Artistically Colorize a Black & White Picture

In this lesson we’ll take a black and white image and colorize it.  Instead of going for a completely realistic style (which will also be achieved in this lesson, if that’s what you’re aiming for) our end result will look a but unnatural, but will also serve to highlight what’s colored, and make the black and white background that much more important.

To start off, let’s create a new layer and change the blending mode the Color.  Now, layer on we’ll change this color mode to make our artistic effect, but if your goal is strictly a realistic recoloring, then simply leave this setting alone for the rest of the tutorial.

Now that we’ve create our new layer, we get to have fun and paint all over this layer.

The key to making realistic looking clothes and skin color is to edit your brush.  First, I recommend a rather small brush.  Secondly, hit F5 to bring up the brushes dialog.  Click on the Color Dynamics checkbox and turn up the Foreground/Background Jitter to at least 50%.  Now, when we’re painting the face colors, make sure you select two colors (a foreground and a background color) that are appropriate for skin:

We’ll want to do the same thing for the various articles of clothing that they’re wearing.

Now to do this right, it will definitely take a bit of time.  If you find in some places your color is a bit too strong for your tastes, use the Eraser tool with the Opacity turned down a bit.  That’s how I achieved the natural look of the jean jacket the guy is wearing on the left.

Once you’ve spent your time manually coloring this image, you may want to adjust the overall color levels, in the Image > Adjustment > Color Balance or other menus.  Once you’ve tweaked everything to you liking, we’re ready to move onto the next step.  For those of you looking for a more realistic colorization job, we’ll leave you here (with a recommendation to color in your background.)

The final step in our tutorial is simply to change the Blending mode of your color layer(s) to Overlay, which will give your final image a more washed out, bright look.  If you’ve kept your background uncolored, this serves to really highlight the things that you have colored, making them the obvious focus of your image.

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