Outstanding Photos with Partial Color

Partial color allows a designer to hone in on a particular part of an image and enhance it with color.

This makes the images really “pop” and this technique can be used for many purposes. For example, in advertising or corporate designs, features of a product can be highlighted that the eye may not normally be drawn to.

When used for artistic photography, non-focal points of the image can be colored in order to draw attention to them. Whatever the use, this fresh technique is popping up all over print design and on the web, and we’ve gathered some of the best examples here for you to enjoy.

This effect is easily achieved with most graphic software such as Photoshop. If you’re still wondering how to do it, check out this tutorial for a step-by-step on how to achieve partial color.

Compiled exclusively for WDD by Aquil Akhter.

What do you think of this technique? Post links to other great examples in our comments section.

  • http://www.pbwebdev.com.au/blog Peter


  • Ann

    Tacky and antiquated.

    • ranaman

      Have to agree with you here Ann. Very tacky…

  • http://www.design3edge.com/ sada

    Good collection… Thanks for sharing!!!

  • http://www.ukpb.co.uk/ Buy My House

    Mind boggling and exceptional.

  • Martin

    Some brilliant examples here, time to fire up Photoshop :)

  • http://www.squiders.com Web Design Maidstone

    Some really nice examples, have always loved the effect created, incorporating htis into a website at the moment actually so good timing!

  • http://www.moinid.com Design ideas

    Lovely collection

  • http://www.szudi.hu/ Janos

    Cheap. On of the most kitschy effects ever.

  • http://th-guenther.de Thomas Günther

    Awesome collection! I love that effect :)

  • Shinden

    Simply Beautiful. Amazing.

  • http://www.natashastorm.co.za Storm

    This is always a nice technique. Great examples.

  • http://blog.jordanmerrick.com Jordan Merrick

    When used right, it can be really exceptional.

    My previous attempt at Partial Colour using Aperture 3


  • http://lava360.com/ Balial tariq

    really outstanding collection..amazing list..keep it up!

  • http://www.simonklink.nl Simon

    Nice list, this really gives an extra effect to the photos.

  • Sunil

    this style is so outdated and overdone… some examples are nice, but most are very ordinary… even though i am not a fan of this sort of stuff i think i’ve seen a lot better…

  • http://www.pushpinderbagga.com/blog/ pushpinder

    I have clicked and processed one of the golden temple.



  • Taha

    Beautiful pictures. I enjoyed it.

  • http://www.jordanwalker.net Jordan Walker

    way cool list of images.

  • http://www.bertrandlirette.com Bertrand

    Some are good (pregnant, rusted spring…) but some are plain… useless (the one with the drinks, the picture quality isn’t even good to start with and, the one with the leaf, it’s not like it needed colors to get my attention on it).

    I wish you would have argued as to “why” they are that good, each one of them. That requires actual knowledge and gives people tools to recrete a good effect. I know it would take a lot more time to right but you’d have bonified the quality of the article. Maybe next time?

  • Shawn

    Photographers call it Spot Coloring. It’s the artistic equivalent of painting by numbers. Or maybe Popsicle stick art. It was interesting 30 years ago when it was being done in a lab. Photoshop has made it trivial.

  • http://simonmeisinger.at Simon

    partial coloring is lame, was ever lame and will always be lame.

  • http://www.neilcooperdesign.com Neilcooperdesign

    This is not a good post. Very tacky and very unoriginal. In fact, it is my pet peeve when photographers do this. I think anyone can desaturate a photo and go over with the history brush!! Come on WDD!!

  • http://www.ogvidius.com Ogvidius

    Some good shots there. I have to admit that some of them look a bit cheesy, but done well it looks great. I suppose it’s like HDR in a way! I think the best ones were the ones that just had one colour and looked quite subtle in a way. The umbrellas, post box and yellow wellingtons were great! Nice list!

  • http://www.blakehelms.net Blake Helms
  • http://mithulslab.freehostia.com/ mithul


    Great Collection! great idea!
    i am trying this technique in my next project.

  • el

    Seriously? This technique was “cool” in the mid-90s with those oh-so-cute cards with kids dressed as adults and bright red roses, but now it’s tacky.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ubermatik Theo Hodkin

    Not that great, if I’m honest…
    Very amateur photos.

  • http://www.webdesignerdepot.com Walter

    I guess some examples are a bit bland, but when used properly, this is a powerful technique in my opinion that shouldn’t be discounted.

  • Shawn

    The problem with this effect is that in almost every case it’s not the most interesting or compelling improvement upon the original. Any improvement is a lazy improvement. Photoshop 101. Imagine if you had the “negative”. Some of this photography is great. So much potential there. What would you do with it?

    If spot coloring has artistic merit, then what about a print done with phosphorescent inks on black velvet and then displayed under a black light?

  • http://brightandshining.com/face_painting_blog Michelle Heffner

    Yes! It is so exciting to see a Professional Face Painter added in this mix. I was thinking to myself if I could use something like that :)

  • http://www.e11world.com e11world

    That does it.. I have to do something like this ASAP.. Really really nice samples

  • http://zavrab.com/ Arni Web Design

    creative art, excellent collection

  • Maik
  • http://www.justgraph.com MyLogo

    great images!!

  • http://www.aiveldesign.com/ Srdjan

    I like this technique and I like contrast in any possible form or shape. I also tried it few years ago with this photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aiveldesign/3778501376/

  • http://hexacreative.web.id Hexacreative

    can you write tutorial for this?

  • Crackpipe Jones

    Some beautiful photography, hindered only by the emo myspace partial color thing. Honestly the ladybug/bird and post box are beautiful looking, but the rest is shocking bad. The little girls eyes for example. That didn’t even look good in 1992.

  • http://www.facebook.com/buroshiva buroshiva


  • http://www.aledesign.it aledesign.it

    Great work by photoshop! Some examples are so particular…the best for me is the blond child and your eyes blu sky! So brilliant!

  • http://www.webrisorsa.info Web Risorsa

    I really amazed on seeing this collection. Specially the girl with blue eyes really impressive work…

  • Victor

    Nice post!
    I love this kind of art, but how many people said before, it can be tacky, kitsch and many other things. I believe the reason for a kind of this work be good you need to incorporate in the hole work the part of it you want to call attention, but you need to call attention too, so, it can be very complex to do a great partial color work!

  • http://warstwy.com adone

    Creative pictures. Very good list.

  • http://www.creativereleasedesigns.com Kristelvdakker

    These are so beautiful!
    It makes me wanna grab my camera and shoot some myself!! :D

  • http://www.sametomorrow.com/ adam

    Nice post some good work.

  • http://lakeside.com.np/ Lakeside Techies

    The main image of the post is quite awesome. The little lady with blue eyes. Others are also quite good too.

  • http://www.bankaformu.com banka

    Nice post some good work.

  • http://www.distrasdesigns.com Mike Distras

    Got to agree with some others.

    Some are VERY tacky, and not done well at all.

    Its always overdone with new photographers as they think its an amazing new technique.

    Some of the examples I liked, but the majority were terrible.

  • http://www.thewebdes.co.uk/ thewebdes

    I tried one of these a while ago after I saw a moth on a walk one day. http://tuestunim.deviantart.com/art/Moth-on-a-flower-132378522

    Bit of selecting, desaturation, mucking about with the background and a bit of an effect on the flower. I’d say it’s more of a graphic design thing than a web thing. Put it this way – I’ve never used it on a website in all the years I’ve been making them – but nice all the same.

  • http://www.toeleven.ca craz11
  • http://www.alackofinspiration.com alackofinspiration.com

    Man I hate this type of photo editing. It shows a lack of skill and creativity. It is used to try and make a crappy picture look good. It fails every time. On the rare occasion it works but man is it rare.

  • http://www.clippingimages.com Clippingimages

    The lady alone on the bridge with an umbrella is really fascinating. All the others are also great and this technique has increased the glamour of the images.

  • http://www.telefontraining.de TelefoNina

    Some of these photos are beautiful. The hydrant, and especially the orange umbrella!
    But others aren’t.

    In my eyes, a color key is well-used if this effect intensifies something that already is within the photo. On a rainy day the streets already seem already grey. Making them completely grey is taking the effekt one step further.

    But some photos are just ordinary – and try to become something different, special through the color key. Let’s take the photo with the cocktails. It IS a nice picture, a nice memory, but for me as a stranger there’s nothing special in it. The color key doesn’t change this. It creates a “wow”-effect for many people, but if you look twice it still is just an ordinary photo. Far from outstanding.

  • http://www.arraystudio.com/ Vladan

    Great collection. :-)

  • http://www.savvy-chick.net/ News Technology

    Wow .. Great piece of work !!

  • http://www.alejandroperazzo.com Punta del Este Real Estate

    great examples i will keep it in mind tnx

  • Gerrit

    Have to agree with some previous comments. These effects appear very kitschy and nonsensical. They reduce the value of an otherwise good shot rather than adding to it. In most cases they look more like a desperate attempt to make a bad photo look presentable. A lot of these black & white photos look flat, there’s not much contrast, they lack composition, and they look like like just what they are… digicam tourist-snapshots shot in color switched to grayscale mode. I can see there’s a market for this technique perhaps in advertising to highlight a product… I have seen that used there before. But that’s about the only place I can see a use for it.

  • http://www.john-godwin.co.uk John Godwin

    Which ones are the “outstanding” pictures? I just see a bunch of extremely average shots with some tacky colour popping.

    It wouldn’t be so bad if it was done well, but even the attempts themselves are amaterish.

    I’ve noticed these photosites are running extremely low on content recently. Do you guys just scan Flickr for anything you can find?

    Is so, here’s my page:


    Build whatever you like out of that, because it’s at least as good as what’s on here.

    Maybe you can do something like “outstanding photos by people whose names bagin with the letter ‘J'”

  • grid8400

    Here’s a nice one with a ladybug:


  • http://www.thewallworks.com Jason

    Awesome Pictures. So pretty, I really like them.

  • http://www.kitaro10.com Najam Siddiqi

    Nice list, this really gives an extra effect to the photos.

  • http://www.wearingrainbows.com/mens-waistcoats-ties-c-2659.html Billy

    Fantastic Photos, the highlighting of one colour really makes the difference

  • http://www.psyched.be/wordpress Darkened Soul

    Even though not all of them are as great as some others, it is a nice list though.
    My favourites being the one with the ladybug, the apple, the cards, the facepaint, the colour pencils, and the cooling towers.
    Least favourite: the one with the drinks…

  • Chris

    Omg this is so old! I puke on partially colored pictures! They’re all just so: “ohijustgotmyfirstdslrandnowimlearningphotoshop”.

    A solid good picture doesn’t need the effect to look good!

    • http://www.psyched.be/wordpress/ La Cinyc

      Do remember that “solid good pictures” can also be “tampered” with, in fact, that’ what photoshop is the digital version of ;)

      Either way, still think a good contrasted b/w with a touch of colour can have the right effect when used at the right time, as does any style…

      Something “simple” isn’t per se bad, au contraire.

      But I do follow you on the “not so new of an effect” concept…

      but not as bad as “sepiatints” all over the place… (again, even though at the right moment, right place … )

  • wika57

    im sorry this is just not a nice effect

  • http://seoshneg.com/ Seoshneg

    Creative Photos. Very good list

  • Chris

    @La Cinyc

    You do, of course, have a valid point. And I was probably being a bit too harsh in my previous comment.

    As You say, the effect should be used “at the right time”. The “problem” is that some people over-use it, so it becomes totally passé. So when it is used on a picture where it’s really called for, it will drown in the flood of all the other pictures with partial coloring.

    I really don’t have any problem with sepia tints, since it’s something that is done evenly over the entire picture, like choosing between color or b/w, or like adjusting the contrast, brightness, e.t.c. Tone mapping on the other hand..*shudders* :) But again, sometimes it really looks good! But in 49 out of 50 pictures, it just looks plain bad, in my not so humble opinion :)

    • http://www.psyched.be/wordpress/ La Cinyc


      Well, that is all I needed to hear ;) a bit of a “nuance” instead of “nuisance”.
      As it is with everything, there are always 2 sides… not necessarily to everyone’s liking.
      If you indeed play with matters as a “whole” (sepia, b/w, …) there is less chance of failure in the design as well.

      • Chris

        I have my bad days and my good days, you know :) I’m normally not so “closed-minded” as in my previous comment. Indeed I do have my opinions on matters, especially photography. I’m a passionate post-semipro, who turned to do it for myself, not for others. The photography, that is.

        Indeed, I’m a little bit “conservative”, even though I have a year left before i strike the 30-mark. I don’t really like HDR (or to be correct, tone mapping that is over-done.), partial coloring, excessive editing, cloning, e.t.c. e.t.c.

        As a photographer, I’ve “gone through” different phases. One in which i produced several partial colored pictures. I’ve also done my fair share of HDR/tone map, even though that was quite recently. What can I say? I had to try it :) Although, I didn’t publish any of the results.

        I do also realize that some people think about my style in photography as I think about partially colored photographs. My style is kind of dark and contrasty. Often, but not always, preserving as much details in the shadows as possible, while the shadows still being dark. To my help I have my beloved film, the Tri-X 400, which I mainly run through my Hasselblad 500C -67. The Tri-X is fantastic for someone like me who loves dark and moody pictures. I do shoot digital as well, not as much though. I do it with a 5D and an 85/1.2 lens.

  • http://anthroqueensmemories.blogspot.com/ Hater free

    Why are people so cynical of others passions. Im sure the person that photographed these and worked on them was very proud, and with good reason. Why do all you jerks come in here and insult it for no reason? I dont understand. Dont you have anything better to do? Leave a nice compliment that says “wow these are pretty” or dont say anything at all. Theres so much negativity in this world. This was a tiny glimpse of the positive and you came and tried to ruin it. How sad you and your life must be.

    • Chris

      That’s probably the worst bullshit I’ve ever read.

      So no one is entitled to an opinion, and no one have the right to express their opinion? Who are you, Kim Jong Il??? (if You don’t know who Kim Jong Il are, then you really need to get yourself an education)

      “Im sure the person that photographed these and worked on them was very proud”: First of all, this is a compilation of pictures gathered throughout the internet, these are NOT made by a single artist. And secondly, if You put your pictures on the internet for comments, of course You have to be prepared for negative comments.

      Did you read the text at the beginning of the blog post? “Whatever the use, this fresh technique is popping up all over print design and on the web, and we’ve gathered some of the best examples here for you to enjoy.”. But the technique is not fresh at all! It’s old. It’s like calling stick figure cartoons “fresh”. It’s just plain wrong.

    • http://www.szudi.hu/ Janos

      It’s not cynical telling the truth. The title of the post says: Outstanding photos. These are not. People are visiting this site, to get inspiration, learn something or just to share their opinions. The world doesn’t works like “wow these are pretty” or don’t say anything at all. Everybody having the same opinion is not positive, it is a nightmare.

    • http://www.psyched.be/wordpress/ La Cinyc

      Just adding an extra comment here…
      Since, I already went into the stream by not agreeing fully with chris’s statement, I do think differing from the way you look at things, differing from opinions and while going the other direction of the nice palette of opinions, he did state “why” he didn’t like it.
      So I think his comments were finding some ground in a decent foundation…

      By the way, I think any “artist” or “designer” (quotes intended ;) ) will love to hear something else than agreement on their work. This way they can put the critics in mind and maybe even change bits and pieces in their work. Of course, only when they agree, because in the end we all just have to do whatever we want to do, no matter what anyone says.

      Just saying that it is a little bit more complex than just having yay and ney sayers.
      It’s like not really liking picasso but yet the paintings sell for millions of dollars…

      so please, keep on bringing “founded” critics and keep the discussion going….

      PS: if anyone would have said: “This shit is crap” . Without any explanation at all, now that would be bad…

    • http://john-godwin.co.uk John Godwin

      Spot the guy who has a picture in that list lol

      How sad our lives must be? You’re the one dancing in a field with fairies and riding unicorns that shit chocolate cake. In the real world, not everything gets an A* for effort.

      Grow up; it’s called an opinion, and like someone rightly points out, unless this is North Korea and your name is Dear Leader, I’m going to keep mine right out in the open.

  • http://500art.blogspot.com juan

    awesome photography..loved it all

  • http://www.ayomedia.co.uk web development

    these are really beautiful!

  • http://www.logodesignguru.com/ Jodi White

    Cool technique. I especially like the ones with people and umbrellas.