Selective Desaturation

with 6 Comments


Selective Desaturation
by Jen White

Don’t let glaring distractions of color take away from the subject of your image. Instead, harness the power of a masked saturation adjustment layer. It’s quicker and easier than you think.

For this tutorial you will need:

  • A photo that contains a glaring distraction of color (Download my photo here.)
  • Photoshop Elements or Adobe Photoshop


Step One: Open a Photo

  • Open a photo (File > Open) that contains a glaring distraction of color.

I’m using this photo of my niece. You can download this image (above) to follow along.

The Problem: The bright blue chair is distracting from the subject of the photo.



Step Two: Select the Distraction

  • Zoom into the distraction (Ctrl/Cmd +). To reposition the zoom, hold down the Space Bar and click and drag on the image.
  • Get the Quick Selection tool.
  • In the Tool Options, click on the Add To Selection icon. Uncheck Sample All Layers, but check Auto-Enhance.
  • In the Tool Options, set the Size to 25 px. (PS: Open the Brush Picker and set the Size to 25 px.)

Note: The size of the brush may need to be adjusted depending on the size of the object you are selecting. The key is to set the brush size no larger than the area you are selecting.

  • On the image, click and drag to select as much of the offending color as possible.


  • To add areas to the selection outline, click and drag again.
  • To remove areas from the selection outline, hold down the Alt key (Mac: Opt key) and click and drag.



Step Three: Desaturate the Selected Area


  • In the Layers panel, click on the Add New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon and choose Hue/Saturation.

A Hue/Saturation layer should appear in the Layers panel and contain a layer mask. The white parts of the mask (the reveal color) show what will be affected by the saturation adjustment about to be made.

The selection outline should have disappeared because of the layer mask.



  • In the Hue/Saturation (Properties) panel, move the Saturation slider all the way to the left.

That should have done a nice job removing most of the color, but you should notice that the edges of the masked area (the fringe) still contain the color you are trying to remove.

In some cases, the fringe is not very noticeable, and you can let it go. But, if you’d like to remove the fringe, continue to step four.



Step Four: Remove the Fringe


  • Get the Brush tool.
  • In the Tool Options, open the Brush Picker and choose a Round brush. Set the Size to 25 px, the Opacity to 100%, and the Mode to Normal. Open Brush Settings and set the Hardness to 50%. (PS: Also, set the Flow to 100%.)
  • In the Layers panel, click on the layer mask of the Hue/Saturation layer.



  • White should now be the Foreground Color Chip. If it is not, press the letter X to switch the Color Chips.
  • On the image, VERY CAREFULLY click and drag to remove any additional color.

If you go too far and desaturate something that shouldn’t be desaturated, press the letter X to brush with black instead of white.



Step Five: Save the Image


  • Save the image (File > Save As) a JPEG file with a unique name.
  • Close the working image without saving.

Here is what my image looked like before and after the change. I think it made a big difference on my finished scrapbook page.


Page: Enjoy This Moment by Jen White
Photos: Jen White
Tutorial: Selective Desaturation by Jen White
Kits: SummerField-NataliDesigns, Musings-EtcByDanyale, StandOut-RedIvyDesigns, ArtPlayPaletteAiry-AnnaAspnes, ChasingDragonflies-BrandyMurry, BeautifulMorning-AmberShaw, Shine-SheilaReid, ShadyBerryBend-KrystalHartley



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6 Responses

  1. Terri
    | Reply

    Always love your ways of getting around many of our photo problems. I am right there with you. I have lots of photos that could use some cleanup! Love your quick and easy techniques. Also, those photos are soooo darling!! What a great gift for a little girl!

  2. Carol
    | Reply

    Great tut – and even better intro to this in the newsletter. LOL Love the way you make people feel “at home” in their everyday lives with your humor. Thanks, Jen.

    • Jen White
      | Reply

      So glad to know that we can all relate to one another! Life is funny. 😀

  3. Donna Juergens
    | Reply

    Jen, I really like how you colored the chair gray. Thanks for this tutorial. It will come in handy to tone down some of the bright elements in my photos when they don’t match with the rest of the layout!

  4. Vivian
    | Reply

    Oh my word. How did you know I have that envy and NEEDED this tutorial. Thank you soooooooooooooo much.

    • Jen White
      | Reply

      You and I must be a lot alike, Vivian! 😀 You are very welcome.

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