Selective Colouring and Basic Colour Replacement in Photoshop

20 July, 2011

There's probably a more professional photographic term for these effects, but essentially we're looking to pay attention to the subject of our photograph by using saturation and hue filtering.

I'll be briefly covering 2 effects which you can employ, both of which use the Hue/Saturation fill layers in Photoshop. The 2 effects in question are:

  1. Selective Colouring using Saturation Filters
  2. Colour Replacement using Saturation/Hue

For this example, I'm using Adobe Photoshop CS3, although the principles herein will be similar for other versions of Photoshop and possibly other photo editing suites.

Selective Colouring using Photoshop Saturation Filters

Consider the following image:

We can go ahead and completely desaturate the image for a black and white effect; however, as the parachutes are different colours to the backdrop, we can keep the yellow and red channels (i.e. a red/yellow pass) by doing the following:

  1. Create a new fill layer above your photo, as per this image
  2. Add a Hue/Saturation fill layer
  3. Set the Saturation levels to be as per the following:
  4. Use the “Greens” saturation of -100 as the setting for the “Cyans”, “Blues” and “Magentas” channels too.
  5. The result is that only the Yellow and Red channels show through, everything else becomes desaturated, as shown in the following image:

Notice that, I've set the Red and Yellow saturation levels to be +10 as I wanted to just ever so slightly emphasise these colours, but this is not essential to complete the effect.

Colour Replacement Using Photoshop Hue/Saturation Filters

It is sometimes the case that you wish to seamlessly alter the colour of certain elements in photographs. For example, we could change the "Reds" to purple for our photograph above, which would produce the following image:

How this is achieved

The following settings were used while editing the "Reds" channel of our Hue/Saturation fill layer. All other channels were kept as before. Obviously, the Hue, Saturation and Lightness sliders can be toggled to achieve the desired colour for the Reds channel, but in this case the settings below change the 2 parachutes on the right to a purple colour.

The above hue/saturation methods were used to help this Lamborghini stand out:


Desaturated (except yellows)

Alternatively, you could simply recolour the Lamborghini by altering the hue, saturation and lightness of the "Yellows" channel:

Recoloured Only

Desaturated (except yellows)


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