Hand Color Your Photograph in Photoshop

When I first started work in photography my favorite thing was to hand color my black and white photos with Marshall Oils. Now everything is digital and I figured there has got to be a way to do it in Photoshop. I played around and this is the way I figured out how to do it.

To practice I took one of my old black and white photographs I already had uploaded on my computer and put it into Photoshop. 

You can also pick a color image and turn it into black and white. If you have an image that is color got to Image- Mode- Gray Scale. This will turn it into black and white, then Image-Mode- RGB so you can add color. If you already have a black and white image just change it back to RGB.

Next you want to create a copy of the background of your image.  Look down on the right hand corner where there is a small image of your full size pic that is labeled Background. Click and drag this layer to the little icon that looks like a folded over paper. This will create a duplicate layer of your background that you can edit.  Once you have created the duplicate layer and that layer is highlighted change the opacity.  I set mine at 33%. This is just above the layers and to the right you can just change the number or use the slider.  This will allow you to still see the image under the color.

Next you’ll want to set up your first color. I started with green for the bushes. (Remeber to always make sure you are working on the layer copy.) On the left hand side there are two color squares on top of each other diagonally. The top color is the color you are working in. Double click on the top and it will bring up a color pick screen. Roll your mouse around until you find a color you would like to use and then click ok.

Next I selected the paint bucket tool, which is in the left hand side tool bar (may be hidden under the gradient tool which is the rectangle with the lines of different colors). Then I just clicked the image where I wanted the color to go.  You should start to see slight color over the image (remember it won’t be complete coverage because of the opacity). Don’t worry if the color goes some place you don’t want it to, it’s very easy to erase. As you can see when I started adding green it went into the bottom part of the photo.

Once I finished with the green I clicked on the eraser tool in the left hand side tool box and just clicked over everything I didn’t want green.

Once I erased all the green it’s time to select the second color.  I picked a brown for the mulch at the bottom of the photograph.  Using the same steps to pick the green I found a brown. Once I picked the color I repeated the same steps I used for the green.

Once you have the image the way you like it, save it! Save the .psd file, this way you can always go back and edit the original file. I also flatten the image and save it as a .jpg. This is an easy format to print.

Hopefully, this will be helpful to you in creating new looks to old photographs.

Heidi Kelly


3 Responses to “Hand Color Your Photograph in Photoshop”

  1. Tanna Paradis

    This is great Heidi. I’ve always wanted to know how to do this!

  2. Allison

    Wow, great pictures and easy to follow directions! I think that would be fun to try!

  3. lilithsapothecary

    This is such a great post! I have photoshop but never use it b/c I have no idea what I’m doing. I would love to try this out!

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