© 1999 by Mike Bresciani. All Rights Reserved.
Adding color to an old photograph can make the image new again. Especially to the people that have a lot of memories associated with those pictures. In this tutorial I will show you a couple of ways to 'Colorize' a B & W photograph. These methods are not the only way to do this. My hope is that you will learn enough from here to strike out and discover your own ways of doing it.
Although the photographs are commonly called B & W, the images we will be working with are more properly called 'grayscale' images.
All throughout this tutorial I will be using this old photograph of myself. As my mom always says, "You used to be cute. Whatever happened?" Since the original is rather large for a web site, I shan't burden your bandwidth with it. So if you want to follow along dig out one of your old grayscale photos. If you don't have one, take a color one and convert it to grayscale using menu Image - Convert - Grayscale (8-bit).
To start with I had to clean up the image somewhat. There were a few stains on the jacket and some defects in the photograph. All were easily fixed by the use of the clone tool.
I will start by showing you how to add Duotone color to the image. First of all the image must be a grayscale image. If you scanned it in as an RGB, then you will have to convert it to grayscale first. You can do this from the Image menu. Image - Convert to - Grayscale (8-bit). After you have done this, the Duotone menu item will be available. It can be found under the Image menu. Image - Convert to - Duotone will result in the dialog shown below.
Under Type, select Duotone. Then Load the preset 'dcolor1'. Just in case yours opens in a strange place you can find the files in your Photopnt directory under Custom\Duotone. Move the dialog over so you can see your image.
Now initially this looks pretty bad. Way too orange. But we are going to fix that.
Click on the second color, Pantone 144 CV. Notice how the curve changes to reflect the Orange color tones in this image. Now click on the small white dot. While holding down the mouse button, drag it down a little past center. It should now look something like the image on the right.
This results in a nice Sepia tone image as shown at right. If you like your tone a little darker, you can adjust that by moving the curve closer to the center.
While you are here, experiment with some of the other presets and Types. The curves are also completely adjustable. You can add additional nodes to them and get some really strange results.
Start with a grayscale image. You will need to convert it to RGB to be able to add color. You can do this with menu Image - Convert to - RGB Color (24-bit).
Okay, we are going to do our painting on a separate layer and use a Merge Mode of Color to add the color to the image. From the Help file:
The Color merge mode uses both the hue and saturation values of the current paint color and the lightness value of the base color to create a result.
In our case the base color is the grayscale image. So the Color mode will add the hue and saturation values we select to the gray tones. One of the benefits of this method is that the color doesn't show up as much on the dark tones. So if you paint a little bit into these areas you probably won't even notice it. Of course if you have a lot of light tones you will need to be very careful about getting any color in the lighter areas.
For my image I created masks for each of the separate areas I intended to color such as the skin, bow tie, hair, jacket, and the rug. If you need help on making masks there a couple of tutorials listed below showing ways to do this.
Fun With Photos--Selecting Objects
Selecting Objects, Part II
Create a new layer in your image. You can do this by selecting menu item Object - Create - New Object. From your color palette select the color named Sand for your fill color. It’s the one that looks a little like skin color.
Note: There are a selection of palettes available that includes one for fleshtones. You can add it to your docker by going to the menu View - Color Palette then select - Load Palette, at the very bottom of the sub menu. Load the mask for the face. Make sure the new layer is active, then use menu Edit - Fill to fill the mask area.
As you can see the color looks different than expected. I found that this works a lot better with pastel colors. So lets go back to the color palette. Click on the 'Sand' color and hold the mouse button down for about a second or so. You will be presented with a display of neighboring colors to choose from.
The base color 'Sand' is the one in the center. Select a new fill color from the top row, the center one or the one just to the right of center. Now fill the mask area again. Now, that looks a lot better.
Now select a paint color that is slightly more red than the skin color you used. From the neighboring colors, again from the top row, select the color all the way to the right, or maybe the one right next to that. Make sure you are painting on the object layer and not the background layer. Select the airbrush paint tool and paint a little color into the cheeks and a small amount on the nose. Subtlety is important here. You don't want the color to look like makeup, but more like a natural skin color.
You can continue coloring the whole image this way. One of the nice things about adding the color on a separate layer is the way it protects the original image. If you don't like the colors you added simply clear the layer and start over. Or turn off the visibility for that layer, create a new layer and try different colors.
Since this method doesn't color the dark areas very well, we'll use a different way to paint the bow tie. In order to continue to protect the original image, make a copy of the bow tie. Load your bow tie mask, then use menu Object - Create - Object: Copy Selection. We will do the color change on the copy of the bow tie.
Make sure the new bow tie object is selected. I like to leave the rest of the image visible also, so I can see how the color works with the whole image. Choose menu Image - Adjust - Color Hue. Based on the darkness of the bow tie I figured it was either red or blue, originally. Since I like blue more, I went with that color. If you are doing this for someone else, you would probably want to find out what the original colors were. I clicked on the More Blue until I saw the color I was looking for in the Result window. Also, I deselected the Midtones and the Highlights to keep the lighter areas from becoming blue.
Below is the result next to the original image for comparison. Another useful tool is the Effect tool, Sponge. It can be used to remove the color. I use it like a paint remover. If I get some in an area where I don't want any color, I remove it with the sponge. Another tool you might find worth exploring that is useful for adding color is the Effect tool - Tint.
As I said earlier a little color can really enhance an old picture. With printers these days it's a simple matter to produce your own 'Colorized' images and print them on photo quality paper. They make great gifts.
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