Color Splash Photography

Michele Wanke
Woman with cherries

Spicing up ordinary images with eye-popping splashes of color is one of the hottest photo effect trends of the twenty-first century. Color splash photography allows you to bring drama and intrigue to pictures by manipulating certain shades and tones via photo editing software.

The Color Splash Craze

Chances are you've seen samples of color splash photography, but may have not been familiar with the technique name or purpose. The black and white picture of a woman eating bright red cherries is a classic example of a color splash effect. In most cases, a photographer will convert traditional color snapshots to black and white while keeping select details awash in vibrant hues. However, the effect can also be employed by adding splashes of color to a black and white photograph in order to make it pop.

Color splash went mainstream following the release of Frank Miller's 2005 hit movie Sin City. Back then, amateur photographers drooled over pictures of brightly colored butterflies perched on black and white flowers and gray-skinned girls frozen in time with splashes of fire-engine red lipstick and cheddar cheese-orange eye shadow. Today, you don't need a degree in computer technology to create stunning photos that feature perfectly placed dabs of color.

How to Make Your Photos Pop

The popularity of color splash photo effects triggered an avalanche of photo editing applications designed to allow users to control the color content of their photographs. Among the most popular computer software programs offering this photographic effect include:

  • Photoshop: This advanced photo editing software has all the bells and whistles you need to create amazing color splash effects.
  • GIMP: While not as popular as Photoshop, GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) offers decent color splash effects, and is incredibly user-friendly.
  • Color Select Studios: A unique online program, this is one of the easiest programs to navigate, though it does requires a nominal fee to install.
  • Photobucket: This well-known photo sharing site allows you to add color splash effects to images, and then share them with friends and family.

While each program features unique applications, the result of the color splash effect is basically the same. It alters the grayscale, so you can highlight certain parts of an image to make them stand out. For example, in Photoshop CS you simply take an image you want to deconstruct color-wise and follow these steps:

  1. Right click on the Layers tab and select Duplicate Layer.
  2. A message will appear asking what you want to name the layer and where you want it. Press "OK" to select the default.
  3. Mouse over to the Image Section, select Adjustments and then Desaturate.
  4. Choose the section of the picture you want to color and select the appropriate-sized tool and color you want to appear.
  5. Take your time with the pen tool and outline the entire area, being careful not to miss any spots.

When you are just starting out, it's best to choose a simple photo for adding splashes of color, such as a girl in a red dress or a boy licking a mint ice cream cone.

Color Splash App

baby in red dress

Another way to draw viewers' attention to certain features of pictures taken on your mobile device is to use the Color Splash App. The image editing application designed for iPhone and iPad users can be downloaded from the Internet for just $1.99 (as of June 2011). The software makes converting the color scheme of photos a breeze. In fact, the advanced app accomplishes the same color splash results as Photoshop in less than half the time. What's more, the app allows you to create unique images right on your cell phone, which is ideal for those snapping photos on the run. It's also a great way to enjoy and share dynamic images with your family and friends in record time via Facebook or Twitter.

From Bland to Bold

Color splash photography turns ordinary images into extraordinary photos you won't be able to resist showing off. The photo editing effect is easy to learn and is readily available in a variety of software programs. If you are just getting acquainted with the technique, it's best to work with simple shots and gradually ease your way into more intricate photos. In no time, you will be able to work your magic on any photo and turn it into a frame worthy masterpiece.

Color Splash Photography