-color (black + 1 PMS) offset printing? These methods work fine for images to be viewed on screen, or even printed out in a regular color printer, but for commercial printing purposes, this method would require a regular 4-color print job (since the underlying layer is the original full-color photo). Even if the original layer were converted to a monotone image and the other image were grayscale, would the colors separate correctly on a press?

  • leah July 8, 2009 02:42 am

    Cannot believe this "task" can be handled in a simple 3 step process. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! I'm using a knock off photoshop editing tool and have been avoiding photoshop for 2 years now. I have no fear now.

  • rubberslipper July 3, 2009 12:26 am

    coolio i was just wondering how to do this effect while using a DSLR because i used to have the color accent feature in my point and shoot but now i don't and i'm not too savy with Photoshop. Thanks for the info!

  • Okan Gurdil May 23, 2009 01:18 am

    Great tips!! Helped a lot, got me a exactly what I wanted.

  • Radics Zoltan May 21, 2009 12:06 am

    It is a good tutorial on how to use the history brush and the layers, but the effect is a kitsch, either you make the picture entirely b & w , or color

  • Amira May 10, 2009 09:54 am

    nice and easy tutorial.
    I will soon try it to some of my picture.
    thanks for sharing.

  • Curtis Copeland April 3, 2009 08:04 am

    Thanks for the tip!

  • koolbluez March 28, 2009 08:03 am

    Hey, I remember doing this way back in early 2005. I used to call it "triton"ing.. something like duotone with an extra color.
    That tutorial was here

    Enjoy the "original" tritone experience.

  • Jeff Kolodny February 3, 2009 04:50 am

    Great PS tip from a PS Guru! Keep up the good work!

  • Fox November 5, 2008 02:16 pm

    I want to do this but i still can't figure it out. When i try to use the history brush it tells me the canvas size does not match the history state. And how do i make 3 layers. I am new to all this. Please help.

  • Berenice October 28, 2008 05:06 pm

    can someone please help me, id like to buy photo software, but am not sure what is best. eg photoshop elements 6?

  • Tampa Wedding Photography September 25, 2008 07:56 pm

    This is absolutely one of my favorite effects. I use this a lot in my own photographs. Personally, I like to use it with a bride holding flowers, or at an outdoor wedding with the petals on the ground in color.

  • Peter August 14, 2008 05:06 am

    Great photoshop tutorial! There is a lot to layers and they will take some time to master. But they are not that difficult once you understand how they work.

  • DEBI July 23, 2008 02:55 pm

    what version of photoshop is this for..thanks

  • Furious Photographers May 14, 2008 06:15 am

    Although I do not use this technique heavily in my wedding photography, it comes useful if you use double layer mask to do some slight desaturation. Nevertheless, a lot of my wedding couples always ask for this service. For some examples, check out my blog at Furious Photographers

  • Asad May 3, 2008 09:54 am

    Excellent tutorial. When i starting searching for it I had something in mind that would be very hard. However, your tutorial proved me wrong. Not only that the results are great. Thanks for the fantastic tutorial.

  • Kristine May 1, 2008 01:48 am

    it LOOKS VERY nice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WERE JUST STARTING A PROJECT LIKE THIS IN MY PHOTO CLASS!!!!!!!!

  • abe May 1, 2008 01:48 am

    that looks cool

  • Beth April 28, 2008 01:11 pm

    Nevermind, I figured it out!!

  • Beth April 26, 2008 12:08 pm

    I followed the directions step by step, but every time i tried to color something in, it ended up a peach color. I tried clicking on the colors and selecting a different color, but when i would fill in the color again, it was the same peach color. How do you change the color? Please help, I really want to do this.

  • shareef April 3, 2008 02:13 am

    i was very nice. interesting.. and i thing it was very complicated. let see now one heheh

  • abhay March 5, 2008 05:50 pm

    Thats really nice n simple...
    I though it would be something really complicated..
    Thanks a Lot... ;)

  • Kehinde Songonuga February 28, 2008 09:02 am

    Hey, this was real fun doing. i tried it the first time, understood the basics from this guide and they tried a couple of times thereby perfecting my skills. Something i think will be useful (if you dont already know) is to zoom into the image thereby having a better view of the desaturated part you want the color to come alive. Many thanks.

  • Dave Nofmeister February 20, 2008 07:21 am

    Wow, that is so awsome. I've seen this many times, but have never seen the steps for it. Anyone getting into photography would have to have this in their portfolio!

  • Kenny Songo February 14, 2008 07:26 pm

    I tried it out and it worked fine for me (despite being my first try on photoshop. Can you recommend how i can blur out objects/people in the background of a picture. I think your recommendation was brilliant although undoing little mistakes were a problem for me. How can i sort that out?

  • Joel November 23, 2007 07:08 pm

    that was nice... i was wondering about how this is done for quite sometime.... thanks a lot!!

  • alicia November 1, 2007 04:02 am

    these pix are cool

  • disposable wedding cameras October 30, 2007 04:15 am



  • Maria October 12, 2007 04:52 am

    Is this possible using Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0? If so, what are the steps? Please advise.

    Thank You

  • Tom September 20, 2007 09:04 am

    Thank you for for posting this Tutorial. Worked great!

  • Anna September 16, 2007 01:21 am

    I don't know if anybody else mentioned this,
    but you could just make another layer that has the things that you want to stay coloured, and then you just switch back to the main layer you want black and white and desaturate it then, much easier.

  • Dee August 23, 2007 01:19 am

    This tutorial was great. We were discussing this yesterday and we use photoshop ALOT here at work. We're employed at our local newspaper so we were trying to figure out how to do this for our pictures. Thanks!

  • Wade August 15, 2007 03:22 am

    some Canon digital cameras allow you to do this on the camera.

  • copperdesk August 4, 2007 11:41 pm

    This is a great tip. I will put a link of this tutorial to my blog that is

  • Mallory June 22, 2007 12:38 am

    I'm really confused because I have been tryng to figure this out for so long but I cant figure this out.
    I have Adobe photoshop Album starter edition 3.0 and I guess it's really different.
    If any of you guys can help me figure this out then email me at
    Thanks so much!

  • becca June 7, 2007 02:41 pm

    i have the newest version of photoshop sooo, i'm really lost. the buttons say different things now. if anybody could help me figure this out with the newer version,

  • Travel Photographer May 26, 2007 01:32 am

    This is a good technique, and it does work for some photos, but not all.

  • Trevor May 15, 2007 05:00 pm

    Hey this was cool...I have been doing it the hard way by using layers and erasing what I didnt want then adding another layer on top to show black and white with the color shown think it was just a darn history paintbrush I needed to know about.

  • Gina May 5, 2007 07:32 pm

    This sounds great, but i can't find the harden tool on my brush options, it isnt there!

  • amanda April 30, 2007 10:09 pm

    hey omg this helped me out SO much its like so cool i love it thanx for helping me out and i think you guys should make more links for people who want to learn new stuff and they dont know it exists well i think you should do it but i mean its your desision!!! byebye love yall

  • Jessica April 20, 2007 01:31 pm

    Thanks Very Much! Helped me out heaps!!!

  • Jessica April 20, 2007 01:20 pm

    Thank you very much, helped out heaps!!

  • Anish April 12, 2007 11:18 am

    Wow man,

    You taught me a great thing, I loved it... and gonna be craze with it

    Thank you,

    thank u very much 4 taught me what i really want

  • paulee March 21, 2007 09:34 am

    interesting tutorial and a good exercise in PS concepts but to be honest it is a bit OTT since for a few dollars you can use blackmagic

    This is a stills version of the software that they use to professionally color black and white movies so it is very capable

    But maybe its ease of use takes the fun and challenge out of trying to do it all in PS !!

  • hfng March 13, 2007 05:56 am

    This is a great tip. I have put a link into this tutorial from our photo club website.

  • Linda February 8, 2007 05:58 am

    I used your method in a picture and it worked wonderfully. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I would have sent a copy of it, but did not find an e-mail.

  • Amy Payne January 30, 2007 06:12 am

    I have seen so many pictures in B&W with a touch of color, and I was intrigued by them. I have watched shows on DIY which tell you how to do this using ink dyes. Although it is a good method, one screw up and you have to start a whole new picture. Photoshop CS2 makes it so simple. Thank you so much for the tutorial. I have found a new hobby now that I absolutely love!!!

  • chloe January 27, 2007 12:34 pm

    omgg that you SOOOOOOOOOOO much. i have been looking for this forever and no one seems to know how to do this. those that do know refuse to tell me. THANK YOU!

  • daxshan January 20, 2007 05:54 am

    will das auch! kostlose!!

  • Sarah January 10, 2007 08:09 am

    Can I do this using Paint Shop Pro 9? If so, can you write a separate tutorial for it or are the settings similar?

  • Aadi January 8, 2007 01:28 pm

    I've been looking for this for a while, Thanks !! It's great ;)

  • REAZ January 6, 2007 12:48 pm


  • T-Will January 4, 2007 04:14 pm

    Very cool tips everyone!!! I always wondered how this was done and it ends up being so simple.

  • Murray January 2, 2007 06:33 pm

    I don't use PS but use Digital Image Pro 10 by MS. I had found somthing like this previously as I had been wanting to do something this way for awhile and tried it. then I got to thinking. Why not simply select the object that i wish to remain in color and then invert and click on change to B/W which is an option in DIP 10 and also is an option with some PS plugins that also work in DIP 10. Seemed to work and the reverse also works if I want to change something to b/w and leave it on a color image. Unfortunately, DIP 10 does not have a history brush, fade tool or healing brush but I can only hope another version will.

  • Beckywithasmile December 28, 2006 08:29 pm

    Can we have this as an assignment on flickr? I would love to see what others did and see what others think of my photos.

  • Jim December 28, 2006 11:28 am

    Quote: "Brian Boyko Says: ...... my home computer is currently running Linux for the next 26 days as part of an article: 30 days on Linux.

    Brian, i suspect you can do this technique easily using 'The Gimp' in Linux

  • Brian December 23, 2006 04:46 am

    Thanks for the tip. My first attempt can be found here:

  • Karp December 22, 2006 08:40 pm

    I can almost smell the atmosphere. You must've been able to shoot some great pictures!

  • Henryscat December 22, 2006 08:58 am

    Hehe at least 1000! lol
    It's a lovely place the Atholl. The bride (from Detroit) and groom entered the grounds in a convoy of Harley Davidsons.
    The first Harley was an old police bike and had the siren wailing.
    The happy couple were at the front in a Ford Mustang. Beautiful car!

  • Karp December 22, 2006 07:36 am

    A coincidence because I'm not Scottish, English or in any other way Brittish but I have been there just a few weeks ago.

    The other methods were no critic or anything. Just to show there are at least a 1000 ways to do something in PS, as you said ;)

  • geri December 22, 2006 06:16 am

    Thanks for the tutorial and the comments - I appreciate all the tips - I always wished I knew a quick way to do this.

  • Chris December 22, 2006 01:38 am

    I usually do this a different way to make it more flexible. Sometimes the colors in the photo are a too intense (like in the example in this tutorial), so I create a layer to play with the opacity and dial down the intensity of the color.

  • Brian Boyko December 22, 2006 01:23 am

    This seems to be a very complicated way to do this when Adobe Photoshop's "Layers" were practically made for this.

    First, create three copies of the photograph in three layers (this is in RGB mode)

    The first layer (bottom) is your backup - in case you want to undo everything.

    The second layer (middle) is your color layer.

    The third layer (top) is your black and white layer. Please feel free to label them.

    You can desaturate the top layer, but I find I get better results from copying and pasting the image into a new layer, which I convert to greyscale, then copying that layer back into the original document. This has to do with the fact that desaturation merely removes color, while greyscale conversion really does make colors look like they would if they were taken with B&W film. It's an aesthetic difference but I suggest you try it.

    You can then use a number of different methods to get your desired effect.

    You can use the eraser to erase the top layer of the object you want in color, letting the color underneath it show through.

    You can use "select color range" on the middle layer to select ALL the pinks, reds, yellows, or whatever (this usually works best with warm colors) then move back up to the top layer and hit delete to get all of those pinks or reds to show through (obviously this method would likely require some retouching.

    The advantage of putting the color on a separate layer is that you can mess with the hue and saturation of the color layer without disturbing the B&W on top of it.

    I'd give you a slideshow of pictures illustrating this technique, but I don't have photoshop on my work computer and my home computer is currently running Linux for the next 26 days as part of an article: 30 days on Linux.

  • Johan December 21, 2006 07:41 pm

    For who doesn't know how the history brush exactly works (it was my first time today):

    You have to select the history state in the history palette which you want to use to "paint back" to. After desaturisation, select the little box before the "desaturate" history state.

  • Hitesh Sawlani December 21, 2006 06:55 pm

    The story made it to the front cover of digg

  • Nathaniel Brown December 21, 2006 06:23 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial. Was great to try it out on one of the photos from a recent shoot I did.

    Love to hear any comments/feedback you have..

  • marigoofy December 21, 2006 03:48 pm

    Personally I love the tip. I have been playing with it for the past couple of hours and have had so much fun. I never thought it would be so easy. My family is going to be really impressed. Thanks for the tip.

  • chir December 21, 2006 03:05 pm

    Is there any reason why this is not working for me? I did everything step by step, but when I select the history brush and try to paint, everything paints white.

    Any suggestions?


  • mel December 21, 2006 02:47 pm

    the missing link:

  • mel December 21, 2006 02:46 pm

    Here's a link to a mov file from Russel Brown of Adobe showing how to do the effect using CS3

  • Pixelbox December 21, 2006 02:46 pm

    Seems like more of a gimmick to me. Keep it real.

    Most people are "wowed" by lots of gimmicks. Page curls, for example.

  • Henryscat December 21, 2006 06:39 am

    Yup it's the Atholl alright! What's the co-incidence just out of interest?
    to Mathew: The pictures are for the tutorial - I'm not trying to make art here. ;)
    To everyone with 'better' methods: That's the problem with Photoshop - there are hundreds of different ways of doing everything! And it's down to individual preference which one is "best". And here is one of the many...

  • Matthew Miller December 20, 2006 11:52 pm

    I think this gimmick works best when the color is used to highlight something of significance in the image. Whatever you color is instantly the focus of the image. In the examples, this works okay (but honestly, not stellar) with the drinks, but I'm not so sure about the tie. With a wedding, you'd probably want to focus on symbolically significant items -- candles, rings, flowers.

  • Karp December 20, 2006 09:23 pm

    On a side note, that's Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry, Scotland right?
    Weird coincidence

  • Karp December 20, 2006 09:12 pm

    ^ the most beautiful way of selective desaturation

    The other option I like more is the following:
    1. Select > color range
    Flavor it with
    2. Select > feather & Select > Modify > Expand/Contract
    3. Select > Inverse
    4. Image > Adjustments > Channel mixer

    Or even better, the above but with masks and adjustment layers.

  • googlit December 20, 2006 01:32 pm

    bah... link didn't go thru:

  • googlit December 20, 2006 01:31 pm

    similarly, if you want to add color that wasn't there before, create a new layer above your pic (which can be in either color or b&w) and change its blending mode to color. Then pick a paintbrush and a color, and start painting. The paintbrush's blending mode should be normal.

    so you can do something along these lines... it's a flickrfly. :)

  • Julián Rodriguez Orihuela December 20, 2006 01:08 pm

    Definitely what Kevin O'Mara suggest is a better method.

    Using the Channel Mixer adjustment layer you can paint back what you want in color.

    The settings for naturalistic b&w are approximately:
    R: 30
    G: 60
    B: 10
    Monochrome: X

  • Furgus December 20, 2006 01:03 pm

    I would also suggest duplicating the image onto another layer. Using any method to change that layer to B&W, then add a layer mask to the B&W layer. Use the eraser tool on the layer mask to erase the B&W image where you want color. If you mess up, switch your default color to black. This will put the B&W image back and let you do it over. This method is very easy and helps out a lot of you mess up.

  • Fidel December 20, 2006 11:09 am

    I was wondering, is it possible to do this after one fiddles with the channel mixer?

  • Kevin O'Mara December 20, 2006 11:02 am

    I would highly suggest converting the image to B&W by using the channel mixer adjustment layer method (as detailed here on this very site and then using solid black paintbrush to draw on the adjustment layer to reveal the desired color. The channel mixer method gives a much more richly-contrasted and balanced B&W image than just desaturation.