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Colorize a Black and White Photo

How to Colorize a Black & White Photo in Photoshop

by Alexandra Bateman on Sep 10, 2023

Do you want to add colors to your vintage black and white photos? Sometimes you have a black and white image that needs color. In this article, we will show you how to colorize a black and white photo in Photoshop.

How to Colorize a Black and White Photo

Of course, you must first open your image in Photoshop. If you don’t have it yet, you can get Photoshop here from Adobe’s site here. Their Creative Cloud Plans includes Lightroom and other super helpful software for only $9.99/month.

Make sure to download the newest version of Photoshop so that you can more easily follow along with this tutorial.

Next, go to Image » Mode » CMYK Color to convert your image into CMYK color.

CMYK Color

Then, select the Adjustments panel at the right side of your Photoshop screen and add the Curves adjustment layer. I’ll rename this layer “Skin” by double clicking on the layer name in the Layers panel.

If you don’t see your Adjustments panel docked on your right-hand toolbar, simply go to Window » Adjustments from the top menu in Photoshop.

Add Curves

In the CMYK drop-down that appears after you select to apply your Curves adjustment, select Cyan. You can adjust the curve to manipulate the cyan saturation in the image. I’ve set my Input to 50 and Output to 30, because those values work best on my image. Keep in mind that your Input and Output values may differ depending on your photo.

Curves Settings

After adjusting the Cyan levels, you should adjust the Yellow levels from the same CMYK drop-down. Adjust the yellows curve until you’re happy with the yellow saturation. For my image, I settled on an Input value of 50 and an Output value of 53.

Yellow Curve Settings

Next, choose Magenta from the CMYK dropdown. Adjust the magenta curve in the same way that you did the yellow and cyan curves.

Magenta Curve Settings

Now, click on Curves adjustment layer in the Layers panel and apply a Layer Mask. Then, select Invert in the adjustment layer when you paint on the mask. Make sure to select Invert in the the adjustment layer when painting on the layer mask.

Select the Brush Tool from the Toolbar and set the foreground color to black. Then, brush over the skin of your model to reveal the colorized skin you created. Be sure to zoom into the photo to achieve perfect edges.

Brush Tool

Once you are done with the skin, you can now repeat the same process to colorize other parts of your image. You can also use Curves to tweak any naturally black or white parts of the photo, including the hair, eyes and highlights and shadows.

In this photo, we used Curves adjustments to colorize the eyes, hair, lips, jewelry and background in the photograph. We also added an additional layer to adjust the lips. Make sure to create a new Curves adjustment layer each time you colorize a new portion of the photo — and label them!

Color Lips

That’s all! You can see this before and after comparison below:

Colorize a Black and White Photo

The great thing about using Curves adjustment layers to colorize your photos is that you can give your photo any color tint you want. We chose a deeper, greener hue for this edit, but you could try something warmer, or apply a more natural edit.

We hope this article has helped you to learn how to colorize a black and white photo in Photoshop. You may also want to check out our guide on how to add a vintage Black and White effect in Photoshop.

Here are some of our other popular articles that may interest you:

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    1. Thanks so much for adding that crucial part about inverting the adjustment layer in regards to the layer mask painting step! I was driving myself bananas trying to figure out why my “brushing” was basically like erasing the parts of the layer mask.

  1. I asked it was possible to change black and white photos to colour.
    The information you offered was very clear and I feel confident to
    use photoshop to assist me to do the conversion.

    Thank you very much, I am so looking forward to may first attempt.
    I shall of cause comment on my results.

  2. “Now you should click on the layer mask of the Skin layer in the Layers panel. Make sure to select Invert in the the adjustment layer when painting on the layer mask.”

    What Skin Layer? What layer mask???

    Are we supposed to add a Skin layer?

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