After the image has been chosen, be it a scanned print or B&W negative, open the file, then click Image, Duplicate. The original can then be closed down. Next, click Image, Mode. Check to see if ‘RGB Colour’ is ticked, if not do this now. This allows colour to be painted onto the image.
At this stage we now have an image to work on. This can be saved now as a PSD file & renamed. i.e. “Colourized B&W Image”. I find doing this now makes it easier to find the file & avoids possible confusion with any other copies of that image.
The first step I carry out is to repair any damage & clean up any dust marks or ‘specks’. Time spent doing this well will give a good clean ‘canvas’ on which to add the colourization. Mainly, I make use of the Spot Healing Brush Tool. Its icon is a sticking plaster over a marquee circle. I usually set the brush size to just bigger than the blemish to be repaired. Mode: Normal. Type: Content Aware. These attributes can be seen in the top tool bar, just below File, Edit, Image, etc. The attributes for any active tool will be found here.
I find that zooming in to 200%, or more, helps when cleaning up any images. But don’t zoom in too far, or the image will start to pixellate & then it will become harder to discern any blemishes etc. Work around the image methodically, clicking Save every so often. This is a good habit to get into. I learned the hard way!
After the cleaning up phase has been completed, check over the image again. There will be the odd blemish that got missed, for sure. Save the file at this point, when this stage is completed.
Now the fun part. Colourization. This is done on layers, not on the image itself.
With the cleaned image open, click on Layer, New Layer. A small menu will open. It is prudent to rename this layer now, i.e. “Man’s Hair”, as there can be many layers used to fully colourize an image. The Mode should be set to Colour.
We can now paint in an appropriate colour for the part of the image we are dealing with, for example the man’s hair. Zoom into the part of the image to be colourized. Choose a brush of an appropriate size, with Hardness set to zero. Click on the colour swatch & then choose a colour that you want to use. To make things easier for myself, I tend to find a colour image that I can choose the colour from. For instance I might want blonde hair on the man. I find an image from my computer or on-line with hair of the approximate colour I want. Then I use the Eye Dropper tool to select the hair colour. If this method is used, set the Eye Dropper sample size to something like a 5x5 average.
After the colour has been selected reselect the brush. In the top tool bar set the brush attributes to Mode: Colour. Opacity 50%. Flow 100%. Also click on the little Airbrush icon. The opacity figure is nominal, it can be more or less, depending on the effect required. Clicking on the Airbrush icon allows for subtle strokes of colour. E.g. if the mouse is held in one position & the left mouse button is pressed a ‘pool’ of colour will be produced, getting more intense the longer the button is pressed. However, keeping the mouse moving, with the left button pressed, gives a ‘stroke’ of colour. Intensity of that colour is governed by how fast or slow the mouse is moved. Experimentation is the key.
In the example, when the man’s hair has been painted in, that doesn’t have to be the end. If you are not entirely satisfied with the colour of the hair, it can be changed by clicking on Image, Adjustments. Within the drop down menu can be found ways of changing the brightness, hue, saturation, etc. of the colour painted onto the image.
However, if you are satisfied with the results, it is time to click on Layer, New Layer again and choose the next part of the image to colourize.
Carry on in this way until the whole image is colourized to your satisfaction, using a new layer for each item to be coloured & remembering to save your progress at regular intervals.
When the work is finished, there may be many layers on top of the base image. Click on Layer, Flatten Image. This has the effect of collapsing all layers onto one sheet. At this point the colourization is ‘fixed’. Because of this the flattened image should be saved as something else. So click Save As, rename the file, i.e. “Colourized B&W Image, Finished”. The file can also be saved as something other than a PSD file. Maybe a TIFF, or JPEG. Now close the layered image, but when the menu pops up to ask if to Save Changes, click “No”.
At this point, a border may be added to the finished image. To do this open the file “Colourized B&W Image, Finished”. In other words, the flattened image & not the layered one.
Adding a border is a simple matter of increasing the canvas size.
So with the image open click on Image, Canvas Size. A menu appears & within this you will see an ‘Anchor’. Make sure the dot is in the centre square. If it’s not, click on the centre square to remedy this. Make sure the ‘Canvas Extension Colour’ at the bottom of the menu is set to white. This will give us a white border. Then in the Width & Height boxes type in something like 0.5, with the units set to inches. Click Ok. You will see a white border has been added to the image. If this is too wide, or too narrow, just click Edit, Undo Canvas Size, and carry out the above again, increasing or decreasing the width & height measurement.
The image is complete & ready to print or share. It can be resized etc. to suit.
If you need to change anything on the image: colour, tone, brightness, contrast etc. it’s a simple matter of opening the Layered image, selecting the layer that needs adjusting & carrying out the relative actions. Remember to save the newly adjusted image as something different as this will protect the layered image.
The image I used can be seen below. From 'start image', to 'cleaned image', to the completed 'colourized image'.
Click on the individual images to see a larger version.