Make your photos pop with color

Surely you've seen television commercials in which everything is rendered in black and white except for one item -- a person, perhaps, or the featured product -- that appears in full color. The trick is effective because your eyes are drawn to the splotch of color image in a sea of gray. And really, the effect is a lot of fun.

On television, this trickery is typically done with the creative use of multiple cameras. On the PC, though, we can do it after the fact with a single image -- you don't need to have this effect in mind when you take the shot. Best of all, it's not hard to do. It's particularly easy if your photo editor supports layers.

Here's the basic idea:

Stack two copies of the same image in separate layers. Convert one of the layers to gray scale. Switch to the color layer and select most of the photo, leaving the point of interest unselected. Delete the selection, leaving the full-color section on top of the gray-scale image.

That's not so complicated, right? Let's try it out in Adobe Photoshop Elements. You can use any image from your own photo collection or you can use one of my sample images.

Duplicating the photo

Open the photo in Photoshop Elements and make a copy of it by choosing Layer-Duplicate Layer, then click OK.

The top layer should be selected automatically, but we want to work with the bottom layer. Look at the Layer Palette on the right side of the screen. The top layer -- called Background Copy -- is highlighted. Click the bottom layer, called Background. We want to convert this layer to gray scale. To do that, choose Enhance-Convert to Black and White, then click OK.

Because this is the bottom layer, you won't see anything happen on the main canvas. Remember that the top layer is still in color, and it's covering the black-and-white layer. If you look at the Layer Palette, you'll see that the layer has changed.

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Select your subject

Now it's time to work on the top layer.

Click the top layer in the Layer Palette, and use your favorite selection tool to trace the section that you want to appear in color. For this photo, I'm going to make just the pink petals of the flower appear in color, so I'll use the Magnetic Lasso tool, which you can find in the sixth cubby on the left side of the screen.

To use the Magnetic Lasso tool, click on an edge of the petal and then move along it a little at a time. The tool will automatically "snap" to the flower's edge without any clicking, but you can click when you want to force the tool to lock to a particular point, such as around a tricky curve. When you get all the way around, double-click and the petals will be selected.

Finishing touches

When you're done isolating the petals, choose Select- Inverse from the menu. Press the [Delete] key to remove everything but the area that is in color. Immediately, the black-and-white image from the bottom layer should show through. Choose Select-Deselect to finish it off.

You should now have a gray-scale image with a single element in color. Save your new photo -- you're done.