Layer Mask and Color Splash

Banksy is famous for doing it with graffiti art and oceans of images, movies, and everything in between do it both with subtly and without. Washing out or “color splashing” certain objects is an effective way to either dramatize or call attention to what you deem important. It creates a center, even when that object isn’t in the center. 

M. Night Shyamalan did it throughout “The Sixth Sense” with the color red. The color does not appear in any scene unless there is a dead person present; a subliminal, delicate but no less effective way of splashing color to convey a message. In Photoshop, the process is called layer masking. 


As Banksy has shown us with the balloon heart (innocence?) drifting away from the girl, images are often less coy with color splashing. And photoshop has a myriad of effects, other than saturation depletion, that can isolate specific objects of your choosing. 

Here’s how it’s done: 


  1. Right click on your layer and click duplicate layer
  2. Using the top layer, go to image + adjustments + saturation and hue 
  3. Toggle saturation all the way to the left (-100)
  4. Back in the toolbar menu, click layer + layer mask + reveal all
  5. A white box (the layer mask) will pop up next to the layer, then click on the brush or pen tool, make sure you are painting in this, not the actual layer 
  6. Because everything is black and white, erasing (or choosing white) will reveal the background layer: “White reveals, black conceals”
  7. Zoom in and fill in the shape of the object
  8. Fix up the edges by turning the hardness of the brush all the way up, and turn the color to black to re-introduce the saturation (you can click “x” on the keyboard to switch between black and white. 
  9. You can change effects now that you have the object singled out
  10. Click on filter and choose from any other effects (radial blur, change opacity, etc.) and the layer mask will stay the same, while the layer itself changes. 





One thought on “Layer Mask and Color Splash

  1. This is really cool. And i doesn’t sound that difficult to achieve. I feel like this could be an interesting way of conveying the them of my story as well–thanks for sharing!

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