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.

How to Replace the Sky with Quick Mask Using Photoshop

Here is the end result of this tutorial:

Here I have a photo of the Portland Headlight in Maine. It’s a nice photo, but I think the sky is a little dull and bland. I’m going to add a new sky to this photo; one with clouds to make it more interesting. Here is the original photo:

The first thing I’ll do is select the sky with the Quick Mask tool. I’ll click on the Quick Mask and then I’ll click on the paint brush tool. The color of the brush will be pinkish; that’s the color of the Mask:

I’ll take my time selecting the sky. Most of it is easy. I’ll just have to clean up some small details around the house and the light itself. Zoom in close if you have to and make the brush small for little details. Keep the brush at 100% opacity. It will be worth it in the end:

Here it is in the process. Remember, white reveals and black conceals. Go back and forth between the black and white color pickers to touch up small details:

Now that the Quick Mask is selected, I’ll click on the Quick Mask icon to get out of the Quick Mask mode:

Here’s the selection after exiting Quick Mask mode:

Now I’ll choose a photo of a sky filled with clouds to use as my new sky:

With the photo of the sky open and selected, I’ll do a Select All from the menu at the top of the screen:

Then I’ll go to Edit / Copy:

Next I’ll go to the photo of the lighthouse, select it and then I’ll go to Edit / Paste Into:

Now the new sky is in the photo of the lighthouse. If I don’t like the position of the sky I can always move it with the Move tool:

Here is what the Layers Palette looks like:

Here’s the finish photo:

Tip: whenever you see a beautiful sky, just take a picture of it without anything else in the picture. You never know when you’ll need a sky for one of your photos. Have fun!

Simple Way to Get Rid of Noise using Photoshop

Above is a photo of a black cap chick that I took the other day. It was very overcast and the lighting wasn’t good at all, but I decided to take the shot anyway. It’s very grainy because I had the ISO on my camera set to 800 and the lighting conditions were poor.

What I’ll do is hit CTRL-J on my keyboard to make a duplicate layer. It will be called “Layer 1″. Just double click on the word and change it to whatever you’re working on. I’m going to call my layer “Bird”.

The next thing I’ll do is go to Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur.

The dialog box for the Gassian Blur will come up. You don’t need to get crazy with the blur, unless you have a lot of distractions in the background. In this case, I just want to get rid of the noise behind the bird where it’s most obvious. Here I set the blur to 4.0. When you’ve decided how much blur is good for your photo, then click OK.

Now it’s time to put a mask on the “Bird” layer. Using the mask will make it easier to bring back the sharpness into the bird and still keep the noiseless background untouched.

I’ll then click on the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette. You’ll see the mask box appear in the “Bird” layer.

Now all I have to do is paint back the parts of the photo that should be sharp. Make sure that you click on the mask box in the layer to make it active. You’ll see a border go around the small white box when it’s active.

I’ll start painting with a black brush to bring out the original image. If you make a mistake and paint the wrong thing, no problem. Switch to the white brush to bring back the blurred layer.

Don’t forget you have total control over the brush. You can lower the “Opacity” of the brush while you’re working. Then you can bring back some of the original image. For example, when I brought back the branch the bird is standing on, I used 50% opacity. The main focus is the bird. I don’t want a blurry branch, but at the same time I don’t want the graininess of the branch to pull the viewers eye away from the bird.

The opacity brush is located on the tool bar at the top of your screen when you are using the brush.

When you are finished you can save the layers as a .psd file, or you can flatten the layer by going to Layer, Flatten Image.

Here are the before and after images. You don’t want what you’ve done to be obvious; you want it to be subtle. If you overdo the blur, your photo will looked worked on and you don’t want that.

Here I zoomed in closer to the backgrounds so that you can see the difference between the before and after. You can definitely see the difference between the two. The original photo on the top is very grainy and the fixed one under it isn’t grainy.

Try this with some of your photos and see how it works for you.

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!

Creating a Black Background using Photoshop

Above is the final result of this tutorial.

Here is a photo of a brown bear that I took at the Bronx Zoo. I think he came out interesting, but I think that the rocks in the background are a little distracting. I could blur them, or I could turn the background black. In this case I’ll make the background black and see how it comes out.

The first thing I do is drop the image into Photoshop:

The next thing I do is create a new layer. Hit CTRL-J on the keyboard. You’ll see in the layer palette Layer 1. I’m going to double-click on the word (Layer 1) and rename it to “Bear”. It’s always a good idea to name your layers even though in this case I’ll be using only one:

The next thing I’ll do is start painting the background black. For this I’m going to use the paint brush from the tools palette. Make sure the color black is selected and is in the foreground of the color box:

Don’t worry about making a sloppy selection. Just try to get out as much background as you can. In my selection I even chopped off the bear’s ears. No big deal. The next step will fix this problem.

The next thing you’ll do is create a mask. Just click on the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette and you’ll see the mask box appear in the top layer labeled “Bear”:

Before you start painting back parts of the bear, it’s important to see what you’re doing. In the layers palette go to the Opacity and bring it down enough to see through the image. For this image, 60% looks good.

Next, make sure the mask is selected on the bear layer and start painting. Zoom in close to the object and take your time. Black reveals and white conceals. You have to switch back and forth by clicking on the double arrow, and you’ll see the boxes switching back and forth between white and black. Test it with the paintbrush back and forth between black and white to see the results:


  • When you’re painting back the main subject, lower the opacity of the brush itself around the edges, especially if the subject has fur.
  • Use a soft paint brush, it will allow you to make seamless brush strokes. A hard brush will give the appearance of harsh brush strokes and you don’t want that.
  • Keep going back and forth with the opacity from the layers palette to see how you’re doing.
  • Remember: Anything worth your time is worth doing right, so take your time and listen to music while you’re working. Rushing through a project will look rushed through. A project like this might seem tedious. If you get tired, take a break. And always remember, as long as you’re happy with your work then life is good.

Here’s the finished image:


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