5 Steps to Selective Desaturation

One of the great advantages of digital photography is that experiments cost nothing but your time. One common experiment, though it’s more at home in graphic design than purely in the art of photography, is partial decoloring of a photo. Today we’ll take a look at how to do that.

Selective desaturation is used when you want to keep one part of the picture in color while converting the rest of the picture to black and white. Generally it’s a certain object, like, say, a red umbrella. The core of the process is selecting the object.

We’ll take a look at handling this job in Zoner Photo Studio, which has several selection tools available: Rectangular and Elliptical Selection, Lasso, Polygonal and Magnetic Lasso, Magic Wand, and last but not least the Selection Brush. The buttons for these are all along the left edge of the Editor.

In our example, we use only the last two of the mentioned selection tools. We decided to make the whole picture black and white except for the intense color of the cloth, since it would not still stand out after desaturation.

Step by Step

1) Open the picture in the Zoner Photo Studio Editor and activate the Magic Wand using the toolbar on the left (or by pressing W).

Then left-click with the magic wand in the area that you want to leave in color. If not enough is selected yet (and it won’t be), click again while holding down the Shift key to add to the selection. This is just your foundation, so don’t worry if the selection isn’t perfect yet.

What the Magic Wand selects depends on your setting for the Matching Mode (RGB in our case) and for Tolerance. Controls for both of these are on a toolbar at the top.

2) As soon as you have your rough selection ready, activate the Selection Brush (Q). Zoom in to at least normal (1:1) size, and now add in the areas that you want in your selection, but aren’t there yet, by “painting” them with the Selection Brush.

Tip: To zoom in or out quickly, hold down Ctrl and use your mouse’s scroll wheel (if available).

Set the brush Diameter to suit the way you like to work.

If you overshoot the edge of the area you wanted to leave in color, don’t worry. Hold down Ctrl and left-click to subtract from the selection.

Tip: To move the picture around the screen without having to constantly zoom out and back in, press and hold the spacebar. The mouse cursor will change to a hand; use it to “grasp” the picture and move it around, without having to lose your selection.

3) When your selection seems ready, it’s time to consider it not quite ready yet. In our case for example, it was a good idea to make it go slightly past the desired area, with some blurring leading from the selected to the not-selected part of the picture. We used Modify Selection in the Selection menu for this.

4) Now you’ll need to invert the selection, because right now it’s marking what we don’t want to make black-and-white. What we do want to change is the inverse. There are several ways you can invert a selection. For example, click the Invert Selection toolbar button, or use the Ctrl+Shift+I keyboard shortcut.

5) Now all that’s left is the black and white conversion itself. The specifics of that are a matter of taste. For some advice on how to do it, though, you can refer to this article.

The final, edited photo

The final, edited photo

Last updated 17. June 2013

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Author: Zoner

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