Color Splash Effect in Photoshop CS6

Skill level

This tutorial will cover a topic that I get asked about quite a bit, especially with mobile applications like Color Splash, that allow you to isolate a specific color in your image. Singling out a specific color in your image.

I’m finally back from vacation, armed with thousands of photos that I really don’t know what to do with. So over the next few weeks, as I’m sorting through the photos I took in London and Paris, I’ll be releasing tutorials and providing you with the images so you can follow along. In today’s image, we’re going to attempt to single out the red phone box, leaving everything else black and white. If you want to download this image, click on the image below.

First, we need to single out the red in the phone box. There are a few ways that we can go about doing so, but for the sake of this tutorial, we’re going to use one of my favorite selection methods, Color Range, which can be found under the Select menu.

This feature works by allowing you to select specific colors of your image, either by choosing a basic color from the dropdown, or by sampling your color of choice. In most cases, however, choosing a color from the dropdown might not be your best bet, as it’s super specific. If you select Reds, looking at the preview below, you’ll notice that the phone box isn’t fully white, which means that not all of the reds have been selected.

Further, changing the Selection Preview at the bottom to Black Matte shows us that the selection is somewhat faded.

Let’s try out the sampling method. This allows up to sample multiple shades of the base color that we want to select. Clicking on the phone box will sample a range of reds, defined by our Fuzziness slider. A higher value will include more similar tones, while a lower value will restrict the sampling to the specific red that you selected.

Now if there are reds that have not been selected, holding down your Shift key and clicking on the additional tones will include them in the sample.

As you select a larger range of tones, you might start to see areas outside the phone box being selected. There are two things you can do to help alleviate this. First, like we covered a moment ago, the Fuzziness slider can help increase or decrease the amount of similar tones that are being included in the selection.

You also have the Localized Color Clusters option, and the Range Slider. This can help focus your selection around the area that you have been sampling. A lower Range value will tighten up the selection around your subject.

Even after you have adjusted these sliders, you may want to go back and Shift+click on the areas that may have been removed. Your result won’t be 100% perfect, but we’ll deal with that in a moment.

Once you’re happy with the sampling, because we want to change everything except the phone box, go ahead and turn on the Invert option, and press OK. This will give us a selection of everything else in our photo.

From here, if you wanted to turn everything else Black and White, your best bet would be to add an Adjustment Layer to keep our edit non-destructive.

This also gives us the ability to tweak the effect if needed. For example, the sign in the background got included in our selection. Because the Adjustment Layer includes a Layer Mask, we can grab a white brush, and paint overtop of the sign to remove it’s red tones. The opposite works as well. If there are areas of the phone box which were not included, a black brush will bring back the reds which got lost in the process.

And there you have it. A simple way of singling out a color in Photoshop!