How to make photos black and white except for one color (best apps)

You might have seen photos that feature this dramatic effect: one object in color with the rest in black and white. Here are the best apps and tutorials that show you how to recreate this effect.

There are many different names for the same effect: color pop, color burst, color splash, desaturate all colors except one, and selective colorization. You can search for any of these terms in the App Store or Google Play Store to find apps that do what you want.

New York yellow taxis in a black and white scene

How it works

Most apps take the same approach to this effect:

  1. Desaturate the entire image (make the whole image black and white)
  2. Use a paintbrush to highlight the parts that you want to color
  3. Erase the sections that you unintentionally colored and neaten up the effect.

Best apps for selective color effect

Color WowColor Wow

Available for $1.99 on iPhone/iPad

Color Wow is one of the most flexible apps you can use to selectively color your photographs. Tap your photo to select the color you want to remain coloured while the rest changes to grayscale. It also includes a nice additional feature that allows you to change the highlight color of the final image. For example, you could take a black and white image with a yellow taxi and make it blue instead.

Magic Portrait Mode

Available for $1.99 on iPhone/iPad

This app is actually built to make Portrait Mode style photos on any device (even unsupported ones) but it also has a cool feature that lets you make the background black & white. This effectively gives you two-for-one, letting you optionally blur the background while also selecting which areas in the foreground to keep in colour. Bonus!

Color Pop app previewColor Pop Effects Photo Editor

Available for free on iPhone/iPad and Android devices, paid upgrades available.

Color Pop Effects Photo Editor uses the same method mentioned above: decolor the image and then highlight the parts you want colored. Change the hue of your selected color to create some cool effects (e.g. make your pink watermelon look blue instead).

Video Color Pop effectVideo Color Editor – Change Video Color, Add Video Filters and Vintage Effects

Available for free on iPhone/iPad, paid upgrade available

Although this app is available for free, all of the best features are for sale and at just $0.99, it’s very good value. This app uses a different method to the other featured apps: Use the eye dropper tool to highlight which color you want to remain colored. The rest of the video frames will be converted to black and white.

Using this method rather than the “Paint to color” method allows you to use this method on videos without having to individually color every frame.

Photo Splash – photo editor for instagram snapchat

Available for free on iPhone/iPad and Android devices, paid upgrade to remove ads

A good alternative to Color Pop Effects that includes similar features for a lower price.

Photoshop Tutorial

Photoshop gives you more control over the colors of your photos than apps ever could. It’s good to learn how to create these effects on your own to get the most control. Envira Gallery wrote an excellent Photoshop tutorial:

Adobe Premiere Tutorial

If you have Adobe Premiere, try this tutorial for desaturating videos except for one color: