The Ultimate Photoshop Resource

Photoshop isolate and control color, 1 minute Photoshop Tip

How to make your colors really pop in photoshop. Makes skies instantly bluer and more. This 1 minute tip shows you how to use a adjustment (in a different way than intended) to gain super control and isolate the colors in photoshop. I think you will love this little hack that I came up with.


I am going to show you how to make colors amazing in Photoshop using tool you wouldn’t expect to use for color and that’s the black and white filter.

This is one of those “I wonder what would happen if” moments I had a few years ago. I knew that the Black and White Adjustment darkens and lightens the grayscale areas based on their color. I wondered how it would look on a color image if I used a blending mode. It turns out that it works great and I use this trick all the time now, so here I’m sharing it with you, as a useful trick to have up your digital sleeve. It works particularly well for skies.

Lets start with this photo I shot in Santa Fe, NM.

I really want to make the sky and colors on this image pop.

1. Create a Black and White Adjustment Layer

In the Layers Panel, click and hold on the Layer Style icon. Choose Black and White

2. The Magic blending mode

Change the blending mode in the layers panel. Where it says normal, click and change to Luminosity.
Luminosity Blend mode will preserve the color and change the brightness of the image. (See my essential guide on Photoshop Blending modes tutorial here).

3. Make the adjustments

As you move the sliders, you’ll notice that the tones get darker or lighter under each of the colors.

And here is the end result, easy!

You may ask the question, Why not use the HSL sliders? Yes, HSL does a very similar thing and I do use it all the time. However you have the go into the Camera Raw to filter to do that. If you want to keep in nondestructive, you will need to convert the image to Smart Object, which isn’t a big deal if you aren’t going to apply any pixel level adjustments to the image. If you are looking for a quick fix which is non destructive without using Smart Objects, then the Black and White Adjustment layer will work perfectly.

There are many ways of doing things in Photoshop, and like a game of chess, the more tricks you have, the faster you can get to the end result.

Just one thing to be aware of with this technique, don’t move the sliders too much. Extreme movements can cause visual artifacts.


So, anyway guys, I hope you enjoyed it. It was great seeing you here at the CAFE


Let me know your favorite Photoshop hack in the comments!


Thanks for watching



PS Don’t forget to follow us on Social Media for more tips.. (I've been posting some fun Instagram and Facebook Stories lately)
You can get my free Layer Blending modes ebook along with dozens of exclusive Photoshop Goodies here photoshop goodies for free

48 responses to “Photoshop isolate and control color, 1 minute Photoshop Tip”

  1. Hi Colin, For color correction, I used to create adjustment layers for, Levels, then Hue/Sat then unsharp mask. I have since learned nondestructive dodge and burn and camera raw filters from you, but not sure of how best to combine all of the above. Can you share your production workflow for color correction, that you employ for every photo?

    • To be honest, it really depends on the photo. I use different techniques depending on what the photo needs, but I usually always start in Lightroom or Camera Raw. Get the main tones and color, then I do retouching, then Dodge and Burn and finish with sharpening.

  2. Very cool adjustment, hadn’t really seen this before, wow, love it. Thanks!

    Something else I do on occasion to punch up the details – Select top layer, merge all layers (ctrl/cmd-shift/alt/opt-E); Filter>Other>HighPass, setting at 10.0, then make that an Overlay blending mode layer. Drop the opacity to about 50%, depending on the result you want.

  3. That is a technique that I have not thought of using either and will try with my own photos. Thank you. I really love your tutorials and I am already a subscriber.

  4. Thanks. I think you can do exactly the same thing in Lightroom (uses the same Camera Raw obviously). I tend to use Camera Raw in LR rather than PS – then I Edit In PS if I need more complex processing. Go to HSL/Color/B & W, choose Color and then select the color you want from the 8 colored rectangles and use the Luminace bar

  5. Hi Colin,
    That was a lovely short tutorial. I have a question for you. How do we use this method if we have different shades of the same color in the image ?

  6. Great, as as always!!! 🙂
    Never heard of it but like someone said already. From this point on; it’ll be part of my work flow.
    Thanks, Colin.

  7. I found out about this sometime ago and incorporated it into my workflow. Like Colin showed, it does amazing things to colors. What would be amazing is if someone came up with a way to make the gray tones different (sort of like the zone system that Ansel Adams came up with). Currently, what I am doing is making a new layer and setting my opacity to 10% then each swipe is a different zone.

  8. I use PS CS3. As soon as I choose B&W adjustment layer, blend mode becomes ghost and no change is possible. Please help

  9. Unbelievable! I’ve been using and teaching Photoshop for over 15 years and never came across this! How in the world did you discover this? By accident? Will show my students and tell them to subscribe also! Thanks!

    • It just occurred to me one day to try it, while doing a B+W, I wondered if it would work on a color image, and it did 🙂

  10. When I clicked on the Luminosity blend mode I didn’t get the color sliders. Do I need to change a setting somewhere?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Access The Photoshop Vault

Unlock dozens of valuable Photoshop resources for FREE

The Ultimate

Photoshop Resource