Coloring from black and white

Hello everyone!

Thought I would explain and show my way to color a black and white picture. It seems to be an area that is quite appreciated. There are different ways to color a picture, but below I show the method I find works well.
It is a method that makes it relatively realistic. A fairly advanced technique, but if you worked in Photoshop for awhile, this shall not be a problem at all. Are you a beginner is perhaps the "normal" coloring method easier, but as I said I show you with images.
If this technique shall work fully, is it good if the image is "stable". Not too harsh contrasts and completely dark areas. If you got a picture with high contrast, you have to be more accurate. To show, I took a picture with high contrasts...

My picture

Okey. You have your image, start with making it to "CMYK color" instead of "RGB Color" by clicking: Image - Mode - CMYK color - click ok.

(It also works with RGB Color)

Now you have four color channels instead of three as it is in "RGB color" mode.

The method is to work with color curves. So we create a new adjustment layer by Clicking curves.


You got your picture and your adjustment layer. Now it's time to set the curves to the right level.
I choose to create her skin color first...

Click on CMYK and start with cyan. This is the hard part, to get the right color as you want. In the beginning, you need to experiment your way if you are not used by using curves. After cyan drag magenta and last yellow (not black right now) to the right level to get the color you want...


The curves of her skin tone.

The result looks like this now:

Select the layer mask (as the picture) and click Ctr + i to make it inverse. This allows us to paint her skin color
back where it should be.


Select the brush tool (white color) still standing on the layer mask.
And start to paint over her skin.


This is essentially the approach of making a black and white photo to color!

To proceed, simply repeat the same approach to color the other parts. Create a curve - pull the nuances wherever you want, to get the right color - Ctr + i - "mask out" the area you want to have the color - repeat

End result:

Hope this will be helpful! Ask if there is anything that is unclear and I'll update or help you with that! / Nordin​


Well-Known Member
thats really wow wow wow it was useful thanx a lot
For years now, AKVIS has been sending me advertisements for their colorization program, "Coloriage". Until now, I've never even bothered downloading their free trial. However, it's a slow Sunday morning, so inspired by this old thread, I thought, "Why don't I give it a try?", and I did. The attached is the result of my very 1st attempt to use their program. It took me less than 2 minutes to produce the colorized version attached below. I was completely blown away by how fast it went.

My normal approach to colorization is a bit different from the tutorial - Usually, I first set up masks for the different areas in the image. Next, I'll set up a set of gradient maps to show how the hue and saturation vary with brightness in each of the masked areas.

One of the reasons I was attracted to the AKVIS program is that it seems to work the same way as my manual method, but it automates the masking, gives you lots of preset gradient maps, etc. Given the results I just got, at minimum, I can see using it as a 1st step to prepare an image for manual colorization, or, since I will probably get better results when I'm more familiar with it, I might not even have to do any final manual tweaks in some cases.

BTW, I have absolutely no affiliation with AKVIS.


Tom M


I've been playing with AKVIS Coloriage some more. I *really* like my new toy (I mean, "tool").

This time, I tried it out on one of the few remaining pictures of my Aunt in her younger days. This one was taken in the early 1940's and was partially colorized by someone before it was given to me. I just re-colorized it using Coloriage. This image took me about 5 minutes because there were many more color areas in it compared to the OP's image.

I am seriously impressed by the reduction in time and effort compared to the way I used to perform colorization. In addition, I was worried that because of all the noise and odd initial colors in this old photo, AKVIS's auto-masking feature would not work well, but it seems to have done just fine.

Sorry for the partial derail of the OP's thread, but it's just great when you find something that works the way it is supposed to and saves you huge ammts of time and effort. I'll shut up now. ;-)



I've been playing with AKVIS Coloriage some more. I *really* like my new toy (I mean, "tool").
Not bad actually. If you spend a little more time with the program, you can probably get very realistic images! I read about the program and it seems to have potential. Keep up the good work of image improvements!!
After having played around with it for a week or two now, I still like it, but I find that I've pretty much gone back to my old reliable methods for colorizing B&W images, but with time, I might incorporate it into my workflow ... maybe as a initial first cut so that less manual work is needed.



Dear Departed Guru and PSG Staff Member
Great tut Nordin, but as someone struggling to learn colorization, I have a question. Is there any methodology to arriving at a particular color using the curves method other than just dumb experimentation?