Choosing a base image is important. Don't choose an image that's too pixelated or blurred. Your image should also have a good range of contrasts in it, and a number of objects that should be different colors. Copy your image into Photoshop and change the Image Mode to RGB.
Duplicate the base layer. This is going to be your first color. Start with the color with the most area. In this case, it would be the skin of the model. To get a good sampling of color, we need to locate an image that has similar content and darkness levels. Here I've chosen a picture of a woman in a similar dark setting. Using the eyedropper, pick up a mid-tone. That means we're looking for the tone between the brightest and darkest points. Here, it would be on the apples of her cheeks. After picking up that color with the eyedropper, open the palette and copy the hex number for that color, you'll need it later. Now we want our edge tones. Pick up a dark tone from the image (not black, you want color), then rotate your color palette and pick up a highlight color.
Ok, now we've got our range of colors, all we need to do is apply it. Make the layer of the image you sampled from invisible, we might need it for another color later, but for now it's in the way. Go back to your duplicate layer of the black and white image. To apply the tones, we need a Gradient Map. This changes the tones of an image to match a gradient (hopefully you know what a gradient is). The Gradient Map will automatically adjust the image to the colors in your palette. If the image looks like a negative, check "Reverse" to swap them. We could stop here and have a nice tone, but it's only duotone. What's going to really make our image stand out is adding that third middle tone. Click on the gradient bar and an edit window opens. At the bottom of that window is our gradient. We're going to click in the middle of that gradient to add a point, then change the color of that point to the hex of the mid-tone we captured earlier. Apply that gradient to our image and we've got a good range of tones. But they're not matched to the contrast of our original image. What we need to do now is change the mode of our colored layer to "Overlay" to paste it onto our black and white below. And viola! Our image is colored to our tones. From here, you can Adjust the Hue/Saturation of the toned layer to get a better color (you never pick up just the right colors the first time :)But wait, the whole image is toned!
This is the easiest masking you will ever do. First we need to apply a mask to our colored layer. We do that by clicking the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette. Click on the mask that appears on that layer. Your color palettes will turn to black and white, that's because masks work by levels of transparency; the white is 100% opacity, black is totally transparent, shades represent levels between. The first thing we're going to do is take the Paint Bucket and fill our mask with black. Poof! All the color is gone. To get it back, we switch to the color white, grab our paint brush, and draw in the mask window wherever we want color. It's that easy. And viola! We have color exactly where we want it and nowhere else: Doesn't look like much now, but we're getting there.
Applying the second color is just as easy as applying the first. We're going to start by duplicating our original black and white image layer and then dragging it over our colorized layer; this lets us keep a better eye on what we're doing now. This next layer is going to be the blue in the flowers. The first thing I'm going to do is look for a picture of blue flowers to sample from (sound familiar?).After sampling the middle tone, then the highlights and dark spots, we'll apply a gradient map, then we'll change the blend mode to overlay and mask only the areas we want colored.You're probably seeing the pattern here. We're going to colorize each object in the picture and colorize it with a Gradient Map using color samples from color photographs.
So now we've got all of our major pieces put together by colorizing everything. Well, first thing I notice is that we did a really lousy job with the green in the tiara :)But, we also forgot our small points. The small points are the areas of highlight that are too small or sharp to paint over. These areas are usually the fingernails, the lips, the eyes, the teeth, and the hair. We can adjust the eyes, teeth, and fingernails by creating a new layer and blopping some white over the small points, then setting our layer to "Overlay." We might also have to adjust the opacity of the layer if the white stands out too much. The lips can be done the same way by creating a layer with some red paint.Hair is really a trouble area when it's black. However, there is an answer. Most photographs have a blue tone layered over them, although you rarely, if ever, notice it (and it's not as prevalent in dimly lit photographs). By creating another Gradient Map of white to light blue to purple, we can simulate this tone. It might require a trip back to our skin layer to adjust the hue, but it gives the overall image a more balanced look. Make sure to drop the opacity of your blue level to around 30% or 40%, otherwise you'll end up with a very smurfy model. (If the hair is not black, you can easily create a gradient map just for the hair, but I do recommend throwing a blue layer on).
So now we've got our blue tint, we've got all of our areas masked and colored, and we're ready to submit, right? Wrong. Here's where we are now:The first thing to notice is that all this colorizing has thrown our dark levels off. The image is much brighter than it was when we started. To fix that, we're going to add an Adjustment Layer for Levels. Like Masks, Adjustment Layers affect the appearance of layers, but don't change the content. That means that anything you do can be immediately undone without any loss to your original source material. By raising the dark levels, we get a much sharper and cleaner image, almost as clean as our original source: It's good, but there's still one more thing we can do to it go make it better.
If you're sharp, you've noticed that the saturation on all of our layers is still pretty high. There's a reason for that: it's almost impossible to match saturations on different levels, especially when the sources you're sampling from don't always have the same levels of color in them. To combat this, were going to keep our saturations fairly high, but we'll add an Adjustment Layer for Hue/Saturation. There, we'll take down the saturation on our whole image.Remember that going down in saturation equalizes levels while going up only expands the difference in color grade. Let's take a look at our finished product:Not bad for a half hour :)
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