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Cyn said 12 years ago 3/25/2003 3:52:16 AM EDT

We're not going to colour an entire image, instead, I'm going to take you from this:

to this:

(larger, cropped version here)

but you can easily apply everything in this tutorial to the entire image later once you've got got the gist of it- that's the beauty of doing it all in mask mode. Masks. Sigh. I love them.

First step- find great source. I don't always follow this rule myself; I have a thing for very old, fuzzy, damaged images that I can waste a lot of time restoring first, then colouring in dreamy, over-saturated jewel tones, just for fun and prettiness, but I can guarantee you a more believable result and a higher rating when you start with a large, undamaged, high resolution, even-toned source image. Your lo-res labours of love will generally tank in an actual contest, even if they are beautiful. Law of the jungle, baby.

Here's a large copy of the image I used for this tutorial, if you'd like to follow along. It's from a lovely old movie called "Shopworn Angel".

Cyn said 12 years ago 3/25/2003 3:52:16 AM EDT

Make sure that you increase the colours to 16 million, if the image is not already there, and duplicate your background layer. Rename the new layer "blue". Lower the contrast just a smidge on it. You won't need to do this with every image you colourise, but in this case, to get even coverage, we should. Just trust me. Now, in PSP, under Colors>Colorize, change the hue of the entire image to a nice fairly true blue. In PS, you'll do this under Hue/Sat, by checking the colorize box.

Add a mask to this layer, in PSP, by going to Masks>New>From Image>Any non-zero value; in PS by clicking the lil circle in the square mask icon in your layer pallette.

Next, you'll set the layer properties for this layer, or blend mode, to "color". If you've never done this before, find the place in your layer pallette that reads "normal", in either program, and change that in the drop down to "color". It should look... well, pretty much the same. Again, just trust me anyway.

Now duplicate this layer. Call this one "red". Under Colorize, or Hue/Sat, change it to a rich red. To get the saturation about right, find the features in the image that will be the most red, in this case, her lips, and get them as red as you want them to finish as, even a bit moreso:

Turn the opacity down to about 90 %, and dupe it. Call the new one "gold". Under Colorize, or Hue/Sat, change it to a golden yellow.

Make sure the opacity is at 90 %.

You should now have four layers, the top three with masks- Background, Blue, Red, and Gold.

Cyn said 12 years ago 3/25/2003 3:52:16 AM EDT

Turn off the gold layer, so that you see predomininantly red, and switch to the red layer. It's time to edit our mask, so, in PSP, go to masks>edit; in PS click the mask icon in the layer pallette. Both programs should now be showing you a colour pallette containing only values from black to white.

Fill your entire mask with a medium grey value. You should end up with a purple grey colour, like this:

Now, zoom in on the eyes. Using a small airbrush in black, mask all the red colour out of the eyes. They should be very blue. Then, switch to white, and using a very small airbrush, draw around the inner rims of the eyelid with it, to show more red in that area. Do the same to the lips. Now pick a larger, very soft brush, at about 10 % opacity, and brush in more red, as if you were applying blusher, around selected contours of the face. Chin, cheeks, nose, a bit of forehead, keeping edges soft. Use a smudge tool at 50 % strength to blend the edges if you need to. Softening the mask with a point or two of gaussian blur works well, too.

Looks weird you say?

Yeah, yeah, just trust me.

Cyn said 12 years ago 3/25/2003 3:52:16 AM EDT

Now, turn your gold layer back on, and switch to it. Make sure you are in mask mode, and fill the mask with a dark grey, which should leave you with just enough gold to turn your purplish image to an over all taupe (greyish brown) colour, with the areas you edited in the red layer showing through it a bit more:

Now, using a very light touch- a large, soft, 5-10 % opacity brush, softly spritz the face and hair with light grey, to bring up more yellow in a fairly even layer. It will be too yellow in some places, that's ok, you can take it back out by sampling some of the untouched mask and using that shade of grey to take some back out. You can use a small soft brush in black to remove nearly all the yellow in the lips, but don't remove it entirely from most skin areas. The idea is to let the red tone show in some areas more than others, allowing the colours in all the layers to show through at least somewhat in the skin.

Using a smaller airbrush, in darker grey, brush along the highlight in the center of the nose, just under the eyebrows, and at the top of each cheek bone, where skin is naturally more delicate, bluish and not as robust looking as say, the apples of the cheeks. Using still smaller brush, remove much of the yellow from the rims of the eyelids, as well as the bottom 3/4ths of the iris of the eye. If you find that the white of the eye is too yellow (it should be just about right as is) you can remove a bit more yellow in the white as well, to make it more bluish, but if you remove all the gold tone from the whites, it will look decidedly fake, so do leave some in to tone down the blue.

Now it's clean up time. Sample an untouched area of the mask, and use that shade of grey as your clean up colour. Zoom way in, and remove any yellow over- spray from the face and hair that have gotten into areas that should still be taupe/grey. Since I opted to leave Jimmy grey in this image, that should include his hand, which nearly covers hers.

Cyn said 12 years ago 3/25/2003 3:52:16 AM EDT

Once you've got your mask on the gold layer neat 'n tidy, switch to red, and make sure you are in mask mode. We need to adjust a few areas here, now that we've seen what they look like with the gold layer in place. For instance, the cheeks are a bit much, so we can remove a bit of that intensity by sampling the untouched area of the mask, and using that grey at a low opacity to tone down the red in her cheeks a smidge. I also thought her hair was a bit too green, so I brought up more red in her hair with a lighter grey mask there, and realized there was almost no red at all in her hands and finger tips, so I added some blush there, too.

To give the white of her gown a little sparkle, I used a very dark, but not black, value to remove most of the red from the gown. I left more red showing in the lighter areas, less red in the shadows. You'll want to select this area before you work on it, so you get clean edges. Of course, then you'll need to soften them a bit after. :)

Now, anyone who knows me knows that there is no way this is finished- I'll need to come back in and nanotweak tiny miniscule things no one but me can see for hours yet, like playing with the opacity on the three colour layers to see if maybe more is better on one, less is better on another, only to decide this was the best version of the thing after all, but you are probably nearing completion. It's Walk-Away time. When you come back with fresh eyes, go back to each layer and clean up any messy masking, and see if it needs any fininshing touches. You should have something about like this:

But if you don't- hey, that's ok! The best thing about this method is that since everything is done with a mask, everything is infinitely flexible and easily fixable- you aren't going to ruin your image by experimenting, which is, for me, the most appealing aspect of colour anyway. You'll find you can finish one of these in a fairly short period of time, so you'll have plenty of time to play with this technique.

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