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Creating Artistic Photographs

This chapter covers how to age a photo, change color to black and white, make a photo look like an oil painting or a watercolor, and more tips. (From the book, Paint Shop Pro 8, by Jennifer Fulton, Sams, 2004, ISBN: 0672323893.)

Author Info:
By: Sams Publishing
Rating: 4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars / 17
September 21, 2004
  1. · Creating Artistic Photographs
  2. · Change a Color Photograph to Black and White
  3. · Colorize a Photograph
  4. · Make a Photograph Look Like an Oil Painting
  5. · Turn a Photograph into a Watercolor
  6. · Make a Photograph Look Like It Was Drawn
  7. · Make a Photograph Look Like Ansel Adams Shot It

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Creating Artistic Photographs - Colorize a Photograph
(Page 3 of 7 )

Before You Begin

  • Select Areas of Similar Color, Brightness, or Opacity
  • Save a Selection for Reuse
  • Adjust Hue, Saturation, and Lightness Manually
  • Remove Distracting Detail

See Also

  • Frame a Photograph
  • Age a Photograph

There's no perfect way to truly convert a black-and-white photograph—especially an old one—into an image that's both colorfully rich and colorfully accurate. So you have to concede at the outset that what you're working on is an artistic interpretation—an old-time hand-painted color rendition of a black-and-white original. Like those artists of the past, you get to choose what colors you want to wash over each region of your image. What you want to avoid, however, is a paint-by-number look—especially difficult when colorizing the skin because you can choose no single hue that will give you a natural look. Luckily, I have several techniques I can pass on that will give you a finished image to rival efforts you might have to pay hundreds of dollars for.

In a nutshell, you'll first select major regions in the image, such as an article of clothing, a tree trunk, or an exposed part of the body (such as the head and neck together, an arm, or a leg). Then you'll apply a single hue such as light green. Skin is the hardest to colorize, as you'll see when you apply a single color to the face. The result is quite unrealistic and flat looking. To give a person the illusion of depth and to make the colorizing effect more realistic, you'll then select smaller areas of the skin—the shadows and highlights—and tint them with blue (for the shadows) or yellow (for the highlights) to make them appear to recede or come forward. You can repeat this process for inanimate objects as well, if you feel they do not look very realistic after applying a single hue. After colorizing large areas, you'll select smaller areas, such as jewelry or lips, and colorize them with a single hue. Finally, you'll use the Soften tool where needed to soften harsh edges between color regions.

Note - Prepare the image before you proceed, fixing holes, repairing scratches, sharpening, and cropping. One preparation to avoid is a histogram adjustment, which tends to make the lights lighter and darks darker. It's more difficult to colorize a white or black region than a gray one.

  1. Select the Region to Colorize

    Choose the region to colorize using any selection tool. To make it easier for you to make alterations to this same region later on, save the selection to the image's alpha channel by choosing Selections, Load/Save Selection, Save Selection to Alpha Channel.

  2. Apply the Basic Hue

    Select Adjust, Hue and Saturation, Hue/Saturation/Lightness. Enable the Colorize check box. Adjust the Hue value to the color you want to apply. The middle color ring indicates the hue you are applying at full strength. If you're colorizing a skin area, try a value of 10 to 18 for Caucasian skin tones, 16 to 26 for African and Middle Eastern skin tones, or 26 to 32 for Asian skin tones. Next, set the Saturation slider to adjust the amount of hue to apply. Darker skin requires heavier Saturation values than lighter skin; usually, you need to saturate Caucasian skin by no more than 20, for African skin, you might require a Saturation value of as much as 40. A very slight Lightness adjustment of no more than +5 might be necessary when applying heavy saturation in a scene with direct sunlight. Click OK.

    Note - Although PSP offers a Colorize command, we won't use it because the Hue/Saturation/Lightness command allows you to apply a hue and adjust its saturation, and adjust the lightness as well, which you often need to do with particularly bright colors such as yellow. Also, you can apply color on color with the Hue/Saturation/ Lightness command.

  3. Adjust Highlights if Necessary

    For skin and some inanimate objects, it's necessary to add more color to the highlight and shadow areas to create a realistic effect. If you're not colorizing a skin area, skip steps 3 and 4. Choose Selections, Select None to cancel all selected areas. Choose the Magic Wand from the Tools toolbar. On the Tool Options palette, set Mode to Add (Shift), Match Mode to Brightness, and Tolerance to a low value above zero—I do well with 4. Then select the brightest/lightest areas of the object so that you can adjust the colors for these areas separately.

    Note - The highlights you select in step 3 should generally reflect the greatest amount of light—for a face, the sides of cheeks facing the sun, the tip of the nose, the front of the forehead. For a solid object, select the areas that reflect the most direct light or that include glares or streaks.

    Next, select Adjust, Hue and Saturation, Hue/Saturation/Lightness. This time, disable the Colorize check box. Depending on the strength of the light, set the Hue slider to a value from 16 to 21. This setting adds a more yellow tint to the selected region. If necessary, reduce the Lightness value by setting it to a value no lower than –3 to prevent the yellower patch from standing out too prominently. Click OK.

  4. Adjust Shadows if Necessary

    Choose Selections, Select None to cancel all previous selections. This time, select the darkest/shadow regions of the object using the Magic Wand. For a face, these areas include the underside of the nose, the "rim" of the face, the unlit sides of the cheeks, and the shadows cast by sockets over the eyes and, most notably, the chin over the neck.

    Select Adjust, Hue and Saturation, Hue/Saturation/Lightness. With the Colorize check box disabled, set the Hue slider to a value from 6 to 9. If necessary, reduce the Saturation value slightly to prevent a blue color cast over the region. Click OK.

  5. Colorize Small Areas

    Repeat steps 1 through 4 to colorize all the large areas of the image. Small features such as blue eyes and red lips should be handled separately. Select the small area you want to colorize and then choose the Hue/Saturation/Lightness command again. Enable the Colorize check box. For eyeballs (excluding the pupil) and teeth, reduce Saturation to a value near but above 0. Natural lips require a Hue setting of about 10 for Caucasian and 14 for African and Asian, with a Saturation of about 25. Ruby-red lipstick requires a Hue setting of about 5 and Saturation turned up to 40. Click OK.

    Note - You don't have to colorize every object in your image. In my example, I left the shingled rooftop just the way it was.

  6. Soften Transitions

    One of the unwanted side effects of colorizing elements adjacent to one another—for instance, a person's neck and a blouse's neckline—is the appearance of harsh borders. You can easily eradicate this with a quick application of the Soften tool. See Remove Distracting Detail.

  7. View the Result

    This vintage World War II era photograph clearly needed some repairs to begin with. First of all, probably because Brownie-box cameras were often held at chest level, the entire picture was shot at a 5 degree angle to the ground. I straightened that first, and then replaced the flat white sky with a more interesting one.

    Note - The final product does not appear like an original color print, and probably wouldn't unless I were to spend a lot more time using spot tools such as the Paint Brush and Airbrush for detail. For demonstration purposes, I went for an effect that was simply pleasing to the eye.

    The skin tones for these three sisters were nearly identical, using a Hue setting of 14 with Saturation settings between 20 and 24. The dresses for Aunt Sally in the middle and Great Aunt Marie on the right were easily colorized with single hues. For my husband's grandmother on the left, who always wore bright red, I spent more time selecting the darker flowers from the print and coloring them with a deep red (Hue: 3). I left the white flowers as they were, but colorized their centers with a violet shade.

    The station wagon was a pre-war, two-tone Buick. Two-tone cars of that time were capped with either silver or copper, so I used artistic license and chose copper. I tinted the reflective spots in the black zones of the car—especially the front fender—slightly toward the yellow, using the same method I used for the skin tones. I could have replaced the ground with one from a recent photo, but I didn't. Instead, I kept the vintage Oklahoma oilfield "turf," consisting of patches of grass surrounded by dusty red clay.

    After colorizing the photo, I could have cropped the image to square it up, but I would have lost both fenders, the hubcap, and all the curves of the Buick, which lend character to the photo. So I instead invented this whimsical, yet symmetrical, frame for it. See Frame a Photograph. Look for this image in the Color Gallery in this book.


Figure 16.3

This chapter is from Paint Shop Pro 8, by Jennifer Fulton, (Sams, 2004, ISBN: 0672323893). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today.

Buy this book now.

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