Selective Coloring With GIMP


Sometimes you would like to make one part of an image stand out from the rest. In this case, I’ve turned the image into a black and white photo, with the exception of the bottom of the ski that is being held up in the air.

Here is the original photo that I am using for this:


We will begin by duplicating the layer. Since we just opened the image, there is only one layer. Select the ‘Duplicate Later’ button as pointed to in this screenshot. Alternatively, you can right click the layer you wish to duplicate and select it from that menu.


Both layers after duplication:


From now on, we will only be working with the new layer, ‘Background copy’.

With this layer selected, choose ‘Desaturate’ from the ‘Colors’ menu. We will use this to turn the layer from color to black and white.


Select the default options (or play around with them to see what works best for you).


We will now add a Layer Mask to the layer.  The mask will allow us to select what parts of the layer we want to show, and which parts we want to be transparent.


Since we want most of the new layer to show, we are going to choose to initialize the layer mask to white.  When the mask is white, the layer shows; when the mask is black, the layer is transparent. Shades of gray result in partial transparency.


This is what they layers will look like when we’ve added the mask.  The white box shows a thumbnail of the mask.


We are now ready to start carving into the mask. There are many ways to do this, from using the paintbrush or pencil tool to creating a selection (using the rectangle, circle, freehand, or path tools) and filling them with the paint bucket.

Because of the shape and size of the ski, I have elected to use the path tool.


Once you create the path around the object, create a selection from the path. For more help on this, visit the tutorial on using the path tool.

Selected ski:


With it selected, grab the paint bucket and dump black into that area, this will turn that portion of the layer mask to black, and allow the untouched layer to show.


Deselect and you are ready to share your creation.



  1. Cam said,

    March 12, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

    Thank you! I have been trying to do this for SO LONG with other tutorials and FINALLY got it with yours!!! 🙂

  2. Christi said,

    May 22, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

    Thanks soooo much I’ve been trying to do this FOREVER!!!!! your awesome!)

  3. Cindy said,

    February 14, 2010 @ 9:22 am

    Thank you for this tutorial. I’ve been wanting a good way to do this in Gimp.

  4. Jesse Hernandez said,

    October 9, 2010 @ 6:03 am

    thank you so much way easier than cut and past wow thank you

  5. Joe said,

    November 24, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

    I have read and seen many gimp tutorials on this topic. This is the best “selective coloring” tutorial.

  6. K said,

    July 13, 2011 @ 9:59 am

    this worked!
    i’m almost a novice at image editting and was thinking of asking a friend to do this for me after two other tutorials didn’t help me.
    but this was just precise and simple.
    feels good. i too can do selective colourization now.
    thanks man.

  7. sadie said,

    October 24, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

    i dont get this it wont let me duplicate layer:( and i really need it for school

  8. Sadie said,

    November 3, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

    i did it and thanks to your derections! i had soo much fun and its easy now THANK YOU

  9. julio said,

    December 12, 2011 @ 4:01 pm


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