Colorize Black and White Photos

Last time I talked about Photoshop’s Multiply Mode and gave an example of how to use it to color line drawings. Here, I’ll show you how you can use Multiply mode to colorize black and white photos.

I’ll start with this gorgeous black and white photo that I downloaded from office.microsoft.com/clipart (the actual downloaded image is at higher resolution than this):

First, I’ll color the hair. I add a new layer above the photo, set it to multiply mode, and start painting away at her hair. I’ll make her blond by using different shades of light yellow, gold, and brown. (I use the lightest yellow in the natural “highlight” areas of the photo.) In the diagram below, you can see the layer in normal mode and also in multiply mode. The layer is also set at an opacity of 80%.

Next, her skin. I made another layer, set it to multiply mode, and airbrushed different shades of peach and pink until I thought it kind of looked normal.

Because I was a little sloppy with the airbrush, I added a layer mask to clean up some of the edges:

Finally, I added yet another layer and painted on different shades of blue — again, the layer was set to multiply mode.

And here’s my final result:

That took me about 10 minutes (the skin took the longest). If I were being paid for this project, I would probably duplicate the photo layer and play with changing the black/white using the hue/saturation dialog box to give the shadows more color. But then again, this is a free demo. So, enjoy!

(download the example. psd)

Next week I’ll get back to discussing more blending modes of Photoshop…

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  • http://www.dvd-software.info hurricane_sh

    Very nice, the color of the face is perfect.

  • http://www.digitalamit.com/ Amit

    Nice! Net trick!

  • http://www.perezdesigngroup.com PerezDesignGroup

    Sweet. The very best tutorial I have found on this topic can be found at http://www.pixeladdiction.com/bb/tutorials.php?aid=7&page=1&topic= by Silkenfairy. It’s geared towards professionals and PaintShop Pro but can be easily applied to Photoshop as well.

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/ mmj

    The problem with using the ‘multiply’ mode this way is that you’re making the picture darker as you color it – you are reducing the total light.

    In this situation the ‘color’ mode should be used instead. This allows you to colorize the image (modify its hue and saturation) without modifying its brightness component.

    ‘Multiply’ mode is more suited to drawing shadows on your image as it simulates light filtering through a translucent substance, and it can decrease the light but never increase it.

    Here’s my attempt at finishing it (I can’t get the mother’s face to look right).

  • sgrosvenor

    Now that’s a damn nice tip Corrie!!!

  • KC

    Beautiful! This is one of those tuts I love experimenting with. Thanks! :)

  • stephanie bettler

    this is awsome

  • someone

    use CMYK mode and curves adjustment layers with masks. that gives you more control and you don’t pick a solid colour that you paint on everything.

  • bob lee

    Yes but this is a lot of work..Blackmagic does a better and faster job
    http://www.black-and-white-to-color.com

  • Anonymous

    best and most useful. this one allows you to have total control over your picture, unlike blackmagic, i tried that and it didn’t work too well for me.

  • Rocoso

    very nice dude im gonna be rich now! thanks