Bringing Color Back into Black & White, from Original Color Photo

Above is the result of this tutorial.

Here’s an image that I took of a horse at Muscoot Farm in Westchester. In this example I’m going to make the image black and white and then bring the horse back to color.

Now I’m going to make a copy of the background layer. So I hit CTRL-J on the keyboard. Then the copy layer will say Layer 1. I always name the layers. This way when I have a lot of layers in a big project I won’t get confused. I’ll double click the word “Layer 1” to rename it. Here, I’ll name this layer “Horse”:


The next thing I’ll do is put a mask on this layer, so that I can paint the color right back into the horse easily. I’ll click on the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette:

Next, I’ll make sure that the image of the horse is selected in the layer to make the image black & white:

Ok, now I’m ready to make the image black & white. I’ll go to Image on the menu at the top of the screen, and drop down the menu. I’ll then select Adjustments / Black & White:

In this case, when I change the image to black and white I’m not going to worry about how the horse comes out. I’ll be bringing the horse back to color. I’m just going to concentrate on the background. I want to make the background as dark and dramatic as possible. Here are the settings I used, not worrying about the horse at all. Then I click OK:

Now I’ll click on the mask to make it active:

Here’s the image in process. I usually start at the center and work my way out. I take my time and zoom in to the outer edges of an object so that I can see the details when I work. Remember, painting with black reveals and painting with white conceals:

Sometimes it helps to see exactly what the mask is doing. You can hold the ALT key on your keyboard and click on the mask at the same time to see the mask in action. Hold the ALT key and click on the mask icon again to bring it back to its original state:

Here’s the finished image:

Have fun!

11 thoughts on “Bringing Color Back into Black & White, from Original Color Photo”

  1. I’m sorry, but Lorri Freedman, your stuff really didn’t help me. I was trying to colorize pictures for EAST, and that wasn’t working. But, I do have to admit, the stuff you did to the horse was cool. I’m only in the seventh grade LOL and I think that I like photography as much as you do. Thanks for teaching me how to do that and all, but I really needed to learn something different, like how to make the perfect skin color, and that kind of thing to really old pics. Thanks,Lorri!
    Thank you,
    Katie, aka

  2. Guess what!?!?!?!
    Katie’s back and she is ready to kick some Photoshop butt!! LOL
    Thanks for the tips Ms. Lorri Freedman!!!!

    Katie, aka

  3. Thanks for making that new thingy, Ms. Lorri! I really need a good grade in this class!!

    Thanks lots,
    Katie, aka

  4. Thankyou so much, It took me all of about two trys and I was able to figure it out. I’m having so much fun that I’m going to be up all night playin with my pictures…..

  5. I think it is easy to make b&w picture in colors when you have already the original in colors.It will be really great when we can identify the original colors on a thru black and white photograph like those developped in the 19e Century.
    The measurments can be based on the things that we know the colors and that not change until today.Like Sky,Sea, green areas like threes etc..We can not see or imagine the other colors, but can read it on written documentations like books etc0

  6. i have three books here that tell how to return color into a black and white picture. They are totally confusing and i couldn’t figure it out. So i got on line, found this tutorial and immediately understood the process. Thank you for being so clear…… for us minds with A.D.D. ((:

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