Photoshop Tutorial: How to Hand Color Black and White Photos

A Fun and Easy Tutorial

In this simple and easy tutorial, you will learn how to color a black and white photo. You may be asking yourself: why would I ever need to color a black and white photo, aren’t all photos in color these days? Well, this is true, it is pretty rare for photos to be taken in black and white, except perhaps editorial or professionally shot photos. But the reason why you should learn this technique is because it is fun to use on old family photos or even photos that have been shot or digitally changed to black and white. Many people believe the idea of coloring a black and white photo is simply impossible, but it’s really not. What you should realize is that it will never look 100% perfect, like it was shot in color. You will have correct contrast and shadows, but it is nearly impossible to achieve the correct color tone unless you are a professional image editor. The best part about coloring old black and white photos is because it gives it a fun, retro, and unique look. This is extremely neat for scrapbooking or framing family photos.

So to begin with, you will obviously need to work with a black and white photo. If you have one of your own, use that. If you do not have one of your own photos, you can always get free photos at stock sites, such as www.sxc.hu or www.istockphoto.com. If you have a colored photo, you can always convert it to black and white just for the sake of this tutorial. To do this you can go to Image> Adjustments> Desaturate. Make sure that if you are working with an old family photo, for example, that you scan it in black and white.

Step 1) Open up your image document as its own canvas in Adobe Photoshop. Make sure the image is saved and that the layers are all flattened. Layer> Flatten. Then change the color mode of the image from grayscale to RGB color by going to Image> Mode> RGB. Then add a new layer and name it “Layer 1”. Then change the layer’s blending mode from normal to multiply. This will allow the color to add to the layer underneath.

Step 2) Select a warm skin tone since we will be working with a portrait. Now paint this color on Layer 1.

Step 3) Now choose another color to paint a different element in the photo. Try a hair tone or even a clothing tone. You can use any color you so desire.

Step 4) Continue with the coloring technique until every component in the image is colored, or until you are satisfied with the coloring.

Step 5) Now that you are done, flatten the layers and you are all finished. You have a fun, new, retro image that has been hand colored.

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