Coloring Black and White Pictures in Photoshop

If you have any black and white pictures, you can convert them to colored images with Photoshop. Although black and white photos have a certain look, you can also make a copy of the image in color. Here is a non-destructive technique that uses various layers to color a black and white portrait photo.

Step 1: Open the Black and White Photo in Photoshop

After initializing Photoshop, click on File and select Open to browse to your black and white image file. Click OK.

Step 2: Create a New Layer of Solid Color

Since this is a non-destructive method of adding color, you need to create a layer where you can adjust the color levels later. For this, go to the Layer's pallet and click on the button for "New Adjustment Layer" and select "Solid Color" from the drop down list. This will open a box where you are prompted to choose a color from a swatch. Since you're dealing with a portrait, choose a color which is nearest to the skin color like a shade of orange. 

Step 3: Blend Mode

For getting an overall orange tint, go to the blend mode in the layer's pallets and select Color. This makes the layer below the adjustment layer get affected with the color.

Step 4: Activate the Layer Mask and Remove the Color from Certain Areas

In the layer's pallet, click on the thumbnail with an outline of white, and the layer mask will get activated. From the toolbar, select Eraser and start removing the color from areas which is other than the skin. If you mistakenly erase color from the skin area, use the Brush from the tool bar to repaint that area. Set the brush hardness to more than 50.

Step 5: Create Multiple Layers

For each type of color you need for specific areas, create separate Solid Color layers by following Step 2 and 3. For example, create a red Solid Color layer for the lips, a separate one for the color of the eyes and so on. Although this may seem a longer process, compared to the one which uses a single layer, this technique gives you much more flexibility of changing the color tones and retouching the image whenever you want. Using multiple layer masks is also more precise and gives you much more control.

Step 6: Adjusting the Color levels

The colors you will have on the image now will be quite vibrant and garish. To adjust the saturation, double-click on the color thumbnail in the layer's palette. Now change the saturation and make it lighter to the level it looks natural. Similarly do the same for all Solid Color layers. You can finally change the hue level to get the perfect skin tone in the layer mask for the skin color.

Step 7: Save

Once you are satisfied with all the color levels of your various layer masks, you can save you work.