Learn how to use Adobe Photoshop/Elements to highlight one colour in an image so your subject ‘pops’ from the frame. Plus, we have a section for smartphone photographers on how they can create the same effect in the Snapseed photo editing app.

Here’s our Colour Popping tutorial that will show you how to isolate one colour in an image using Adobe Photoshop, Elements and the smartphone app Snapseed. We’ll also explain what colour popping is before exploring the various methods for applying the technique. All the software we use for colour popping is pretty straightforward but if you want to make the process as easy as possible, Adobe Photoshop Elements would be your best choice. For smartphone users, you can’t really beat the free photo editing app Snapseed which is available for Android and iOS. 

What Is Colour Popping?

Colour Popping is a simple, yet effective, technique used to isolate one colour in an image while the rest of the photo is turned black & white. It’s not everyone’s favourite technique but it’s an effect photographers have used for a while, and still do today, so it’s worth playing around with to see if, you too, like the look of it. 

By applying a black & white effect to all but one colour, a particular aspect of your shot ‘pops’ from the frame hence the name ‘colour popping’. 


What Image Should I Use For Colour Popping? 

Not all photos will work with colour popping so look for ones with blocks of colour if you want to try and keep things simple or if you’re happy to use brushes to add/remove an effect, you can use a more complex image. Have a look at our gallery at the end for some ideas on what types of images work best. 

Colour Popping In Photoshop, Elements & Snapseed: portrait colour popping

How Do I Apply Colour Popping To An Image? 

There are various ways to apply colour popping to an image, some easier than others, so we’re sharing the method of colour popping in some of the most popular photo editing software currently available such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Elements. We’ve also got a section on colour popping in Snapseed – a popular photo editing app available on Android and iOS smartphones. 

Use the below list to jump to a specific tutorial:

  • Colour Popping In Photoshop
  • Colour Popping In Elements
  • Colour Popping In Snapeed
  • Colour Popping Photo Examples

Looking for a guide to colour popping in Lightroom? We have a great tutorial already on this subject here: How To Colour Pop Using Lightroom

Colour Popping In Adobe Photoshop: A How-To Tutorial 

Colour Popping In Photoshop, Elements & Snapseed: Original portrait

The original image

Colour Popping in Adobe Photoshop is rather straightforward and with just a few steps, you can have an image that’s colour-popped in no time at all. 

After opening your image up in the software, you need to follow these steps: 

Black & White

Colour Popping In Photoshop, Elements & Snapseed: B&W Filter in Photoshop

We are going to turn the image black & white by creating a new adjustment layer. To do this, click on the black & white circle that’s at the bottom of the Layers palette and select black & white. We are creating an adjustment layer as you can go back and tweak the layer if you’re not happy with the results and it means we can paint the colour detail back to produce the ‘pop’ we are looking for.

When the adjustment panel opens, adjust the sliders until you’re happy with how the image looks.

Paint Colour

Colour Popping In Photoshop, Elements & Snapseed: B&W adjustment layer with original image 'painted' back in

Colour Popping In Photoshop, Elements & Snapseed: Brush ToolSelect the Paintbrush Tool, make sure the foreground colour is set to black and paint over the area of the image you want to make ‘pop’ with colour. Painting with black will bring colour back into the image but if you paint too much in just change the foreground colour to white and paint back over the area.

You can adjust the brush size and opacity so when you’re working with tricky sections, you can reduce the size of the brush. You do this from the top menu bar that pops up when you select the brush tool.

Colour Popping In Photoshop, Elements & Snapseed: Brush Options

Take your time with it then when you’re happy save the time – it’s as easy as that. 

Final Colour Popping Result: 

Colour Popping In Photoshop, Elements & Snapseed: Colour popping in Adobe Photoshop

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