As you all know, we are currently pushing ourselves here at Fstoppers HQ to produce 30 videos for the month of January. Patrick Hall didn't want me to miss out on the fun, so he challenged me to recolor an image. Not an old black and white one, but an image he took with our new Nikon D850. Want to give it a try too? You could win a free tutorial if you've got what it takes to colorize an image.
Most of you know we are located in the southern part of the states, so it's a pretty big deal that we got snow these past few days (Charleston, South Carolina doesn't get snow, like, ever — leave us alone Northerners). Patrick went out and shot during the Snowpocalypse of 2018 and then challenged me to recolor a photo he desaturated. Again, there's snow in Charleston; I can think of quite a few things I would rather be doing, but I couldn't back down from a challenge from Patrick.
Just kidding, I was ecstatic to do this. Colorizing images is easily one of my favorite things to do, so I jumped at the chance to not answer emails for a couple hours and see if I could get my image at least close to looking like Patrick's. That was the second layer of the challenge for me: I did not see Patrick's color image and I chose colors based on the tonality of the image.
This video isn't a tutorial per se, but a few tips and tricks to how I personally colorize images. Like I mention in the video, there are tons of different ways to do this, but to begin, download Patrick's image and open in Photoshop. Sometimes with older black and white images, you'll want to heal and fix any scratches or damaged parts of the photos, but since this image was taken with the Nikon D850, we are going to jump right into the recolor.
I generally use three different blending modes: Color, Overlay, or Soft Light. You can mix and match the modes too, it just depends on the color and how realistic it looks. I generally use the Color mode for darker colors and Soft Light for lighter, but this isn't a rule at all, and there will be some darker colors that look better in Soft Light, and vice versa. Colorizing can be quite subjective. Do you use a different blend mode? Let me know in the comments below.
I like to start with skin first because it's usually the most tricky to look realistic, then I move to the clothing, then the background. Again, six one way, half a dozen the other. You can then change the opacity, and even add more colors on top to make a different color and see how they interact. I usually do base colors, then go back once the image is mostly edited to fill in details. The details can get pretty time consuming so it's a great excuse to tell your friends "I'm busy" and remain an introvert on your computer.
Also, for each color, I like to make a new layer and copy and paste the hex code (e.g., FFFFFF = white) into the title of the layer so I can remember what color family and tone to choose from when layering. Editing with layers is generally a good idea since it's non-destructive, and if you don't like something later down the road it's easy to delete that layer. I prefer to use the brush tool and pretend I am actually painting, but I have seen plenty of people use quick select and fill to start with the base colors. It really is up to you and how you prefer to edit.
And that's really all she wrote. It's that simple. If you want more in-depth ideas, I would suggest watching the video below. Jorge Tamez's video on how to colorize is an awesome step by step; he even goes so far as to talk about color casting. Talk about dedication. Be sure to check out the rest of his channel for some great editing tips as well.
If you're like me and really enjoy doing this just for fun, I would suggest checking out these subreddits to get practice images. One of my favorites is /r/OldSchoolCool; not every image is black and white, but you will come across some really great images, plus the color images will help you get an idea of how color looked back in the day. A subreddit that might make you cry from the pure talent is /r/Colorization, and sometimes people will throw you a few bones in the /r/ColorizationRequests. A bonus link is just to the hilarious /r/PicRequests, where people ask for ridiculous Photoshop help, but sometimes it's good practice and it's another subreddit where members might also pay you to edit an image.
Remember if you submit your take on this image in the comments, we will be choosing three winners for your choice of an Fstoppers tutorial, go check out your options at Fstoppers Store.
So how do you all think I did? Rip me a new one if you think I messed up or if there are glaring mistakes. I always love to read comments! Again here is a comparison of Patrick's color image and my recolor. I think the place I should have spent more time was the skin, definitely needs some more red tones. This took me just over two hours to edit.
Be sure to like this video if you enjoyed it, and if you didn't I'm sure you're going to leave a comment anyway. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to follow along with our 30 for 30 this month, and if you have a Photoshop technique or other ideas for videos you'd like to see, leave a comment below.
I am so impressed with everyone's entries! We looked through and selected the three we liked the best, here are your winners: