Photoshop Tutorial: Add Ultra Realistic Colors to Any Gray-Scale Photo

In this tutorial we will be exploring one of many ways to colorize a photo...
The source used is the following pictures of a police officer: - which is completely in gray-scale. You'll be shown all the steps necessary to give his outfit nice realistic colors.

End result:
Add Ultra Realistic Colors to Any Gray-Scale Photo Final Image

avatar Chalty669

Views: 49331
Score: 8.47 / 10
Author earned: $10
Practice tutorial


Step 1

1. This is the source image I started with. As you can tell there is a lot of noise in the picture. The first thing I did was download Topaz denoise (demo) and got rid of some of the noise. This was my first time using Topaz and I would highly recommend trying it.

Step 2

2. Most of the things I could guess which color I wanted to use for each item. For the policeman I really didn't know. I kinda guessed it would be blue, but wanted it to be accurate. I just did a quick look for Seattle police and found this image, I didn't use any part of it, just glanced at the colors.

Step 3

3. I made a new layer and set the layer blend mode to color. I then chose a color which I thought would depict the uniform best. With 100% brush I painted in the shirt( making sure not to overlap the darker areas on the suit).

Step 4

4. The problem with colorizing something like this is that nothing is really all just one color. When you get to shadows and highlights the tone and hue changes. I think this is where you can usually spot something thats been colored. If you look at the shadows they are over saturated now.

Step 5

5. What we want to do now is make a new layer. Hold down the alt/option key and hover between the two layers. There should be a new icon appear (which looks like two circles overlapping). Now press your mouse key. This will create an arrow which points to the lower level. What this means is that everything done in this layer will now only be visible where there are thing in the lower layer (kinda like it's own mask). In the top layer you want to choose a color which is similar to the original color for the shirt but is darker and has less saturation. With a low opacity brush paint the shadows until you get rid of most of the over saturated areas.

Step 6

6. Again your going to follow step 5 but this time your going to paint the face.

Step 7

7. Make a new layer for each set of colors, or you can do everything on the same color layer. I like to have them as separate layers incase I want to make adjustments later. Keep in mind that even if something is black or white in the photo, it most likely will have to be colored as well. Whites usually have a slight blue tent to them and black sometimes has a purplish tint to it.

Step 8

8. At this time I created a new transparent layer set to soft light. To add depth and color to the image I sampled nearby colors and with a soft low opacity brush painted in some of the highlights and some of the shadows.

Step 9

9. To add some warmth to the photo I added another new layer set to color and filled it with a tannish color. I then reduced the opacity of the layer to around 20%. You can decide to use more or less opacity to your preference.

Step 10

10. On a new layer set to multiply I painted some of the shadows by sampling nearby colors. I used a really soft brush with a really low opacity.

Step 11

11. This is one of may favorite things to do (it helps add pop and depth to the image). I create two new layers, one set to color burn and filled with white. The other set to color dodge and filled with black. With a 5% opacity soft brush you will paint shadows and highlights on the image. On the color burn layer you will use black and on the color dodge you will use white. For a more dramatic affect you can use color on these layers. ( I use this technique on almost everything I do which involves an image).

Step 12

12. This next step is a big one. Create a new selective color adjustment layer. I adjust each individual color separately. If you can't tell which colors are being adjusted you can just slide the black bar all the way to the left and all the way to the right. You will be able to see which areas are affected by doing this. Then just adjust each color within that area for you style. Since it's an adjustment layer you can easily change things later.

Step 13

Final Result

Howdie Guest!

We have 20+ awesome contests running every single week, with great prizes!
Photoshop Contests, Photography Contests, Drawing Contests and 3D Contests!

Feel free to join our free community and show of your talents to others, it's big fun!

LOGIN HERE / REGISTER FOR FREE or stay in touch pxleyes RSS feed


avatar hereisanoop

great job... thanks for step 11 I really liked that...

(5 years and 2225 days ago)
no avatar
gaurav says:

gREAT tIPS...tHANX....!

(5 years and 2208 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

Great tutorial!

(5 years and 2205 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

all that work and the image looks the same

(5 years and 2204 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

GREAT JOB!!!!!!!

(5 years and 2204 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

awesome!! nothing else to say! *****

(5 years and 2199 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

that's pretty good. I've done this before but not in this depth.

(5 years and 2174 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

That is cool!

(5 years and 2168 days ago)
no avatar
Guest says:

Sorry, but: step 5: I get a "layer 1" and "layer 2", not a "layer 3 - 4"; anyhow, painting with a darker blue in top layer doesn't work, see nothing; blending mode? always "color" or "normal"?
thank you

(5 years and 2163 days ago)
avatar Chalty669
Chalty669 says:

The layer name will depend on how many layers you've already created. In this example it was my 3rd and fourth layer created (by default they are named this, you can change the name to whatever you like). Both layers should be set to color, also the darker blue is only for the areas in darker areas which seem over saturated. You won't see a darker color on screen, just a desaturation of what was already painted on the lower layer ( since color layer mode changes only the color and saturation without interrupting the luminosity). Also you don't need to use the alt click option if you choose not to, although you will have to pay more attention to masking. Hope this helps!

(5 years and 2153 days ago)
avatar jsb
jsb says:

Thank you .great tutorial

(5 years and 2135 days ago)
avatar Manan
Manan says:

super likes!!

(5 years and 2120 days ago)
no avatar
[banned] says:

This was a reall cool tutorial! Thanks.

(5 years and 2102 days ago)

Leave a Comment