Friday, 13 January 2012

convert black and white to color

Learn how to turn a black and white photo into color. This tutorial will teach you how to use non-destructive adjustment layers to color an image. This method lets you make modifications anytime and in return, let you create noticeably better results than just using a single raster layer.

Photoshop Tutorial Preview


Step 1

Open a black and white photo into Photoshop. This can be done by going to File> Open, browsing for the photo, and clicking OK. Here’s the black and white photo that I’ll be using for this tutorial:

Step 2

First, we’re not going to create a new layer and paint all the colors in that layer like many other tutorials teach you. Instead, we’ll use a Solid Color adjustment layer. This will let you modify the color anytime you want so that you can tweak the colors once you’re done all the painting. This is very important because we usually don’t get the color correct the first time and need to make adjustments after we’re done. To add a Sold Color adjustment layer, click on the “New Adjustment Layer” button in the Layers pallet. This should open a menu where you can select Solid Color.

Step 3

Once you clicked “Solid Color”, you’ll see a “Pick a solid color:” window where you can select the color. First, we’ll select the color of the skin. It doesn’t matter if you pick the correct color, just make sure that the hue is correct. For example, for this skin tone I’ll pick an orange. It doesn’t matter if it’s a light or dark orange, I’ll just pick any orange for now because I can edit it layer when I have all the colors in place. Start off with the skin tone, so pick roughly the same color as I did.

Step 4

Now you should see a solid orange color in your image. Don’t worry, in the Layers pallet, change the blend mode to Color. This will make this Sold adjustment layer only affect the color of the layer below. Your photo should now have a orange tint.

Step 5

Now click on the layer mask in the layers pallet. It should have a white outline around the thumbnail. Once you’ve done that, it means you’ve activated the layer mask. Now select the eraser tool and erase all the areas that orange isn’t part of the skin. If you make a mistake, simply select the brush tool and paint back the area that you accidentally erased. Use a brush with a hardness of about 50 or higher or else you’ll get a halo effect in the final outcome. If you have objects other than the skin that’s orange too, don’t paint that orange because it might be a different orange. You want to only paint one object at a time and each object with its own layer. Why? Because that orange object could be a different orange than your skin. It may be hard to see it now, but once you have all the layers, you’ll see that the slightest difference makes the biggest change. Also, if you happen to want that object to be a different color, you can change it without affecting everything else.

Step 6

Now repeat those steps for the rest of the image except for the background. As you can see in the image below, the layer with yellow is for the hair and I have two separate red layers. One is for the lips and another is for her shirt which isn’t shown. I made them in separate layers because I know that the color of the red shirt isn’t the same red as her lips. Now the colors may look way too vibrant right now, but don’t worry because we can fix that by modifying the adjustment layer color.

Step 7

Look at the image below. See what a big difference the color makes? What I did was I double clicked on each layer (the color thumbnail) and adjusted the color. I didn’t change the hue, I only picked the same color with a different saturation and lightness. I changed the skin to a more tanned color, hair to a more neutral beigh color, and look at the lips and shirt; before they were just two red layers but after adjusting the color, you can clearly see that they’re very different colors after I tweaked it. Now I had to go back into a few layer masks to touch up some areas, so if there isn’t anything perfect, you can fix it up right now and not having to worry about undoing a bunch of steps and redoing everything. This is the power of non-destructive adjustment layers and layer masks.

Step 8

We’re almost done, but first we have to color the background and most importantly the eyes. Eyes are not black and white, they can be dark brown, but they’re not black. What I did was I created a new solid color adjustment layer below all the other adjustment layers. This can be done by clicking on the “New Adjustment Layer” button in the Layers pallet and selecting Solid Color. I selected dark blue as the color and painted her eyes. I cheated a bit and created both the background and eyes on the same layer because I wanted the background color to affect her eyes. This will make the photo more interesting and increase the focus to her blue eyes.

Step 9

Here’s the final results after colorizing a black and white photo with Photoshop. Now you can see I didn’t really do a good job with the painting, but I can always touch up the layer masks.

Final Results

This is what it looks like after I retouched the skin tone slightly and the layer masks (to make them more precise). For the skin tone, I changed the hue slightly. It was very slight and fine tuning but the results are huge. The previous color I thought was right looked like she had jaundice or some sickness, but I chose a more red hue with less yellow and this is what her skin looks like. What I also missed was a whole blotch of color on her hand near the right edge. There was a gray blotch there that I didn’t notice earlier. But after noticing it, I was able to fix it up by painting the layer mask. Again, non-destructive layer masks are the way to go for almost every project. You can go back and modify them without undoing a bunch of steps. Colorizing black and white photos with just one layer like many tutorials out there teach you may be faster in the beginning, but if you want good results, using layer masks will save you a lot more time in the end.


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