Keep selective colour when making black and white conversions
When taking photographs in certain lighting conditions, such as on a dull, overcast day, your photo location’s colours may be less than striking in your final image.
In our start image, for example, a burst of flash has brought out the colours of our model’s clothing, make-up and skin tones, but the rest of the shot’s colours are rather drab and desaturated.
The location’s flat-lit colours – like the boring brown brickwork in the background – may be weaker, but they still distract the eye from our main subject. There is a solution.
In this tutorial we’ll show you how to use Photoshop Elements to desaturate the shot’s weaker (and largely irrelevant) background colours to create a more moody monochrome urban scene.
You’ll then discover how to apply brush strokes to a Layer Mask to restore the model’s vibrant colours so that she stands out more effectively against the monochrome environment.
By making selective colour adjustments in this way you can emphasise the shot’s strengths – such as the attractive colours of the flash-lit model – while desaturating the location’s weaker colours.
We’ll also show you how to make selective tonal adjustments so that the brighter model stands out even more against the darker background. By using the Burn tool to darken specific tones you can also hide some of the room’s busy and distracting details and add a sense of mood and mystery to the simplified scene.
To add a gritty texture to our urban location we’ll also demonstrate how to use filters, layers and Blending Modes to give our clean, digitally-sourced start image a film-style grain. This analogue look helps make the shot look more ‘street’!
On the next page we show you step by step how to achieve the effect of keeping selective colour in your images when making black and white converstions.
How to keep selective colour in black and white conversions: Steps 1-9
01 Open the start file
Open your start image in Photoshop Elements. The photo will open in Photoshop Elements’ Full Edit workspace. Go to Window>Layers to make the Layers palette visible, then click on the Background layer and press Cmd/Ctrl+J to duplicate it.
02 Make it mono
In the Layers palette, click on the new Layer 1 thumbnail. Go to Enhance>Remove Colour. This creates a black-and-white version of the image. To reveal some of the girl’s colours from the Background layer below, click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette.
03 Brush tool options
Use the Zoom tool to get a closer look at the model’s face. Choose the Brush tool, then click on the Brush Preset picker at the left of the options bar and choose a soft round tip with a Size of 100 pixels. Click on Layer 1’s white mask. Press X to toggle the Tools palette’s foreground colour to black.
04 Paint on the mask
Spray the black brush on the white mask to poke a hole through the monochrome layer and reveal the girl’s colours on the Background layer below. If you reveal unwanted background colours by mistake, press X to toggle to a white foreground colour and spray to restore these areas to monochrome.
05 Re-colour the girl
Keep spraying a black brush over the model to reveal her skin and clothing colours – don’t worry too much about editing all of her jacket, because it only has a hint of colour in the leather’s shiny specular highlights. Using this technique you can restore the rest of the model to full colour.
06 Fill with grey
Choose Layer>New>Layer. In the New Layer window’s Name field, type ‘Dodge and Burn’. Click OK. This creates a new transparent layer called Dodge and Burn. Go to Edit>Fill Layer. Select 50% Grey and then click OK. Set the Dodge and Burn layer’s Blending Mode to Overlay.
07 Darken the shadows
Choose the Burn tool from the Tools palette. Grab a soft-edged tip from the Brush Preset Picker and set the Size option to 600. Set Range to Shadows and drop Exposure to 15%. Spray around the edges of the frame to darken the shadows and hide the interior’s distracting architectural details.
08 Add drama
To tease out more detail in the clouds, set the Burn tool’s Range option to Midtones. Keep the Exposure option set to 15% so you can edit the clouds in gentle and controllable increments. Spray the Burn tool over the clouds to darken the midtones and make the cloud texture look more prominent.
09 Lighten the midtones
The girl’s dark jacket blends too much with the shadows, so to help her stand out from the background choose the Dodge tool from the Tools palette. Set Size to 125 and Range to Midtones. Keep Exposure at 15%. Spray behind her head and jacket collar to lighten the midtones of the roof a little.
10 Copy and Paste a mask
Choose Layer>New>Adjustment Layer>Levels. Click OK. Alt-click on Layer 1’s mask to see the girl-shaped black brush strokes you created in step 4. Choose Select>All then Edit>Copy. Click on the Levels Adjustment Layer’s mask and choose Edit>Paste to add the same brush strokes to the new mask.
11 Invert the mask
Press Ctrl+I to invert the Levels Adjustment Layer’s mask so that the girl’s shape is white, while the background is black. These white strokes will enable the Levels Adjustment Layer to change the tones of the girl without altering the carefully dodged and burned tones in the rest of the image.
12 Adjust the levels
Click on the Levels Adjustment Layer’s thumbnail (the little cog icon) to see the image layer. In the Levels adjustment panel drag the grey slider left to 1.24 to lighten the girl’s midtones. Drag the white slider left to 236 to brighten her highlights and help her stand out against the dark background.
13 Restore clipped highlights
The highlight Levels adjustment brightens up our subject and gives her more impact, but her white shirt has become clipped. To restore detail to the shirt’s blown-out highlights, grab the Brush tool from the Layers palette. Set Opacity to 50%. Now click on the mask and spray grey strokes on the shirt.
14 More modelling
To emphasise the contours of the girl’s face, increase the contrast between the shadows and highlights. Grab the Burn tool and set Range to Midtones and Exposure to 15%. Set Size to 90 pixels. Click on the grey Dodge and Burn layer. Spray over the shadows on her neck and cheek to darken them.
15 Reduce saturation
The model’s colours are a little too vibrant. To create a more subtle colour palette choose Layer>New Adjustment Layer> Hue/Saturation. Drag this Adjustment Layer to the top of the layer stack. In the adjustment panel, drag the Master Saturation slider down to -21. This creates a moodier look.
16 Go grey
To ‘rough up’ the clean digital image and give the whole thing a more filmic look, choose Layer>New>Layer. In the New Layer window, name the layer ‘Grain’ and click OK. Next, go to Edit>Fill Layer. In the Fill layer window set the Contents Use drop-down menu to 50% Grey. Click OK.
17 Make some noise
Set the Grain layer’s Blending Mode to Overlay so that the neutral grey pixels become invisible. Go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise. Set Amount to 10%. Tick the Monochromatic box. Click OK to apply the noise to the layer. At this stage the noise doesn’t look like film grain, but we’ll fix that in the final step.
18 Create film grain
Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Set the Blur Radius to 1.0 and click OK. This turns the sharp dots of noise into more organic-looking clumps of grain. To see the grain more effectively, grab the Zoom tool and click to view at 100%. For a more subtle effect, reduce the Grain layer’s Opacity to 70%.
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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 at 11:00 am and is filed under Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a comment. Pinging is currently not allowed.