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Photoshop Photo Effects Cookbook
(Pages 116, 117 from the Traditional Photographic Effects section of Photoshop Photo Effects Cookbook - courtesy of O'Reilly Media.)
Before the age of color film, when black-and-white photography was the only option, it was common practice for photographers to tint a black-and-white image with colored dyes to mimic real-life colors. Although we now have all the advantages of stunning color photography, we can still use Photoshop to replicate this technique, and add great charm to black-and-white images.
What we're looking for here is not truly lifelike color, but a decorative and subtle effect. Essentially, we can tint as little or as much of the image as we like, but the effect works best where areas of color are contrasted with the uncolored grayscale image.
Open a suitable image. Go to Image > Mode. If the original image is in color, first convert it to grayscale. Then convert it back to RGB so we can add color back into it. If the original is grayscale, it'll need to be converted to RGB mode.
The color needs to be painted onto a separate layer, so create a new layer (Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+N). Set the blending mode for this layer to Color in the Layers palette. This mode will allow any added color to overlay the image. Now choose the Brush tool and select a soft-edged brush from the Brush Picker. In the Options bar, set the brush opacity to 50% and activate the Airbrush icon.
Hit F6 on the keyboard to display the Colors palette. This is where we'll choose all of the painting colors. To choose a color, pass the mouse pointer over the spectrum bar and click to choose the approximate color. The colors can be fine-tuned with the RGB sliders above the bar, and the chosen color can be seen in the foreground swatch.
Begin by choosing a warm yellow/orange. Paint over all of the areas of flesh with this color. Remember, because the brush is in Airbrush mode, if we leave the brush in one position for too long the color will build up on the image, so we need to keep it moving at all times. Vary the skin color slightly by occasionally dragging the RGB sliders. Remember, we only want to tint the image with color.
Now choose a deep brown and paint over the hair of both dancers. Again, modify the color and tone using the sliders to introduce a little variety.
I've chosen a light blue to paint over the male dancer's costume. Essentially, we want less color over the lighter parts of the costume and heavier pigment over the darker parts. To make accurate application of color easier, zoom into the image and adjust the size of the brush with the square bracket keys on the keyboard. Again, modify the color after applying the initial covering of blue and add a few touches of a darker purple shade.
To help keep the colors separate in complicated areas, try selecting a particular area first and then painting within the active selection. Here I've isolated the dancer's bodice by painting a Quick Mask onto the area first. (See the Tip Box for more on using Quick Mask mode.) Exit Quick Mask mode (hit Q) to activate the selection, and paint the color into the selection.
Here I've continued to paint yellows and oranges into the dancer's tutu using the Brush tool on the tinting layer.
To complete the image, I've zoomed into the ballerina's feet and applied a little color to her shoes.
TIP: Making A Selection With Quick Mask
Quick Mask mode is a great way to make accurate selections. Enter Quick Mask by hitting Q on the keyboard. With black as the foreground color, paint an overlay onto the image over any areas of the image you wish to select. The masked areas will appear to be red, even though you are painting with black as the foreground color. When you have painted all of the areas you want to select, hit Q again to quit Quick Mask mode. You will now have an active selection in the shape of the mask you just painted.
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