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Colorize Black and White Images in Photoshop

Posted on 6th September 2018
 For this tutorial, you will need a Black & White image or portrait to work with and maybe a reference color image for the skin and hair tones if you are working with a portrait.

1 - In Photoshop, open the image you chose.

2 - Click on the small Black & White icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel to create a “New Solid Color Adjustment Layer”. Fill it with a Medium Brown (#5e3704) and change the “Blending Mode” to “Overlay”. Invert the “Mask” (Command/Control + I), the fill color should be Black.

3 - Select the “Brush Tool” (B), choose White as “Foreground” color and use a large brush (we used 300 px approx.) and start painting on top of the hair to add color to it. If you want to correct something, just change the foreground color to black and erase the portions you don’t like. Reduce the brush size and the “Opacity” if needed. We decided to change the “Blending Mode” to “Soft Light” since it works better for our image.

4 - Create a “New Color Balance Adjustment Layer” on top of your subject and play around with the values for all the “Tones” options (Midtones, Highlights and Shadows) until you achieve a skin tone. Invert the “Mask” for this layer too (Command/Control + I) and use a soft brush to paint the parts where the skin is. You can always adjust the values of your “Tones” in the “Properties Panel” to fix the color.

5 - Duplicate the Layer (Command/Control + J), lower the “Opacity” to about 64%, change some of the values of the Layer to get a more “Reddish” shade and paint some details under the eyes, around the nostrils, etc. where you would normally find color imperfections I a person’s skin. Use a large-soft brush and lower the “Opacity” to 12%.

6 - Create a “New Selective Color Adjustment Layer” on top of the “Skin” Layers, lower the “Opacity” to around 45% and adjust the “Neutrals” and “Reds” to create a pink shade for the lips. Invert the “Mask” for the layer (Command/Control + I) and paint on top of the lips with a soft brush with a very low “Opacity” (about 5%).

7 - Create a “New Vibrance Adjustment Layer” on top of the everything, and change the “Vibrance” value to +57.

8 - Create a “New Curves Adjustment Layer” in between the “Hair” and “Skin” Levels, use the “Linear Contrast (RGB)” Preset. Double-click on top of the Layer’s Thumbnail and in the “Blending Options” Tab move the “Underlying Layer” Black levers to the right, to the portion where the dark grey ends (to separate them, hold the “Alt/Option” key) and the White one (don’t split it) to the left.

9 - Create a “New Color Fill Layer” on top of your subject (“Background” Layer), use a color that will be appropriate for the eyes (we used a dark brown #221101), change the “Blending Mode” to “Color” and “Invert” the Layer “Mask” (Command/Control + I). Use a soft brush with a 5% “Opacity” to paint the eyes, but don’t touch the white highlights.

10 -  Create another “Color Fill Layer” on top of your subject (“Background” Layer), fill it with a shade that will give some color to the “Background” (we used a dark blue #204679), change the “Blending Mode” to “Soft Light” and the “Opacity” to 22%.

11 - Select all your Layers with the exception of the original one (Shift key) and make a “Group” by clicking on the small “Folder” icon at the bottom of the “Layers” Panel.

12 - Your image should be similar to this.

*The colors and “Blending Modes” used will depend on the image you chose to work with.

by @lornacane

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