Color Cut-Out

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This tutorial was last tested for the Gimp 2.2.13


Color cut-out, is a photo manipulation technique consisting in desaturating a color image to black and white then restoring color to a selected section.

Error fetching flickr image (id: 435598484) info. The file does not exist, is private or other problem.
Original Target

The original photo can be downloaded from here.




  1. Duplicate the layer. There are two ways of doing this
    1. Go <Image> / Layer / Duplicate layer, or
    2. Click on the "Duplicate layer" icon.
  2. Convert the top layer to B&W, there are several methods but the easiest is to go "<Image> / Layer / Colors / Desaturate"
  3. Add a layer mask to the top layer. There are also two ways of doing this:
    1. Go to <Image> / Layer / Mask / Add Layer mask, or
    2. Right click the layer you want to add a mask to and select "Add layer mask"
  4. The add layer mask dialogue box comes up, the default is to have it filled with white, click "ok".
  5. I will explain what layer masks do
    1. You have at least two layers.
    2. You add a layer mask to the top layer.
    3. Where the layer mask is white you see the top layer.
    4. Where the layer mask is black that layer "disappears" and you see the layer underneath.
    5. Where the layer is 50% grey, the top layer is 50% opaque.
    6. This has an advantage because you are not deleting the pixels in the top layer and they are not "gone", they are just made transparent. WHEN you make a mistake it is a simple matter of colouring the layer mask the opposite colour.
  6. Using the pencil, colour the layer mask where umbrella is black. You will start seeing the colour of the layer underneath.
  7. I use the pencil but it gives the layer mask hard edges. This results in a photo that looks artificial, in photos there are no hard edges, there is always blending.
  8. Once you are happy with the mask blur it using the Gaussian blur of 5.
  9. Do this by going to <Image> / Filters / Blur / Gaussian blur
Before layer mask blur 444294833_3b7f44bbf7_m.jpg 444283164_6982596a8f_m.jpg
After layer mask blur 444294829_3ef6f40068_m.jpg 444283160_68997bb4de_m.jpg
Mask Result


  1. To touch up bits and pieces I missed or want to improve after I have blurred the mask I use the paintbrush, this gives the fuzzy edge.
  2. To edit the final touches I normally work at 400% magnifcation, but then again I am a perfectionist.
  3. Save your work as an XCF file. This is the native GIMP format and preserves the layers and masks.
  4. Once you are happy with all the editing save the file as a JPEG for uploading to Flickr.
  5. Layers and layer masks can be used for many purposes including replacing distracting backgrounds.
111282916_2833502d1c.jpg 110770453_a89b6ef398.jpg
Before After
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