HOW TO COLORIZE AN OLD PHOTO
Not sure I have blogged on photo restoration much. This week I am going to show you how to colorize old images to give them a nice tinted effect. This image is of my Grandmother Francis Carlton Smith and says it was from 1913.
I learned how to do this from photo restoration specialist Suzette Allen when she appeared on Creative Live a while back. This is how she uses Solid Color Adjustments Layers to add color to her images. I might add the skin effect is also from her video but that is another blog as it is a bit tricky. In this case various Solid Color Adjustment Layers were used for her skin, then hair, and finally the dress and background. In all 7 were used. I would suggest you first download Suzette Allen Color Guide Faces photo – a free download from her website – before beginning. Frequently I open up this image in Photoshop to use for sampling skin and lip color. Nik’s Color Efex Pro was used at the end and Flypaper Textures Nik Color Efex Presets White Buttons was applied. The Frame was added in the Smart Photo Editor plug-in using the white border with gray stroke classic border. The Solid Color Adjustment Layer technique is the same as in the workflow below.
The cute kid image was downloaded from one of my very favorite websites, Shorpy Historical Photo Archive (this links directly to the original black and white image and there are some pretty interesting comments on the playground itself), and was taken in New York City on July 14, 1941. A few months ago I did a little vintage blog on how to make a nice old photo really look vintage. (See How to Add More Vintage Feel to An Old Photo blog.) (Also check out my Related Blogs below for how Calvin Hollywood uses Solid Color Adjustment Layers.) So here is the basic workflow on how to colorize your old images.
1. First I sharpened the image overall using Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Detail 3’s Overall Detail Light preset, but you can sharpen anyway you want. Do any major adjustments to the photo before starting the colorization process.
2. Select a Solid Color Adjustment Layer. Fill the layer mask with black by clicking on it and CTRL+I to fill with black.
3. Change the blend mode of the adjustment layer to Color and the layer opacity to 32%. Name it so you can tell quickly where it was used.
4. Suzette suggests starting to colorize with the skin first. Open up her Color Guide Faces in Photoshop. In the image click on the foreground swatch and then click in the guide and click on a skin tone to use in your image.
5. Go back to your image and double click on the Solid Color Adjust Layer color box in the Layer Panel which brings up the Color Picker. By dragging your cursor outside the Color Picker, it turns into an eyedropper to sample the Foreground Color in the swatch at bottom of the Toolbar. Your adjustment layer will now have the the skin tone color from the guide.
6. Click on the black mask and paint with a brush with a white (brush changes from the colors to black and white when painting in a layer mask). Set your brush to white and 12-30% brush opacity in the Property Bar and add a little hardness to the brush so you can get some fairly close edges. You will now see the color being painted on the skin area.
7. When finished with that color, duplicate the layer by CTRL+J. Now rename this layer to indicate the new area you will be working on and fill the layer mask with black again (CTRL+BACKSPACE in the mask). Go back to the Guide and choose another skin tone for the Foreground Color – back in your photo sample the Foreground color and start painting in white on the mask again.
It really is an easy process once you do it a couple of times. I created separate Solid Color Adjustments layers for each skin area, along with hair, dress color, background colors, etc. To keep everything straight, Groups were created (highlight the layers and press CTRL+G to group them) with those titles since there were 10 or 11 Solid Color Adjustments Layers in each group.
The nice thing about this technique is that it is easy to go back and change a color if it does not look right. By double clicking on the color swatch of the adjustment layer, you open the color picker where several different colors can be selected – a live update will show in your image as you hover over each color. This is a really easy way to add believable color to an image.
The rest of the image effect was created using a New Layer and doing some skin smoothing by sampling nearby colors to smooth some of the splotchiness, and by applying Nik Color Efex Pro’s Glamour Glow, Film Efex-Faded, Image Borders, and Brilliance/Warmth to get the final result. This image actually took quite a while to complete, but the localized colors in both the clothes and skin tones did create a nice result from a rather dull and cluttered black and white image.
Not all images work well for this type of technique – you just have to experiment to see how it looks. It can be a bit tedious to really get a good result, but overall it can really make your vintage images pop. It is fun to try and figure out what your long lost relative may have looked liked in color. Give this technique a try – works great on any type of image. I find I am really enjoying trying this out on my old photos. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How To Use A Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Smart Photo Editor Photoshop Plug-In