lessons learned from colorizing a picture.

This was one of the first times that I have colorized an old B&W picture. This is what I have learned:

  1. It is hard to get skin tones right. My solution was to add a picture of myself and to use the color picker tool. Even then, I had to try several places on my face to get the right tone (it seems every pixel is slightly different).

  2. Eyes are hard to get right. That is, it is hard to colorize the face and then for the eyes to look right. I wound up putting the original B&W as the bottom layer with the faces on one of the highest layers. And then to make the eyes transparent on the colorized faces.

  3. Hair is hard to get right. That is, it is hard to colorize the face and then for the hair to look right. I wound up putting the hair (also eyebrows and moustaches) as the topmost layer. On this layer, I made everything except for the hair to be transparent. I darkened it a little too.

  4. In a few places, there was a dark color adjacent to a dark color. I had to use my imagination to determine where one figure ended and another began. In one case, I added a flower pattern dress where one did not exist, to add interest.

  5. Each particular color has it’s own layer. For each layer, I spent much time erasing what should not be colored. Later I learned to use Edit->Copy to copy smaller areas from the B&W layer and paste in place to a transparent layer. This is much easier.

  6. I wound up with 15 layers. I moved them around many times in an attempt to determine where smudges were coming from. I learned to add numbers in the layer attributes so that I could put them back into the desired order.

  7. The bride’s bouquet was not especially clear in the pictures. I wound up adding some pictures of flowers from the internet. The bride preferred hydrangeas, so I added some. And for interest I colored the groom’s tie to match the flower.

  8. Part of the background was a black void into the church. I did not like that, so I got a picture from a similar church and made it somewhat visible.

  9. Its very easy to lose track of which layer has focus. Many, many times, I used the eraser/airbrush on the wrong layer. Ctrl/Z to undo is my best (non-human) friend. I also learned to make duplicates of layers in case I made too many errors and had to revert to an older version.

  10. There were a few people in the dark and I just could not get the color right, so I just removed them (sorry).

  11. The original picture was not particularly clear, but the result was still surprisingly satisfying.

Here are the before and after pictures.


I think you did a nice job & thanks for sharing!

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Nice job. I have done similar my self. Takes lots of layers and patience. Makes me wonder how they turn B/W movies into color.


An excellent result!

A few years ago I was asked to write a tutorial to explain how I had coloured a photograph.
I have attached the tutorial in case it suggests ways to make the process (slightly!) easier.
The lessons I learnt were to name all the layers and channels to avoid confusion and to “steal” colours from other photographs - particularly for skin and eyes.

desat_col_cast.pdf (81.9 KB)

However, colouring a photograph will never be quick or easy!

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