Posted by Claire Wade

In this article I’d like to demonstrate how to colour pop in Adobe Elements. If you don’t know what colour popping is, it means making one part of your image black and white, with an area of it remaining in colour so that it stands outs.

I’m just going to do something simple in that I’m just going to colour pop the eyes of an image, but once you have mastered this technique, you can go a lot further with it.

So without further ado, I started by opening a photo of a lovely cat.

1. In the top menu, I went to Layer, New, Layer from Background. This gave me a copy of the background image on a new layer.

popping            resizedimage500282-pop22. You can see in the diagram on the left the layer palette, and the new layer that is a copy of the background.


3. With the top layer highlighted (you can see in the diagram that it is highlighted in blue), click on Enhance, Convert to Black and White…

resizedimage500390-pop44. The Convert to Black and White dialogue boxed pops up. You have the choice to Select a Style on the left or Adjust Intensity on the right. Move the sliders around until you are happy with the result that is shown in the top right box. Then press OK.


5. You will see that the top layer is now in black and white.

With the top layer selected (it is highlighted in blue when selected) click on the layer mask icon at the top of the layers palette. The red arrow is pointing to it in the diagram.

resizedimage500346-pop66. You will see on the top layer that a white thumbnail will appear to the right of the thumbnail of the black and white layer (see where arrow is pointing). Click on this, you will see it has a little box around it, this means you have it selected.


7. With the mask thumbnail selected, click on the brush tool on the right. See top left arrow.

Make sure that black is the foreground colour – you can press the letter D to do this. You can tell what is the foreground colour, look at the two squares at the bottom right hand corner, the one at the front is the foreground colour.

You can adjust the size of the brush by using the slider at the bottom, Alternatively, you can change the brush size by using the [ and ] keys on your keyboard – they are to the right of the letter P.


8. As I’m going to colour pop the eyes which are quite small, I want to zoom in on them. Click on the magnify button on the left.

Holding down the left click on your mouse, drag over the area that you want to zoom in on. You can see it in the diagram, it has little dashes around the area. As soon as you let go of the click, it zooms into that area.


9. Here is a close up to show you how the magnifying glass looks when you drag it around an area.

Once you have zoomed in, click back onto the brush tool as before.

resizedimage500258-pop1010. Making sure that you are clicked on the mask thumbnail, start painting on the eye area of the photo. You will see the colour ‘popping’ through the black and white.


11. A handy tip when you are zoomed in is using the space bar. If you press and HOLD the space bar, a little hand icon appears. Keep it held down, hold the left click on the mouse and move it around. This lets you move easily to different parts of the image.

As soon as you let go of the space bar, the tool goes back to what it was before, ie the brush.

So now you can move to the other eye and start brushing over that.


12. When you have finished colour popping both the eyes, press CTRL and 0 (number zero not the letter o) this will make your photo fit full sized on your screen.

Now you can see that both the eyes are coloured. On the layer mask thumbnail, you can see where you painted in the two corresponding black dots which let the colour through from the layer below.


13. Now you need to flatten your image so that it can be saved as a jpeg. If you do not flatten it, you will have to save as a PSD file which is a lot larger and cannot be uploaded to places such as Flickr or Facebook or be printed.

Go to Layer, Flatten Image. When it is flat, there will only be one layer in the layers palette.


14. If you want to intensify the colour further, use the sponge tool. The top arrow points to it in this diagram. It may not currently be set to sponge, but the dodge tool (looks like a dandelion head) or the burn tool (a hand).

In the bottom right hand corner, click on the sponge tool (looks like a sponge). Go to the mode drop down menu and make sure it is set to saturate. Adjust the flow to be more subtle.

Zoom in on the eyes for more control.


15. Paint over the eyes using the sponge tool and you can see the colour intensify. If it gets a bit too colourful, you can always set the sponge tool to desaturate, and paint over it to tone it down.

Once you are happy, save the image. See below the final image, the eyes maybe a bit bright for some, but I’ve overdone it just to show what can be done!