Add Color to Any B&W photo

Have a black & white photo that you’d like to convert into color? With a few simplified steps using Photoshop, I can show you exactly how to do that. I know everyone enjoyed coloring as a child and this process will be almost similar. We won’t be using crayons though.

What You Need

  1. Graphic editing software (preferably Photoshop)
  2. B&W photo (any size)
  3. About an hour

How To Do It

In this tutorial, I used Adobe Photoshop CS5 (you can use earlier versions), but most graphics software these days will have a similar set of tools you can utilize. What you’ll be needing most is the ability to work with layers and have some sort of blending options. Throughout the tutorial I’ll be referring specifically to Photoshop.

Here’s the before and after of the image I worked with, an old barn in a field. If you don’t have a particular B&W image you’d like to use, I recommend starting out with a picture that contains a minimal amount of complex details. Just something simple like a portrait or a landscape scene will be ideal until you get the hang of things.

[beforeafter]beforeafter[/beforeafter]

Step 1. Getting started

Open your picture in Photoshop.



Create a new layer. Name that layer “Frames” and then set the layer blending option to Color. We’re going to start coloring the door and window frames first.

Step 2. Setting up the colors and coloring the frames

Below is the color palette I used. You can save this image from this page and open it in Photoshop to just sample the colors as you go. Select the color for the frames (#988155) from your Color Picker on the toolbar (or sample it from the image below when in Photoshop).



Choose your Paint Brush tool (shortcut key “b”), then select your “Frames” layer. Now the coloring fun starts. Just start coloring the door and window frames with a brush size you feel comfortable using. You might need to zoom in to make sure you color the right area. Don’t worry if you color outside the lines. You can always go back and erase or add to it later. Hold off on coloring the roof, we’ll do that in a moment.

Your image should look like the one below:


Step 3. Coloring the Barn

Now create a new layer and name it “Barn”. Select the appropriate color (#a29579) for the base of the barn and make sure the layer blending options is set to Color. Now start to color the base of the barn.


Step 4. Coloring the Roof

Create another new layer and name it “Roof”. Select the color (#795516) for the roof and again set the layer blending options to Color. Paint the roof.


Step 5. Coloring the Trees

Add another new layer and name it “Trees”. Select the color (#25321d) for the trees and set the layer blending options to Color. Notice a theme here? Basically, having the layer blending options set to Color, will let you paint over anything and the color absorbs over the image without disrupting the luminosity. Now paint the trees in the background.


Step 6. Coloring the Grass

Create another new layer and name it “Grass”. Select the color (#cdc489) for the grass (I know it’s a beige looking color, but it’s summer and the grass isn’t looking too green). Set your “Grass” layer blending options to Color. Paint the grass.


Step 7. Coloring the Sky

One last thing to color, the sky. Create another new layer and name it “Sky”. Select the color (#143b7c) for the sky and before you start coloring, set your layer to Color. Paint the sky.


Step 8. Clean up the layers

To help see where the edges of each layer ends, change your layer blending options to Normal. Here’s what it looks like with all the layers selected in the Normal blending mode, but you can hide the layers you’re not working with to get a better idea where you need to paint.



As you can see, my coloring wasn’t perfect, but it gives you an idea of how the process works. Now from here, try adjusting the colors or start a new project on your own.
 
 
Download PSD file: