Having a grayscale/black&white image with a bit of color effect in a #GIMP way

Hey guys!

It’s time for more “magical” effects with the help of GIMP!

Have you ever wanted to make a part of an image stand out? It may be a group picture and then you want your image to be more noticeable. You can definitely do this by making the whole picture into grayscale except you. Yes, you may remain colored while the rest of the picture is in gray.

Okay, let’s get the ball rolling!

Let’s start with opening the image that we want to edit. After which, we have to duplicate the background layer, which is the original image, to make a copy of the photo and make it black and white. To do this, make the layers palette visible by pressing Ctrl-L. Right click on the background layer and choose duplicate layer. The new layer will automatically be named as “background copy”. Double click on the layer name and change it to “grayscale”, then press “enter” to rename the layer (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Duplicating the background layer and renaming it to "grayscale"

Next step is converting the grayscale or duplicate layer to grayscale. With the grayscale leyer selected, go to “Colors” menu and choose “Desaturate”. There are 3 different ways of converting to grayscale: Lightness, Luminosity, and Average (Figure 2). You may choose any that you prefer. I will be using the Luminosity for this one.  Once you’ve decided, click the desaturate button.

Figure 2: Choosing the shade of gray that you prefer

Now is the time for the key to the magic…adding the layer mask!

Right click on the “grayscale” layer in the layers palette, then choose “add layer mask” from the menu. In the dialog box that appears, select the “White (full opacity)”, then click “add” (Figure 3). The “grayscale” layer in the layers palette will now show a white box next to the image thumbnail. This represents the mask (Figure 4).

Figure 3: Setting the mask to "white (full opacity)"

Figure 4: A white box, which represents the mask, appears beside the image thumbnail

Since we used a duplicate layer, we still have the original colored image in the background layer. To reveal the color of a specific part in the background layer below, we are going to paint on the layer mask.

The layer mask that we just made will make us erase parts of the “grayscale” layer by painting on the mask: White reveals the “grayscale” layer, Black blocks it completely, and shades of gray partially reveal it. If you can still remember, we set our mask to White, which means that the entire grayscale is being revealed. We are going to block the grayscale layer, to reveal the color of the small pouch from the background layer by painting it with black.

Zoom in on the small pouch or the part you want the color to be revealed so they fill your workspace and for easy editing. Click on the “paintbrush tool”, select the appropriate brush size and set opacity to 100%. Now set the foreground color to black (may be done by pressing D). Then click on the layer mask thumbnail (the white box) in the layers palette and then begin painting on the small pouch in the picture (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Painting on the pouch to reveal the color

If you are worrying that your painting went over the edges, you may clean them by painting in the layer mask once again (Figure 6). But this time, it will be with a white color to reveal the grayscale layer. Switch the foreground color to white by pressing X and erase away the color back to gray using a small brush.

Figure 6: After painting the whole thing, time to clean the edges...

If you find the colored edges too harsh, you can soften them slightly by going to Filters -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and setting the blur radius of 1-2 pixels (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Softening the edges

If you’re completely satisfied with your image, save it as jpeg or png or whatever image format you want. Spot the difference between the original image and the edited one below.

Original Image

Finished Product


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