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How to colorize black and white photo

Audrey Hepburn Before&AfterWhat to do if you’d like to impress your mom or granddad making especially valuable for them old faded photo look vivid and colored as though it was taken yesterday? Probably I exaggerate a little, but the result will be worthy. Anyway, this tutorial helps you a lot in coloring black and white photo.

First of all, crop your photo; remove background, if you are going to change it. If the photo is too old and damaged by the time, take away such blemishes as dust and scratches, yellow tint and then improve contrast, etc. I am going to write tutorial about that later. But we have a perfect Audrey Hepburn photo so we are starting to make it look like real color photography.

Firstly, study the image in details. To have more realistic result you should know color of Audrey Hepburn eyes and hair at least. If you can’t discover colors of clothes, lip sticks and other often changing details you need to use your imagination and the common sense.
Audrey Hepburn black and white photo

What you do know about Audrey Hepburn? She had chestnut-colored hair, brown eyes and other color details you will recreate based on your imagination.

1. Face skin

a) Double click the Background Layer and renamed it to ‘Audrey’, Select the skin precisely with any tool, for example Pen tool, Lasso, Magic Wand, Quick selection tool (in Photoshop CS 3).

b) Deselect eyes, eyebrows, lips, (using selection tools and holding Alt key), don’t forget that you are working currently at skin only.

c) Apply Blur to smooth the edges of final selection: enter Quick Mack Mode (press Q key) then apply Gaussian blur with Radius 1,2 – 2 depending on image size (Filter – Blur – Gaussian blur). Quit Quick Mack Mode (by pressing Q again). Copy selection to new Layer (Ctrl +J) and rename it as ‘face’.

add color to black and white photo

d) Choose the right color for the skin. If it is difficult for you to choose the right color for skin (lips, eyes, etc.) in Color palette, you can use other people color photos and choose the right color using Eyedropper tool.

e) Create a new Layer ‘face1’ and fill previously made selection with chosen color (in this example I use #fadece). Change the Blend mode to Color. Copy this Layer and rename it as ‘face2’. Change the Blend mode to Hard Light with Opacity 83. Between this layers create another one and name it ‘face3’. Don’t forget that all fills in this tutorial you should make on a new Layer and then deselect.

 colorize black and white photo

f) Click at thumbnail of Layer ‘face1’ to load selection and fill it with #fac6bf color with Paint Bucket tool. Change Blend mode to Color. Then make ‘Audrey’ Layer invisible (click the eye thumbnail of this Layer). Select Layer ‘face2’ and now merge all visible layers to new Layer ‘face4’ (Shift+Ctrl+Alt+E), Opacity 52. Make ‘Audrey’ Layer visible again. Delete Layer ‘face3’ and change Opacity of Layer ‘face2’ to 62 and Blend mode to Multiply.

 coloring photo

g) All this process has enough variations, so trust to your common sense and you’ll get skin color very close to real. Try various Blend modes, Opacity amounts and Color tints.

To make the face skin livelier, add pink to face on new Layer ‘rouge’ by choosing color #fab7b4 and painting with soft edges Brush tool on cheeks. Lower Layer Opacity to 27, Blend mode – Darker color.

2. Eyes

a) Choose the right color first, select eye-bulb; smooth the edges applying Feather with radius 1 (or Blur in Quick Mack Mode as we do it previously with face skin).

b) Create new ‘eyes’ Layer, with Paint bucket tool fill selection with color # 590c0c . Deselect (Ctrl+D). Change Blend mode to Color, Opacity 61.

c) Then select goggle and apply Feather, radius 2. Create new Layer ‘white’, fill selection with color #c0effe, change Blend mode to Soft light, Opacity 47, deselect.

add color to black and white photo

3. Eyebrows

Select eyebrows, apply feather and create Layer ‘eyebrow’, fill with color #633329, Blend mode Multiply, Opacity 70.

4. Lips

a) The process is similar to what we’ve done to eyes. Select lips, apply feather 1, create ‘lips’ layer, fill with color #dc2543, change Blend mode to Color, Opacity 50.

b) Create another Layer above and name it ‘lips2’, fill selection with color #d646 30, Blend mode – Hard light, Opacity 72.

5. Earring

Select stones in earring, create ‘earring’ Layer, fill selection with color #fff2de, Blend mode Overlay, Opacity 80.

colorizing photo

6. Hair

a) Select hair, apply Feather, create new Layer ‘hair’, fill selection with color #923930, Blend mode Color, Opacity 48.

b) Create another Layer above ‘hair1’, fill with color #8e4942, Blend mode Soft light, Opacity 73.

7. Background

a) Create new Layer ‘lightbackground’, select and fill clothes and light spots on the background with color #f6e1f0, Blend mode Color.

b) Select dark background; create Layer ‘darkbackground’ and fill selection with color #470103.

That’s all. Now you should have a brand new look of your old black&white photo.

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One thought on “How to colorize black and white photo”

  1. paige says:

    i love this website

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