View of the Drew | Andrew Halpern Photography

Selective Color in Lightroom

1/800 . f/5.6 . ISO 160 . 55 mm

Here’s another of the Roosevelt Island Tram. I thought it’d be cool to put everything in the shot in black and white and just leave the tram a nice bright red.  It looks nice right?

Normally, something like this calls for Photoshop, but believe it or not, it is actually not so hard to do in Lightroom.

You’ll need to have a shot where this will actually work. Try something that has a specific color that you want to highlight. For this shot, that color was red.

Step 0

First, we’ll want to make a virtual copy of the image to work with.  Press CTRL and ‘ (apostrophe) to do that.  (Use Cmd if you are on a Mac).

Step 1

Click on your new virtual copy. In the Develop Panel, scroll down to the HSL panel.  Click HSL and make every slider 0% except the color you want.  This will desaturate every color except the one you leave alone.   Sometimes this can be tricky because many times colors are a mix.  If you start developing gray patches on your subject, try to add in a little of a neighboring color.  For example, reds will sometimes need help from orange or magenta.

After that, most of the other colors will turn black and white.  However, there may still be patches of your highlighted color scattered around your shot.  In that case we’ll need to use the local adjustment brushes.

Step 2

Scroll to the top of the Development panel and click the brush icon.  Click Effect>> Saturation, and then pull the saturation slider all the way to 0%.  Scroll down to Brush, and give yourself a nice big brush.  Turn the Flow all the way to up.  Then just go to town painting out the color on your image.  You might even need two coats.  To get a “second coat”, just create a new adjustment brush and paint some more.

To see the exact mask you painted, toggle the letter “O” on your keyboard.  Don’t worry, that green won’t show on your shot, it’s just to show you where you are painting.  Turn it off with the letter “O” again.

Step 3

For tricky spots that are close to the subject, press the spacebar to zoom to 1:1 on your shot.  Next use the square-bracket [ key on your keyboard to decrease the brush size.  You can use the the ] key to enlarge the brush.  Turn on auto-mask.  This option will attempt to find edges and make sure your painting doesn’t extend onto your subject.  You might have to turn this option off, and paint over any fragments it leaves behind though.

Step 4

Finally, to fine-tune your black and white mix, you can use the Luminance sliders in the HSL panel on the colors you desaturated.

Congratulations, you just saved yourself a ton of disk space by doing this all in Lightroom.

2 Responses to “Selective Color in Lightroom”

  • SJ:

    U know so much bout keyboard shortcuts! Yea would love to create a shot like this, ive seen so many of those kind on display in street markets, so is this how they all do it or are there other ways, must be since u said that the lightroom way is the one that saves disk space!

  • Most of the time this is actually done within Photoshop, not on Lightroom. But I thought I would share a tutorial on how to do it without Photoshop.

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