How to Desaturate Part of the Image in Photoshop

When you turn a color image into black and white using the Remove Color command in Photoshop Elements, the process is known as desaturation. In this article, you will learn to desaturate only part of a color image as the juxtaposition of color and black-and-white areas creates an interesting visual effect. This is a technique that is often used in creating print, video and digital works.

  • Select [File]-[Open] from the menu bar. The Open dialog box appears.
  • Open the image
  • Pick the Selection Brush Tool from the toolbox.

  • In the options bar, select a Soft Round 100 pixels brush from the brush presets pop-up palette and set Mode to Mask. The Lasso Tool and the Magic Wand Tool are normally used to make detailed and exact selections. But in this example, a clear-cut border between the color and black-and-white areas will make the image look unnatural. So the Selection Brush Tool is used instead to create a less obtrusive-looking border between the areas.
  • Click and drag the Selection Brush Tool over the picture frames in the image. The picture frames is painted over in red, indicating that a mask has been applied. To remove from the selection, press the [ALT] key as you use the Selection Brush Tool.
  • Change the Mode in the options bar to Selection. The red mask color disappears and a selection border appears around the unmasked areas.
  • Change the size of the brush to 27 pixels in the options bar. A smaller brush size lets you define a more precise selection border.
  • Click and drag the Selection Brush Tool around the edges of the photos to add to the selection.
  • Select [Enhance]-[Adjust Color]-[Remove Color] from the menu bar. This turns the selection into shades of gray.
  • Choose [Select]-[Deselect] from the menu bar or press [Ctrl] + [D]. This deselects the selection.
  • Click and drag the Background layer in the Layers palette onto the Create a New Layer icon to make a copy of that layer.
  • Press [Shift]-[Ctrl]-[U] to turn the copy into black and white.
  • Select [Filter]-[Blur]-[Gaussian Blur] from the menu bar. The Gaussian Blur dialog box appears.
  • Enter a Radius of 7 pixels. Click OK. This applies a blur to the copied black-and-white background layer.
  • Change the Blending Mode in the Layers palette from Normal to Overlay. By setting the Blending Mode to Overlay, the blurred Background copy acts as a screen through which the background shows. This has the effect of softening and blurring the entire image and keeping our interest on the colored areas.


At first glance, it may seem that there is no difference between turning images into black and white using the [Image]-[Mode]-[Grayscale] or the [Enhance]-[Adjust Color]-[Remove Color] commands. As you get more familiar with the program, however, you may soon realize that images turned into the Grayscale Mode cannot have their colors restored, but those desaturated using the [Enhance]-[Adjust Color]-[Remove Color] can be made as good as new. This is because desaturated images still have their color information intact.

Filed Under: Computers & Technology


About the Author: Justin Belden is a freelance web & graphic designer with over 15 years' experience. He is also an Avid member of the Design/Development community and a Serial Blogger who loves to help people by sharing interesting and informative tips and trick related to computer and technology.

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