Colorizing a Black & White Photograph in Photoshop

This tutorial, created in Photoshop CS, will walk you through how to colorize a black & white photograph.

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1. Open a black & white image in Photoshop.

2. Convert to CMYK by selecting ‘Image’ in the menu bar, the select ‘Mode’ and finally choose the ‘CMYK color’ option.

3. Open a Curves adjustment layer by either clicking on the ‘Open new Fill’ or ‘Adjustment Layer’ icon in the ‘Layers/Channels/Paths’ palette (the circle that is bisected diagonally, top half black, bottom half white) or by selecting ‘Layer’ from the menu bar, then choosing ‘New Adjustment Layer’ and finally ‘Curves’.

4. Add a layer mask to the Curves layer by pressing the ‘Add Vector Mask’ button on the Layers Palette (White circle inside grey box). When you do this, several things will happen: the foreground/background colors in the ‘Tools’ patlette will change to black/white, a white rectangle appears beside the ‘Curves’ thumbnail, and the paintbrush icon to the left of the thumbnail is replaced by the circle-in-a-box icon. (NOTE: Photoshop CS automatically adds this mask when you open an adjustment layer. Just Click on it to activate.)

5. Choose the paintbrush tool and paint everything except the first thing you want colored (eg skin). You don’t have to be exact here, and it will be hard, because your painting won’t show up on the screen except in the little mask thumbnail.

6. Double click on the ‘Curves’ thumbnail to bring up the curves command box. Change the Channel selector from ‘CMYK’ to just one color, say ‘Cyan’. Play with the curve until the color starts to look the way you want. Then change to the Yellow channel and do the same. Then do the same on the Magenta channel. You may have to switch back and forth several times to get the color just right. Sometimes you will also have to play with the Black channel to get the highlights/shadows the way you want them.

7. Now that you have the color right, double click on the Mask thumbnail and clean up your mask so that only the part of the image that is supposed to be the color you’ve made is colored. The Paintbrush will remove color and the eraser will add color.

It’s that simple! Hope you enjoy trying this out!