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turn black and white photos into colour

Posted on 2009-04-04
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I have PS 3 can it be done with this software, if so, how
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Question by:nathan1038
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by:Philip_Spark
ID: 24068952
here's another it uses psp but the instructions are the same
using the hue/saturation dialogue box
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by:casinnola
ID: 24069615
I love when the "experts" answer by just giving links to a bunch of tutorials. Makes me wonder if they're experts in using Photoshop? Or just Googling?

Anyway, in answer to your question, yes PS can be used to colorize a B&W photo.

Since I don't know your experience level with PS, I'm assuming you're a beginner.  For a PS beginner, the easiest and most straightforward way to do it would be:

  1. Make sure you are working in RGB color mode. Pull down the Image menu and click Mode. If "Grayscale" is checked, click RGB instead.
  2. Add a new layer above your B&W image.
  3. Use the Paintbrush tool and start painting. But... you need to change a few settings on the brush so that your colors tint the image rather than paint overtop of it. First, choose your foreground color by double-clicking on the foreground swatch and choosing a color. Second, change the brush's size by using the [ key to make it smaller and the ] key to make it larger. Third, make your brush softer by holding shift and hitting the [ key, or make it harder by holding shift and hitting the ] key. (Alternately, you can pick a preset brush by clicking the dropdown arrow at the top of the window, next to the word "Brush.") Next, and this is key to getting a result you want: choose a different mode for your brush. You'll probably want to start out with Overlay or Soft Light. Also, reduce the opacity of your brush from 100% to, say, 20%. Each time you change colors to paint a new area, experiment with modes and opacity levels until you get what you want.
As I said, this is only one way to do it. If you're more advanced, you can get into some more advanced techniques, such as masking, overlaying gradients, etc.

Hope this helps.
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by:homemadebyx
ID: 24070416
In addition to casinnola's ideas,
i've found colorizing to be a tedious process but doable with a lot of work.   His ideas are the way i've approached it also.   I also like to carefully slice up the image into its parts (i.e.  Shirt, hair, face, etc...). I find it helpful to have them idividually.   Once they are individual pieces, it can be effective to use basic color adjustments on the individual parts.
Colorizing is something that takes lots of practice, and reference images.
Just another 2 cents, Good luck,
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by:nathan1038
ID: 24070470
One issue that concerned me was - how to know what color something is, e.g. the color of a persons shirt, it could be green or red and so on. With colorization are you saying that you take a guess, or do what looks good, or can PS actually be used to find those original colors !


Ps, thanks for all your help on this one guys
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by:MrMintanet
ID: 24070512
^  To answer the above question.

No.  This is impossible.  Absolutely no way at all.

Example:  The house burned down and there's nothing but ash, what color was the bathroom?

No way to do that.  If someone claims there is a way, it is a lie/hoax/fib.  It can not be done.

I have found that the best way to find out what color a specific item is would be to ask someone who may have known the person in the photo on a personal level.

I had the same type of probelm you're having about 6 years ago.  I recolored a photo of my grandmother and grandfather from black and white.  I had made my grandmother's dress green.  I had showed this photo to my aunt, and she knew that it was in fact purple.  This is the only way to distinguish the color.  There is no way to tell by B&W translation.  I mean, sure, it's obvious that judging by the white balance,if your subject's face is white and their shirt is a very very light shade of grey, it's more than likely not a purple shirt, but then again..... are you sure?  This is my point.

Something else you may want to consider is getting a Wacom tablet.  It is the best tool I have used for selecting the border of something specific like a shirt.  I used a Wacom to colorize a boquet of flowers... phew, that was a mess with the mouse!

Good Luck.  I would highly suggest that you hit up YouTube and check the tutorials that are provided.  99% of them will actually show you something you never knew.
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by:homemadebyx
ID: 24070525
Like you said,
"it could be green or red and so on."
how's PS gonna know the color of a shirt?  There would have to be a database of brands, colors, etc..   for PS to know and still PS would have to detect some brand or label or something.   This just sounds impossible for PS.    In the colorizing i've done i've had to guess and a guess can look much nicer than a black & white.   If you can make out a brand or if somebody remembers, which would help you make a informed guess,  i think this would be the only way.    
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by:MrMintanet
ID: 24070587
This is not possible.  I wish it was, but sadly, the "vintage clothing recognition" utility isn't available in iPhoto yet.


Please consider the question you are asking.  It's not possible, friend.  It's just not possible.
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by:Philip_Spark
ID: 24071763
I take point with casinnola like I said

There's a few different ways, here's some links to get you "started"

Sure you can google it, but that's not the point. Yes I can google, but google will throw up dozens of pages of possible solution. For a novice that can be daunting, so it's nice to have a Photoshop expert's eye filter the results. The tutorials explain the process far better than I could and with example pics. That's all.
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by:homemadebyx
ID: 24072325
Attached is a B/W to Color i did about a year ago (i don't do this type of image work often).    The sailor was easy to figure colors, the navy still uses the same.     I guessed the color of her outfit, but if i wanted to be more accurate i'd reseach her and  her wardrobe.  Eye and hair color again were guesses.      I want to re-emphasize how useful it was to have all the elements on separate layers (eyes, hair, her outfit, ribbons, the crow, etc....
Sailor-side-by-side-72dpi.jpg
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casinnola earned 2000 total points
ID: 24073523
One little trick I've found: for coloring skin tones, I usually start with the "skintones" set of swatches that comes with Illustrator. If you have Illustrator, you can load them into Photoshop. First, open the Swatches panel in Photoshop. Then use the flyout menu and click "Replace Swatches". Navigate to Illustrator's default swatch folder (on PC, it's C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CS3\Presets\Swatches ; not sure what it is on Mac). Then, at the bottom of the "Load" dialog box, pull down the "Files of Type" box and choose "Swatch Exchange". You should now see the swatches in the folder. Pick "skintones.ase". You'll now have some good skin tone colors in your swatch panel. Note: if you view these same swatches in Illustrotor, you'd see that  the swatches are in groups of 5. Each group of five gives you five shades of the same skin tone. Unfortunately, Photoshop doesn't separate them into these groups. But they're still in order. Knowing this can help you select similar shades.
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by:homemadebyx
ID: 24073668
casinnola,
thanks for the tip, i didn't know of those swatches,   :)
 
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