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Hand-colouring b/w photos in Photoshop
#1
Hey guys,

Well, after trying this technique and being quite suprised at how well the results turned out, I just had to share it with you.

Just before Christmas I scanned a heap of old family photos, including many of my parents and grandparents when they were young.
A number of these very precious photos were in need of some restoration, so after scanning them I began going through some of them and cleaning them up in photoshop.

While I was doing this, I just happened to read an article about artificially-colouring images in photoshop. It was nothing special, but I was curious to see how effective it might be on these photos (expecting it to be a waste of time).

Although I spent a considerable amount of time finishing the example image below (which is my grandparents wedding day back in 1944), I did an initial "rough draft" of this image in about 15 minutes that looked 90% as good.

The thing I particularly like about it is that it not only looks like a "real" hand-tinted photograph, but the technique is actually quite similar to that used with photographic paints I'd imagine (apart from having the benefits of zoom and undo).

[Image: 84_GrandparentsWedding-BeforeAndAfter.jpg]

Now, here's how I did it:
1. Open the image in photoshop.
2. Adjust the contrast/levels and clean up the image so it is a good b/w image to begin with.
3. Create a duplicate layer of the background, change it's mode to "color" and set it's opacity to about 70%
3. Select the new layer (the translucent one) as the active layer.
4. Select the "brush" tool from the toolbox at the side.
5. Set the "mode" (in the toolbar at the top) to "Color".
6. Select a colour you wish to tint with.
7. Paint away!

It's all pretty straightforward.. setting the draw-mode to "color" simply tints the image instead of drawing over it, and by drawing on a duplicate layer with only about 70% transparency, you can get a nicer, more subtle effect. Obviously in the example above, I also played with contrast and so on to get the other elements of the image as they are.
You can also do things like tint the original (bottom) layer sepia, and it will give a subtle sepia look coming through the colour, or else put additional adjustment layers on top to tint and adjust things further.

Now I don't think there are any real suprises in the technique involved... but the real suprise for me was in the result. It transformed the photo dramatically, and requires a lot less effort that I expected to get decent results. It is definately a worthwhile trick to have up your sleeve. I'm sure it can be abused and over-used, but when used sparingly and appropriately it can have a lot of impact.

Cheers
Adrian

ps: In a precious family photo such as this one, attention to detail is everything! Not only did I have to make sure the uniform colours were all accurate, but I even subtley got my mum to find out what colours the flowers were in my grandmother's bouquet. My grandmother noticed these things *immediately* when I showed her the photo. Disaster averted. phew!

Edit: I changed the caption in the photo to more accurately reflect the real owner of the photograph. I have no idea who the photographer was, but I fear he/she may have passed away.
Adrian Broughton
My Website: www.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
My Blog: blog.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
You can also visit me on Facebook!
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
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#2
Absolutely amazing! Cool
_______________________________________
Everybody got to elevate from the norm!
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#3
A tour de force!! Beautifully done.
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#4
Excellent work, thanks for sharing the technique.
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#5
Hey great stuff Adrian. The final image looks awesome! It's great that you paid so much attention to detail...
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#6
Bravo, well done!
Sit, stay, ok, hold it! Awww, no drooling! :O
My flickr images
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#7
Great... now I'm going to have to spend ALL of my spare time trying this!!

Do you have a link to the article you read? Or was it printed on that old paper stuff they used to use for articles and such...

EDIT:
Ok, first try and I'm already swearing at my computer.... What colour mode did you use? RGB seems to just cover over the photo - even with the layer opacity and fill opacity way down... also, when I switch the colour mode, PS yells at me about flattening the image first, or something... What am I doing wrong?

Also, when you did the skin, for example, did you select just one colour from the palette and the shadows, etc, took care of the various shades? or did you have to keep selecting different shades of 'skin colour'.

Thanks for this, I'm really anxious to get this working for me...
<><
Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ10
Image Management/Editing:ArcSoft PhotoBase4
Advanced Image Editing: Adobe PhotoShop 7
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#8
Thanks for the kind words.. It was a fantastic photo to start with, so all I had to do was not muck it up!
It isn't perfect by any means, and it does lose much of the charm of the original, but for me, it instantly transports me back 60 years and I can really imagine being at my grandparent's wedding... something that was more difficult to imagine with the original image.

Cailean, I read the tip in the book "Digital Photography" by Michael Wright (old fashioned paper I'm afraid... copy/paste doesn't work without real scissors and glue).

Here's a link to the book on Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/det...ce&s=books

I bought it on special from a local bookstore, and I haven't read a lot of it, but it seems like one of the better practical books on how to use photoshop and photoshop elements. Not perfect by any means (I think the amazon reviews over-rate it a bit), but in a sea of rubbish photoshop books, this is one of the better ones I've seen. This tinting technique is probably the best tidbit I've gleaned from it so far, but it has a lot of useful techniques and "recipies", and explains them well with LOADS of screenshots which work well.

As for the technique itself.. well, I didn't actually change colour modes using the Image->Mode menu (ie I stayed in RGB)... I changed the layer mode to "Color" (select the layer and use the drop-down list in the layers window), and also the brush mode to "Color" (select the brush tool and then change the "mode" drop-down in the top tool-bar to "color").
Make sure you are painting on the new layer, not the original.

And with regards to skin, yes you will need to use several (many) subtle colours for it. I find (for caucasians anyway) that the skin generally goes yellower in the highlights, and redder in the shadows. Paint it all one colour, and then go over it with a soft-edged brush with different colours where necessary. Also, cheeks and lips are pinker than other skin.
Don't forget to colour the eyes (including the whites), and lips and teeth - they make a big difference. Colouring with grey can have a dramtic whitening effect.

I'm putting together a "proper" little tutorial with several screenshots of the process, so if you can wait a bit longer then I'll let you know when its ready Smile

Cheers
Adrian
Adrian Broughton
My Website: www.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
My Blog: blog.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
You can also visit me on Facebook!
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
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#9
cool, thanks. I am still getting used to PS, so I was confused by the color mode stuff. I'll try again.
<><
Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ10
Image Management/Editing:ArcSoft PhotoBase4
Advanced Image Editing: Adobe PhotoShop 7
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#10
Ok, so I gave it another shot and I'm really pleased with the results... since I didn't have any old photos handy, I grabbed the nearest interesting colour photo and desaturated it. Turns out all I had on my new thinkpad was the Windows XP samples... here the result.
[Image: Water-lilies-coloured.jpg]

I've decided that this method is not great for a photo-realistic effect -- it has a more artistic look. My technique differs from Adrian's slightly. My painting layer is a blank one... I found it easier to fix mistakes and manage my pallette if I could make the original disappear and see just what I'd painted.

this is what the paint layer looks like, if anyone's interested...
[Image: paint-layer.jpg]
<><
Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ10
Image Management/Editing:ArcSoft PhotoBase4
Advanced Image Editing: Adobe PhotoShop 7
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#11
Good job Cailean,

As you have found, there are many ways to skin a cat.

The technique itself isn't very difficult... but I think it is the where, when and how to use it that is the difficult (and potentially most rewarding) aspect of this technique.

I look forward to hearing your experiences if you get a chance to try it out on an old precious black/white photo of your own. I was amazed at the emotional impact the colour had on me (and my grandmother).

Cheers
Adrian

ps: Congrats.. I just noticed you reached the 500-post mark! <clap>
Adrian Broughton
My Website: www.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
My Blog: blog.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
You can also visit me on Facebook!
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
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#12
Hey, cool, 500 posts! I agree that the technique isn't very difficult -- but like anything in PS, doing it is easy, doing it well takes skill!

My Mom has an entire suitcase of old B&W photos that I've been meaning to scan in for some time... looks like that's how I'll be spending my summer... I'll try colourizing one of the early ones to see how it goes...
<><
Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ10
Image Management/Editing:ArcSoft PhotoBase4
Advanced Image Editing: Adobe PhotoShop 7
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#13
Adrian,

How well did this print? Did you print it at home or did you use a shop?

Thanks.

Pete
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm
not sure about the former.

Albert Einstein
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#14
Hey Pete,

I printed it at home on my Canon Pixma iP6000D with Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl paper, and apart from a couple of initial minor colour-matching issues (more related to my LCD display not being calibrated than the printer I think), it turned out great.

The initial photo was some weird size, about 6"x9". I scanned it at 300dpi on a "so-so" Epson consumer scanner of my sisters. Because I was scanning 200 other family photos at the time and had to get them all done that day, I pretty much rushed them through. Still, the quality of the scan is fairly good considering all this.

The quality of the original photo was amazing though for its age, and the main issues I had were related to the scanner. Particularly because the photo was faded, when I gave it more contrast it ended up with posterised shadows. This isn't obvious, but can be seen if you look closely at the background of the print. I think I also went a bit overboard with the noise-reduction which increased the posterisation issue too.

My grandmother, my mother, and I all have an 8x10" print framed and hanging on the wall at each of our houses, and I certainly don't need to make excuses for anything when people look at it. It looks every bit as good as the photo-lab digital prints on the wall opposite.

Cheers
Adrian
Adrian Broughton
My Website: www.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
My Blog: blog.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
You can also visit me on Facebook!
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
Reply
#15
The image looked fantastic I was hoping that the print worked, I will have to try it on some of the old shots that I have. My parents also have a box full that I will have to grab. Of course they live in Perth and I live in Canberra so it will have to wait a bit or will have to get them to send some over.

Cheers.

Pete
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm
not sure about the former.

Albert Einstein
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#16
What is the best resolution to scan at? Is 300dpi enough? I scanned a photo at 600 and the file is soo big, it's killing PS.
<><
Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ10
Image Management/Editing:ArcSoft PhotoBase4
Advanced Image Editing: Adobe PhotoShop 7
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#17
OK, here's my first reall attempt at hand-colouring...

[Image: bob_dale.jpg]
The lips are "in progress" (as is the tie, etc.) cuz the colour is driving me up the wall... also the skin is too yellow, but I blame that on the laptop problem discussed elsewhere...
<><
Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ10
Image Management/Editing:ArcSoft PhotoBase4
Advanced Image Editing: Adobe PhotoShop 7
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#18
Obviously the higher you can scan the better but 300 is probably heaps. You should print a small section to see how it goes.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm
not sure about the former.

Albert Einstein
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#19
Nice attempt Cailean! It looks quite good...

Still looks a bit aged, which is a good effect - as you want the viewer to know that it was a restored photo, I guess. Big Grin



I usually scan at 300dpi...
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#20
ooo.. I see what you mean about your laptop display giving you false colours.. that skin looks almost green to me (I will respond to your laptop display thread too).

But you definately have the technique under control. Big Grin Well done.

As usual, I took your image and had a little play with it myself (I hope you don't mind).

I firstly took the image and desaturated it and turned it into Sepia - trying to resemble what the original probably looks like. I actually think this image looks excellent in monochrome, but that's beside the point for this little exercise Wink
[Image: portrait-sepia.jpg]

Next pic is the "colouring layer" I used. Instead of using the paint brush in "color" mode as I suggested earlier, I used the paint brush in "normal" mode and just put the whole layer into "color" mode as you did in your flowers image. This seems to work very well. This pic has that colouring layer set to "normal" with 100% opacity to show exactly which colours I used and where. It actually looks a bit like a bad pop-art portrait or something!
[Image: portrait-pop.jpg]

And then finally my "finished" version (well, as finished as you can get in 10 minutes).
[Image: portrait-coloured.jpg]

I mainly did this little exercise to illustrate better how I used different skin-tones throughout the face, but I was also curious about how yours would look without the yellow/green tint.
I think you've convinced me to give another one of my own family photos a go! This is fun!

Cheers
Adrian
Adrian Broughton
My Website: www.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
My Blog: blog.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
You can also visit me on Facebook!
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
Reply
#21
Nice result, could probably still use a bit more colour around the face but for a "ten minute job" I think it is outstanding. I have yet to attempt my first one.
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm
not sure about the former.

Albert Einstein
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#22
Yeah, you're right Pete. I toned the colour down because I actually like the monochrome version, the tones in the face are a bit flat and didn't quite look right with saturated colour, and also the way I'd done the suit it became too saturated easily.

I've spent another 5 minutes on it now... re-did the suit and adjusted the tone curve to give more depth (both highlights and shadows) to the face.... so I could then add some more of the colour I'd already put into the face.

Here is the result:

[Image: Portrait2.jpg]

Cheers
Adrian
Adrian Broughton
My Website: www.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
My Blog: blog.BroughtonPhoto.com.au
You can also visit me on Facebook!
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Einstein.
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#23
Another great result, Adrian. Well done!

By the way, everyone, if you haven't already seen, Adrian's put this process into a tutorial...

Make sure you give him some feedback! Big Grin
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