Well of Stars

Colourisation Tutorial

When I first started colourising, I used a paintbrush set to blend mode 'color' (or the retouch tool set to 'color to target' in psp7), and to work always on the same layer of the image. However, I now tend to work on different layers for different parts of the image, as this makes it easier to make changes or to erase mistakes. This tutorial teaches the technique using different layers. I've explained what I did for one image in some detail, but this is just one way it could be done - once you've got the basics, try experimenting with different colours and effects :)

Step 1 Open the image you want to colourise. For this tutorial, I'm using this image of Jennifer Connelly. Then add a new layer (transparent), and set it to blend mode 'color'. Now pick the colour you want to use for the skin. If you're going for a realistic look, I recommend something pale, and not too pink! I used #F9DDD2. Then use a soft paintbrush (always hardness 0 and normal blend mode, for the skin I also used settings: size 21 and opacity 100%), to paint over the areas of exposed skin. Be careful at the edges where the figure meets the background, but don't worry about going over the roots of the hair. Here, and at other stages of the process, you might find it helpful to zoom the image in a bit. Colour the lips, but avoid the whites of the eyes. When you're done, it should look something like this:
Stage 1

Step 2 I usually work on the lips and makeup second. Add another transparent layer, and again set it to blend mode 'color'. Now pick the colour for the lips, I used #AC2C32. For this I started with a brush set to size 11 and opacity 22%. For the edges and the thin part of the mouth, I used size 6, opacity 11%. If you decide the edges look too hard, or too bright, use the eraser on a similar setting to soften them.
I used the same colour to go over the cheek bones, to give a slight blush to her cheeks. For that I used a brush size 26, opacity 11%. Again you can use the eraser on low opacity to soften the edges if it looks too bright.
Stage 2

Step 3 Next add a third layer, which will be for the eyeshadow. Set it to blend mode 'color' as usual. I started with color #1B5915, and used a brush size 11, opacity 11% on her upper and lower eyelids. I then went over them again with a brush size 21, opacity 11%. I like to mix colours in the make-up, so I then chose colour #152859, and with brush size 16 and opacity 11% touched the inner corner at the top of her eye, and painted over her lower eyelid from the outer edge to about half way across. You can play around with the colours at this stage, and if you decide it looks wrong, when you're using layers it's quite easy to delete the layer and start over. If you want to you can put each colour on its own layer.
Stage 3

Step 4 Next the clothes and hair. By now you know the drill: new layer, blend mode 'color'. I decided on a green dress, colour #263D23. Even if there are areas that look completely black, try to paint over them, as areas without colour may show up at a later stage or on a lighter screen. For the dress, I used a brush at 100% opacity, apart from the fringed edges, where I used size 6, opacity 50%.
Add another 'color' layer for the hair. Even if the hair is black, I like to give it a slight sheen of colour, so I picked #19161E to give it a slight bluish sheen. Use a 100% opacity brush for the hair, apart from the edges, where you might need to take the opacity down to around 22%; for any strands of hair, try a small brush (size 5 or even smaller) at around 22% opacity.
Stage 4

Step 5 For the eyes, add another layer, but this time set it to blend mode: 'overlay'. Choose a colour of medium lightness, and fairly low saturation: I decided on green, and used colour #638767. Use a brush the same size, or just slightly larger, than the iris, and centre it on the pupil. I used brush size 16.
Stage 5

Step 6 I normally leave the background until this stage, so that I can see what will go with the other colours that I have used. In your layer palette, go back to original background layer. You can either add a new 'color' layer above this, or use a paintbrush set to blend mode 'color' to paint directly on the background layer. I normally use a colour with a relatively low saturation, or one that will blend in easily at any blurred edges, for example at the edge of the hair. For this image, I decided to give the background very little colour, and used #C2C8C6.
Stage 6

Step 7 The basic colourising of the image is now done, but there are several more steps that you can go through to add more variation and depth to your colours. One easy thing to try, is to go back to the top layer of your image, then copy merged, and paste as new layer. Set this layer to blend mode 'soft light', and experiment with the opacity. This can add a little more intensity to the colour. Don't worry if some areas look rather dark, as you can lighten them again in a later stage. This is my colourisaton with the 'soft light' layer set to 40% opacity:
Stage 7

Step 8 Add another layer, and set it to blend mode 'burn'. Then with a black paintbrush with low opacity (7%-10%) go over any areas where you want to intensify the shadows. You can also go over the lips to give them a deeper red. Try varying the size and opacity of the brush for different areas.
Stage 8

Step 9 Now add a layer set to blend mode 'dodge'. With a white paintbrush on low opacity, go over areas that you want to highlight or lighten. Using a small paintbrush you can add highlights to the eyes and lips. I also used a larger paintbrush to highlight the cheek and shoulder, and to lighten areas of the hair and the dress. For the hair, you can add another 'dodge' layer, and try higlighting strands of hair using a small paintbrush (size 2) and different shades of the hair colour. This is particularly effective on lighter hair.
Stage 9

Finally The colourisation of the image is now complete, and you can add any other effects to the image that you want to. I gave it a smart blur in Photoshop, and also added a layer of colour #C6E2C2 (light green) at 72% opacity. I then used a black custom paintbrush to paint over the layer mask and reveal areas of the image underneath.
Final image