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Colourising Black & White Photos


Wednesday, 11 June 2014 00:00

Colourising Black & White Photos

I was reading an article a while ago about how artists are now 'converting' old black and white photos to colour by colouring them in Photoshop and some of the examples I've seen are truly stunning. One of my particular favourite artists is Swedens Sanna Dullaway who famously coloured various photos of historic people in history from Abraham Lincoln to Anne Frank. I am a huge fan of black and white photography and so was a little sceptical at the idea of adding colour as often it's the ommission of colour that makes the photograph work in the first place. However I am also deeply interested in history and the ability to 'see' the world in colour long before colour film existed was a very interesting concept. So I thought I'd give it a go myself.

I should say first that I am no expert, far from it, and cannot compare myself to people like Sanna Dullaway. I just wanted to give it a go to see how hard or easy it was and what results I could achieve with relatively basic skills in Photoshop.

I'm not going to give a detailed tutorial on how to colour photos, suffice to say that if you google it you will find hundreds of different methods. What I will say is that I've tried a few different methods and found that this one gave me the best results without being too complex. However I found that I got better results converting the photo to CMYK instead of RGB. I just found that RGB lacked finesse. I also found that I personally found it easier to use masks rather than painting the colour but often you need to use both methods.

As I say, I'm certainly not an expert, but one thing I noticed that a lot of 'beginners' do is to simply use a single colour for each element they are colourising. This results in a unnatural feel to the photo as in the real world nothing is a constant shade of the same colour. Take a look at your own hands, the skin around your knuckles will be redder than the surrounding skin as will the skin around your fingernails, the blue of your veins will show through in places and the skin itself will be made up of several different shades mottled together. If you can apply these things to your photos, easier said than done realistically, then more natural and lifelike they will become.

I've only done a couple of photos so far which can be viewed below. For a first attempt they aren't too bad and just go to show what can be achieved with a little bit of Photoshop knowledge and some free time.

Read 7191 times Last modified on Wednesday, 11 June 2014 21:49
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