Articles, Blog

PHOTOSHOP TUTORIAL: Photo Colourisation, How to convert Black and White photography to Colour

January 19, 2020

Hello! I’m James and on this channel I
colorize a lot of black and white photography and in this video I’ll be
taking you through my method and showing you how I turn a picture like this into
this so let’s get started. Throughout this tutorial I’ll be working as
non-destructively as possible. I like to be able to make tweaks when I’m making
my colorization so I try and work in ways that make that really easy to do.
So the very first step before you can really do anything is to go up to your
image tab here check your mode and check you’re in RGB color. If you’re working
with what was originally a black and white image it’s quite often in
grayscale so you want to switch to RGB to make sure that you’re in color image
mode. When coloring a picture I like to make sure my references have all the
elements I need on them. So in this case my reference images have things like the
highlights and the shadows clear along with the imperfections, for the want of a
better word, such as the red nose and the red cheeks. Sometimes you’ll find these
have been photoshopped out of images already, so unless you want your image to
look very clearly photoshopped you want to make sure that you have these areas
in. I also like to make sure that I have a range of reference images to compare
my colored image to. This way I can see very quickly if it stands out. Over here
you can see I have separate folders that I’ve placed different reference images
in. This way I can switch them on and off all at once and I have different ones
for different stages throughout this process. So I like to work using colors
sampled from the real images. So in this case we want to look for a base skin
tone to start us off for that we can use on this image. Now looking at these I
think I’m going to grab it from this picture. So what you want to do is use
your eyedropper tool either up here or press Alt with the paintbrush selected
and choose a color which is neither a highlight nor particularly a shadow.
Quite often you can find these obviously in between those points. In this case I’m
going to sample from around maybe here and this up here will be our base skin
tone that we add the highlights and shadows and the pink of the nose and the
rate of the cheeks and all that kind of stuff on top of. Don’t worry too much
about having your perfect color sampled at this point in time because we’ll be
tweaking it a lot very easily soon. So in order to be able to easily tweak and
adjust my painting later on I’m going to be using layer masks.
If you’re not familiar with layer masks I’ll quickly demonstrate one now. So if
we create a new layer and with blue as our foreground color we Alt Delete or
Option Delete on a Mac to fill that layer full of color
I now can add a layer mask to it. Now a layer mask does as it sounds and it
masks our elements of the picture. By default however it comes in as white or
with nothing masked at all. Now if we Alt Delete on this layer and fill it full of
nothing but black, you can see the opposite is true
and everything is blocked out. But with white it was visible so now if I paint
in a circle you can see here over in the mask we have a white hole shining
through. If I Alt or if you’re on a Mac Option click on it we can see what’s
actually happening on that layer. So with that blue spot, what we can now do is add
more or less using back or white. So painting with white gives us more blue
but if I hit the X key to switch to black we can now erase parts of it and
as you see they are now vanishing off it. We can apply effects to this mask such as
going up to filter, blur and say motion blur and you’ll see that you can blur
the mask. You can also use tools such as the
Smudge tool on your mask. You can drag it and it will smudge your image. You can
also adjust your brush by right-clicking and you can change the hardness or
softness. So using our layer mask method I’m going to put my skin reference on
again and I’m gonna sample once again a sort of good base skin tone as I see it.
So we’ll start with that one. I can now create a new layer and fill it with our
sampled color using Alt or Option Delete again. I’ll
then add a mask hit X to switch to my background color and Alt Delete or
Option delete with the black in order to make it invisible again. Now when I paint
with white you can see it shows through but what you can’t see is the background
detail so what we need to do is change the blend mode of this layer from normal
to color and now you can. So basically we’re just going to be painting with
white in our layer mask to show through the pink and obviously we can adjust the
hardness as needed I want a relatively soft brush for this. Don’t worry about
like going over details at the moment such as these lips because we’re going
to be layering up our color so we’ll have things like the lips and the eyes
and the nose on top of the skin layer and also don’t worry too much about
going outside the lines as I have done here because we can adjust that
obviously very easily using the layer mask and just paint in black where we
don’t want the white to show through. And with the hair you want to actually leave
a little bit of bleed over here into the hair so that we can blend the two nicely
together. Now for this bit we want to soften down our brush a little bit
because it is a lot softer and there we go we have it filled in. Now you’ll see
there’s a few small spots here such as on this side where I didn’t color enough
and also on this ear where I colored too much where we can simply switch to black or
white as needed and make those adjustments. Also we can use a tool such
as our Blur tool on this edge in order to soften it down where it was a little
bit too hard. And again we can come back in as many times as we need to, to make
changes to that. So what we can do when we want to adjust the colors of a
previously painted in layer is go down to our add adjustment layer button down
here and add a hue and saturation adjustment layer. Now what an adjustment
layer will do is affect all the colors that are underneath it. In this case as
well as affecting the hue and the saturation of the layers it will also
affect the lightness of the pixels. Now as it is, we don’t wish to adjust the hue
and saturation of all the layers. Neither do we wish to change the brightness of
the pixels so what we can do is right click on our Hue and Saturation layer
and choose to create a Clipping Mask. This now means that all the adjustments
we make to the hue and saturation will only affect this layer and no other
colors in the picture it also means that because this layer is clipped to one
that’s in color mode if we adjust the lightness, all we’ll do is adjust the
relative lightness of the colors on this layer and not the pixels for the rest of
the image. So as you can see on this example on the left
human skin tones have a lot of variation in them from the lightest to darkest
points. So if I sample some colors here we can have a look at what’s going on. So
at the lightest point the saturation is fairly low and the brightness is very
high but as we go down we’ll see the saturation goes up and the brightness
goes down, although the lower the brightness gets the harder it is to see
how saturated it is. But I also want to point out that each time I change color
here, the hue changed quite dramatically. So we need to try and work multiple
different tones even into our base skin layer here. So in order to add these
extra tones in we’re going to have to create new layers for them. So I’ll go
ahead here and create one for the darkest tone.
Switch that off for a minute and then I’ll create ones for the other ones too
while I’m here. We have four layers of color we need to get onto the skin tone
but rather than create new masks we can drag this mask onto these. You do that by
Alt or Option dragging on the mask onto a new layer. Now this gives you the
opportunity to notice any spots that you’ve missed and there we go. Now
for the time being I’m not going to convert this into Color mode and I can
do it to show you but we’re going to leave it on normal mode because what we
want to do is use one of the features in Photoshop which I think is the best
feature in Photoshop but as with all the best features in Photoshop it’s
completely hidden. So we go off down to FX and we click Blending Options. We then
have this little panel with the Blend If command and what we can do is Blend If
Underlying Layer and what this does is looks for the light and dark patches on
our original picture and, you know, allows you to blend them. So here we can see two
little arrows, we have a left and a right one, white and dark. Now we want the dark
patches of this to remain and the light patches not to remain. So what we can do
is drag our right slider down and you can see that the lighter patches become
more visible. What we want to do is just have this over the shadow areas. But one
of the good things about this, is that if you Alt or Option click on this arrow
you can split it in half, so if I do that I can now drag half of it to create a
fade. So we just want this to cover really the darkest patches and with that
done we can press ok and then we can turn that to color mode.
Now we’ll probably need to tweak this color in a minute but this is the basis
of using the Blend If tool. Now when adding in the other tones of course we
Alt Option drag the mask on again but when we do blending options this time in
order to Blend If, we actually want to cut away both the lightest points and
the darkest points and then we put that in color mode. Now looking at this, some
of these are definitely too strong. So what we can do is go down to our opacity
and knock these down a little bit in terms of their opacity so it’s not quite
a strong effect. Again we can always adjust this later as needed but now our
base skin has more colors in it. So one of the most useful places to use the
Blend If tool is when you’re coloring hair but in order to add extra tones to
the hair I have to add the base tones in. So I’m gonna sample a fairly dark tone,
fill it in add the mask, black out the mask and I’ll
switch off my reference and I’ve got a color this in. Now I’ll start painting
and I will turn to color mode for this and I won’t worry about going over the
flowers at the moment because I’ll be doing those on a layer on top. Now to do
all these wispy edges is gonna take me a little while so I’ll won’t do that on
camera but I’ll do a little bit of it just to demonstrate how I go about it. So
what I tend to do is put my hardness right down on my brush and I’m doing
this on a tablet but it would be possible to do this on anything and just
very gently and lightly draw thin lines for the wispy bits. I then go over them
with something such as the blur tool in order to soften them out. I’ll put up on a
higher strength. So yeah, and as you can imagine that takes
a while so I’ll get back to you shortly. So with our hair mask complete we can
now add some more tones to it. So I’ll sample some lighter tones from this hair,
might be too bright we’ll see, drag the mask on and again we can see that we
have missed a few spots which we can now paint in. So now we can go to our
blending options and try and add this in to some of the mid-tones, see how that
looks in color mode. Now I’d like those to be a bit more yellow so I can clip
on a Hue and Saturation layer and tweak it. Now we’ll want to add another set of
tones in. So these will be our lighter hair. Put that in color mode. We’ll probably
want to lower the opacity a little bit. What I’ll probably do now is a Hue and
Saturation layer, which I drag the mask to, but I don’t clip. Because the
mask basically acts as the clip and that means I can change all of my hair at the
same time. We’ll leave that as is for now but we’ll come back and fiddle with it
later. Okay so with the hair done i’m now going to start sandwiching in between the
skin layers and the hair layers all of my face tone layers. So i’m going to
start with some yellow tones which i’m going to place in between the skin and
the hair layers. So broadly speaking where I wish to place these is around
the eyes and then down the bottom of the face because that the cheeks tend to
kind of block them out and the forehead tends to be redder as well. We’ll now blur
that, just to soften it a little bit and this is something we’re obviously gonna
have to knock down a little bit so I’ll lower the opacity. I’m now going to add
the red of the cheeks and again we’ll soften that a bit. And delete any sort of bleed that’s gone over into
the other elements and knock that down a bit too. Now for the nose. With the nose I
like to add a sort of a thin strip going down the middle as well as coloring in
the bottom and again we’ll blur that out. We want to blur a lot of these to just
kind of add soft transitions between the colors. Now quickly on the nose layer I
just want to add some little, little strand bits coming down like that, that’s
something that we can add quickly and then blur out. Now we want to add a
little bit more red to the forehead area at least brownie red. Just to simulate a
little bit of sunburn as much as anything else just a tiny bit. And again
we’ll want to have that blurred and then knock it down a little bit. So if I were
coloring a male face now I’d add a faint blue beard line to the face and then
knock it right down. As well as like a receding hairline quite possibly. In this
case I’m gonna add a very slight amount of receding hairline blue just
underneath where the hair is because it’s been pulled back. Not because I think
this young lady is balding so you just, when you want to simulate where hair
should be you add a very faint de-saturated blue. Paint it in where you
want it to appear and you can blur it out and then knock it right back in this
case. In fact I might smudge it up a little bit just do it move it up the
head a little bit. Now we should add in the red of the chin. Which again we’ll blur a bit but not too
much since we still want it to be visible. So now we want to do the ears
and there’s two main stages of the ears the red and the yellow parts. With the
red parts you want to add really the red anywhere where the ear is kind of
sticking out a bit. So all the sort of raised parts really and we’ll blur that. And obviously we’re gonna have to do
some cleanup and we’re gonna have to knock that down quite a bit. We also need
to add some yellows to the ear everywhere that the red doesn’t go
basically but particularly into the more sunken parts and again we’ll knock that
right down. Now we want to add some sort of purpley blues, like you can see on
this reference and we want to make sure it’s kind of around this bit here and
sort of coming under the eye like that, like the reference was. Reference really
is the key to all this. And then soften it and knock it down a little bit. If you
want to, you can use the smudge tool obviously for this just to kind of get
things exactly where you want them to be. Now I just want to add some sort of
darker red or purples to the eyelids. Soften it a little but not too much
because obviously you still want it to be in place and knock it down a bit. Now
I’m going to do the lips, it’s important to remember that this picture was taken
in a time before sort of lipstick was that societally acceptable. So we want to go
for something fairly natural-looking. Now that’s a little bit too pink for me, so
we’re gonna add a clipping mask and kind of try and make it look a little bit
more natural and we’ll add some highlights like we did previously. So now I’m going to try and do something
about these creepy eyes and make them look a little bit more normal by adding
in some color to them. So first we’re going to go for a main white for them.
I’m not going to go a hundred percent white, because I like to add a
tiny little bit of color to everything. And this already looks far better. Now I’m going to add some Pink’s to the
edges. With the pink it does tend to sort of run into the eye a little bit so it
doesn’t hurt to kind of blur and smudge it a little bit. We might want to knock this down just a
little bit. And now we can try and actually add some eye color. So I’m gonna
go this lady has a sort green eye with blue edges but I’m gonna go with kind of
a blue eye with green edges. So if we want to add a little bit of
green we can do that fairly easily again just reusing the mask and then
using Blend If. So we’re now in the tweaking stage of the skin tones section
because I’m looking at these skin tones and although all the colors are in place
I don’t think they’re quite right yet. When looking at my references there’s a
few things I want to change. For one thing I feel that the skin tones are a
little bit too pink for the most part with the exception of the yellow areas I
painted, which I think are too yellow. I think particularly around the eyes looks
quite orange. The eyes themselves might be too blue but I won’t be able to tell
that until I’ve changed the rest of the colors really. And the hair has
definitely got some weird green tones to it which I’d like to remove. So I’m gonna
go through those various stages now and try and fix them. So before I start with
any of the actual color tweaks I’m gonna try and adjust the brightness of the
image itself. Because I’m looking at the bright areas of her face and they seem a
little flat. I think particularly the sort of the high parts of her face like
her nose need to be a little bit more bright than they are. So what I’m gonna
do is add a curves adjustment to the image, right on the bottom of the stack
and then I’m gonna drag up with this little hand here the lighter areas to
see if it makes it look any more natural. I’m also going to drag down a little bit
some of the shadow areas just to try and get this looking a little bit better. I
don’t really want to overdo this but I want it to look a little bit more
correctly exposed I guess, whoops too much. Just a little bit. We’ll switch that on and off.
See that’s better but that is too strong so I’m gonna push that down a bit
with the opacity. There we go I think that’s a good start. Now earlier on when
I was coloring the various elements of the face I left the lips and the eyes
until last and that’s because I intend to do adjustments to the rest of the
skin tones now. So what I’ll do is add a Hue and Saturation layer and I will drag
one of the complete masks of the face onto it and I’ll call it Master Skin. And
basically with this one selected and with the mask on it, I can now tweak all
of my skin tones and also as well as just tweaking all of them at once I can
dial down into each of these individual colors and have more control over it. So
the first thing I wanted to do was to try and change the colors of the yellow
in the face. So we’re going to make those slightly more red but I also want to
change the rest of the face more generally to make it a little bit more
yellow. So we can do that with the master controls and, making sure this layer is
on color mode, I’m gonna try and make it a little lighter. And looking at that
that’s coming together I do want it a little bit more saturated though. So I
think those skin tones have been quite improved. Now the dark orange around the
eyes is being created by this dark brown like skin layer, I added earlier so I’m
going to knock that right back. I also want to tweak the lips because I don’t
think they’re quite the right color. The overall kind of flatness of the face can
be improved by bringing out the cheeks and the nose a little bit more in terms
of colors. So on the nose layer we can up the opacity of the colors I put there
earlier, along with adding an adjustment layer to try and make them a little bit
stronger. Now that has made a really dramatic difference I think, don’t want
to overdo it but a little bit of subtlety there makes a big difference.
I’ll now add the cheeks and make those a little bit brighter. I’m also going to
bring out the chin in much the same way and again I’ll use that to bring in a
little bit of orange. Now I think that looks quite a lot better now, I’m now
gonna have a look at the hair. I created a master hair adjustment layer
earlier. I actually want to quickly add some more tones to this hair because I
think particularly the highlights should have a little tiny bit of
gold to them. So we’ll use Blend If again just to bring it up to the high
points. We don’t too much just that little tiny hint and I’ll tweak the
colors just to make it slightly more red. And we’ll just tweak the master one
again. There’s a huge amount of tweaking involved with a good colorization and
with that as for the girl I think we’re actually kind of getting there.
So I’m now gonna go ahead and color her dress, her flowers and the background.
I’ll come back and we’ll handle this bottom bit and we’ll talk about the
lighting and sort of general final tweaks. Now with the other parts of the
coloring done I can notice more clearly that the skin tones still need a bit of
work. For me the, some of the skin tones just generally aren’t saturated enough
but the highlights and shadows are to saturation already. So therefore I’m
going to try and fix that. The first thing I’m gonna do is go down to my
master skin layer and I’m gonna boost up the saturation a bit. I’m also gonna make
it slightly more yellow there we go. Now I’m gonna add two more Hue and
Saturation layers first I’ll do the highlights and I’ll add one for the shadows
and I’ll drag the master mask to both of them. And basically what we want to do is
first things first knock down the saturation to nothing on
that layer and then use our blending options to only hit the absolute
highlights with this. And we don’t obviously want to desaturate it by that
much, but we do also want to slightly tweak the color. So we’ll add a small
amount of yellow to those highlights and we’ll do the same thing with the shadows.
Where first we knock it down just so we can see what we’re doing and again we
don’t wanna knock it down by anywhere near that much. And we’ll make sure these
layers are both in Color mode so they’re not affecting the brightness and then I
can boost up our main saturation just a little bit and I also want to tweak
the brightness levels a bit again. I’ll make sure that I’m only on the
luminosity values so I don’t affect the colors. I think I’m going to tweak the
master colors just slightly. So we’re pretty close now. The main things I want
to do is, if you look at the original picture you can see there’s this kind of
faded bottom which I wish to recreate in color and I also want to do some
creative lighting. So in terms of the bottom what we’re gonna do is choose a
bottom color, in this case I’ll go with a sort of darkish green to go with the
rest of it, and then as before we’ll add a color adjustment layer. And what we
basically want to do is create a kind of curve at the bottom. Now I’m gonna do
that fairly quickly just with a Lasso tool line at the bottom, we’ll be
blurring this through so it doesn’t really need to be exact. There we go
and then I will fill this bit with white. Now in order to create that blur again
I’m gonna add a motion blur to the image and make sure that the angle is pointed
up. So in traditional photography you can use gels such as these to create
lighting effects particularly on the edges of your subject. I want to create a
similar effect here in that I want to kind of create a sunlight kind of effect
hitting her on one side and maybe create a different color slightly for the
shadows. To do that I’m going to use Curves Adjustment Layers. so with Curves
Adjustment Layers you can dial down into the individual red green and blue color
channels. So what we’re going to do is basically create a kind of orange color
by tweaking these. So that is going to be the basis for our yellow sunlight colors
but as always we’ll now make it invisible by filling in the mask. And now
we’ll do the same thing with another set of curves but this time we want to
create a blue effect for the shadows. So what we’re basically going to do is do a
very, very simple color effect on this one. We’re gonna draw a very rough line
across our image roughly where the sunlight is hitting
and for the sunlight one we’re going to fill that bit with white. Now what we can
do, is take that mask we’ve just colored, drag it over to our other layer and then
control+I it to flip it. We’re of course, we’re gonna blur both of these
layers quite substantially. And as well as that we’re going to lower them in
terms of opacity and then in our Blend If options for the sunlight one we’re
gonna make sure it doesn’t hit the parts of the face and everywhere that is too
dark. And with the shadow one we’re going to make sure it doesn’t hit the
highlights. Now obviously we only want these effects to be very, very minor. This
is just to add a little bit of extra color more than anything else and there
we go. There are still a few like tiny tweaks I like to do. I quite often like
to dot some reddish orange onto my faces, just to add a little bit of color
variation. So I’ll do that now. It’s all about really just putting as many
different sort of parts of color on your image as possible and obviously these
will be very, very, very blurred out. I also want to tweak the lips once again
and maybe just give the hair a little bit of a tweak. And the final thing I
added was this very fractional hue and saturation layer. Because basically we’re
done, I could make endless tweaks but I think I’m going to draw a line under it
there. So as for some final thoughts on this my main ones would be as follows.
You want to ideally export your file and check it on a few different types of
screens. Because what might look great on a phone might look terrible on a TV
because they’ve got different color balances to them. You should walk away
from a picture occasionally and come back to it, because sometimes you’ll
think it looks terrible then you’ll come back and think actually it’s not too bad
it just needs some minor tweaks and sometimes you walk away thinking it
looks great and come back and think that it looks terrible. But I think as I’ve
demonstrated here you can take it from a point where it looks quite bad and turn
it to a point where it looks fairly decent. If anyone has any follow-up
questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments I’ll do my best to
answer them and if you’ve got a better way of working than this, then please let
me know that because I spend quite a lot of time on this tutorial and I’d
certainly like to know any tips or tricks that might improve my own working
methods. Thank you all very much for watching.
Likes and or subscriptions would be very much appreciated. The picture that you
watched me color in this video, started out quite badly damaged and I made a
tutorial video of me fixing it if that interests you. On this channel I have
quite a lot of colorization videos where I talk in depth about particular images.
Diving into the history of them whenever possible if you’d like to check them out.
Thank you for watching


  • Reply The Colorization Channel January 18, 2020 at 10:46 am

    I myself just personally use custom made photorealistic 3D models for reference.

  • Reply Oli Toxiic January 18, 2020 at 10:54 am

    Nice video! At the end of colourising images, I sometimes add small amounts of chromatic aberration if the image has high contrasting areas. I do this by going into channels, and selecting only the red channel. Then using liquify, slightly move the image to the right.

  • Reply Oli Toxiic January 18, 2020 at 11:33 pm

    Sorry for being annoying, do you use a pen and tablet or a mouse? And which do you recommend?

  • Reply Ace Hardy January 19, 2020 at 4:45 am


  • Reply Garage Rest January 19, 2020 at 8:50 am

    Good result!

  • Leave a Reply