Black and White Background with Colored Foreground

This is a simple technique to help make the subject of your picture stand out more. It involves converting the background of an image to black and white, while making your making the foreground in color.

I have used this technique many times to give pictures a unique touch and emphasize the items of a picture I want emphasized. For this example, we are going to use a picture of a red car on a mountain road. I would like for the subject of the picture to be the red car.

This is written as a Photoshop tutorial.

1. We will begin by opening our original picture, which is a color photo.

2. In our layer window, we will right click the layer labeled “Background” and scroll down to duplicate.

3. You should now have two identical layers in your layer window, one labeled “Background” and one labeled “Background Copy.”

4. Now, open up a new document and make it the same dimensions as the original photo.

5. Click and drag the “Background Copy” from our original document to this new document.

6. Going back to the original document, we are going to make it black and white by clicking “Image” in the menu bar, scrolling down to “Mode” and selecting “Grayscale.” Do not flatten the image when it asks you to flatten image as this will re-combine your layers. This photo should now look like this:

7. We are, once again, going to click and drag the “Background Copy” to the document we dragged to the first time. It is now important to make sure that you align the layers properly. If needed, reduce the opacity of the layer you just added and move it around until it is overlayed correctly.

8. Now, with the black and white layer selected, select the eraser tool from the “Tool” window and start erasing the parts that you would like to remain in color. For large areas of a photo, you can also select the Marquee tool, envelop the area you want in color, and simply hit the “Delete” key on your keyboard. In our case, we want the car to be in color, so we are going to use the eraser on the car and no where else in the picture. As you erase, you will notice that the colored background begins showing through and you end up with something like this:

I have used this technique many times to enhance foreground images and help my subject “pop out” at viewers. I have found this technique works wonderfully to bring people out of a chaotic background or even to highlight the petals of a rose and give the image an artistic flare.

About The Author

Uday is a freelance graphic and web designer. With eight years of experience in web design, Uday makes a variety of web pages from corporate to personal and built pages which are easy to edit for the end user. All coding is written cleanly to ensure that pages are run smoothly, load quickly, and perform to it’s full potential.