In Adobe Photoshop is it possible to completely remove color from a subjects skin and hair while maintaining the shadows and highlights, similar to the outcome of the image below - which I imagine was makeup rather than Photoshop? Oh, and, if so...how?

enter image description here

2 Answers 2


Yes. It's extremely easy, in fact, and as usual with Photoshop there are several ways to do it. The simplest, non-destructive approach is to add a Black & White adjustment layer and clip it to the image layer.

Use the "scrubby" tool to darken or lighten areas as needed to get the B&W conversion you're looking for. You'll see the color sliders in the adjustment panel move as you do this, and you can move them individually yourself. To get that very dark skin effect, start with the High-Contrast Blue filter setting, and improvise from there.

If you then want to have some areas of color (the lips and the pink dot in your example), paint them in using a black brush, or select and fill with black, in the layer mask that is automatically added to the adjustment layer by Photoshop.

From this: before

to this: after

took about 5 minutes, using exactly the above technique. Because it's all done with an adjustment layer, nothing in the original image has been changed, and it's easy to change any time later.

  • Thank you for the answer, its looks nice and straight forward. Sadly, I won't be able to try it out for a couple of days, but am looking forward to playing about.
    – DBUK
    Nov 29, 2011 at 17:56

Well, I believe the model in your pic started out with dark skin (but where's the fun in that?) - it's really going to depend on your starting image. I did a quickie test using Image->Adjustments->Black & White (I only did a quick selection border as you can see, for expediency - you should select skin only, not eyes or lips). In my image of the lovely Jennifer Amiraqui, the reds & yellows were the strong contributors. Bringing red down to -140 and yellow down to about -30, I achieved the effect shown. There's still a lot you can do with it, playing with the contrast and brightness, levels, etc. You can put a copy of the original image underneath, grayscaled (Image->Adjustments->Desaturate), and then using a layer mask and a weak brush (less than 10%), bring some of the detail back in areas that started to show their JPG artifacts due to this technique.

For coloring different bits of it, keep the original image and colorize the parts you want. I suggest using Image->Adjustments->Hue/Saturation, and checking the colorize box. In that way you'll preserve as much of the image depth and fidelity as possible. TIP: If you select or set the color you're after as the foreground color BEFORE doing this, the Hue/Saturation dialog will start in that hue.

Hope that works for you.


Black & White Image Adjustment

  • Thanks. Two answers that look straight forward and effective. Will hopefully get a chance to try it out, work permitting, over the next couple of days.
    – DBUK
    Nov 29, 2011 at 17:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.