Colourizing A Black & White Photo

Editing photos is a great pastime. One way to really test your skills is to take a black and white photo and colourize it. In this tutorial, I’m going to so you the process of doing this. Depending on the photo, this could take awhile, so I’m going to take this photo of the great Huey Lewis and make Huey colour, leaving the rest as it is.

Step 1

First off, more in likely, your black and white photo will be in "Grayscale". That means exactly what it sounds like. The only kind of colour that you are going to get is shades of gray.

Image > Mode > RGB

Now the photo is converted over to colour, which means that now we are ready to make Huey in colour. Lets start with his skintones.

I’m going to be using a "Quickmask" to select the areas that I’m going to be working with. It you don’t understand how to use a "Quickmask", please refer back to this tutorial. Enter "Quickmask" mode by pressing "Q".

Now using your "Paint Brush" ("B"), paint over the areas where you see skin. If your using the same photo as I am, once your done with brushing, you’ll have these areas highlighted.

Once you are happy with the areas that you have selected, hit "Q" to exit the "Quickmask". Now you will see the areas that you selected for the mask are selected. Use the shortcut CTRL+SHIFT+I (win) / COMMAND+SHIFT+I (mac) to select the "Inverse" of your selection. If you don’t do this, you’ll change everything but the areas that you selected.

Step 2

Time now to add some colour to Huey’s skin.

Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance

A dialog box will pop up now. Adjust the slider for Shadows, Midtones, & Highlights til you find a colour that you are happy with. Remember this too, you can always go back and adjust the "Color Balance" by double clicking the Color Balance Layer

After you are happy with adjustments that you made, hit ok. Now we are looking something like this…
Step 3

So that was one way to adjust the colours, this step, I’m going show you a different way to get colour into your black and white photo. This time, I’m going to use the "Quickmask" to select Huey’s jacket. So, use the same process as before to select the new area that you are going to be working with.

Exit the "Quickmask" and select the "Inverse" as before.

Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation

When this dialog pops up, make sure that you check the "Colorize" box. As soon as you do, you will notice the colour of the area that you selected is changed. Adjust the sliders to find the colour that you are looking for. I chose to make Huey’s jacket red because he was know for wearing a red suit. Just like the Color Balance layer in Step 2, you can always double click on the icon in the layers palette and adjust the colour again later on if you like.

That’s it basically. Just keep selecting areas and creating adjustment layers to fit your needs. I finished mine up with adding some colour to Huey’s hair, the rest I just left alone. Try finding some old family photos and add some new life to them. It may take some time but it will be well worth the effort.

The Power of Colour is a Curious Thing…


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