How to Colorize an Old Black & White Photograph

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to colorize a black and white photo into the above image.

Here I have a photograph of my grandmother taken when she was 16. It has a sepia cast which I’ll need to get rid of to do a proper colorization of this photo:

The first thing I’ll do is turn this photograph black & white. I’ll go to Image, Adjustments, Black & White:

The Black & White dialog box will open up. Since the photo is sepia, most of the sliders will do nothing. Just the red and yellow will make a difference. I’ll move the sliders to the right to lighten the photo just a little, then click OK:

The next thing I’ll do is make a new layer. This is the layer I’ll use to paint on. I’ll name this layer “Overalls” and I’ll make sure that I change the mode from Normal to Color:

Now I’ll pick a color from the color picker palette. I’ll choose a blue color for the overalls:

The next thing I’ll do is add a mask to the “Overalls” layer. I’ll click on the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette:

I used the mask to clean all around the overalls. Remember black reveals and white conceals when you’re painting with the mask:

Here’s the photograph so far:

I decided to lower the opacity of the blue overalls; this is how the layers palette looks at this point:

Now it’s time to add some skin color. This can be tricky and it’s a matter of taste. I’ll make a new layer like I did for the overalls and I’ll label it “Skin Color”. I’ll remember to change the mode from Normal to Color. I’ll pick a light brown color, and when I’m finished painting the skin I’ll just lower the opacity to give it a more realistic look:

Using the same method as above, I’ll make the hat and scarf yellow. Here’s what the layers palette should look like. It’s hard to see anything in the hat and skin layers because the colors are light. But they are there:

Here’s the finished photograph:

This post is dedicated to Katie. I hope this helps you.

7 thoughts on “How to Colorize an Old Black & White Photograph”

  1. Oh my goodness!!!!
    *cries tears of joy*

    Thanks alot and I will always see what new stuff you put on here!

    Thanks lots,

  2. hai
    presentl i’m learning graphic desining when i applied for the job they asked me about b/w to color convertion thaoug i have little idea u made my search more interesting thans a ton for this hope i do get the job immediately
    yours loving friend vineela

  3. thanks for helping me and all. I have easily become the class “brain” at Photoshop and its really fun helping everybody………..

    i think we could be good friends one day.

    thanks and love,
    katie aka

  4. I am now officially hooked on your blog! I don’t know how I found it (through some other blog) but I SURE AM GLAD I found this site. Will visit you very often, would you take small requests for tuts please?

  5. Thanks for your comments, Rupa. I will definitely take requests. If you need help with something, let me know.


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