Colorizing a Black and White Photo

Colorizing a Black and White Photo

 marilyn monroemarilynmonroe

For this project, find a high resolution black and white photo that was taken prior to 1965. Search term suggestions: vintage black and white photos, photos from the 1940′s (50′s and 60′s are good as well), famous black and white photos. The photos do not have to be famous, as long is it’s black and white and high resolution, it should be fine.

Here are awesome websites to get you inspired:

Tips and Important Info

  • You need to use a realistic color scheme. Although I am a huge fan of artistic interpretation and creative expression, your project will come out more vibrant if you utilize the colors that were most likely present.
  • Choose colors that appear dull, they will look brighter once you start adding color
  • Add a new layer every time you add a new color (this will save you a lot of time in the end if you need to adjust specific colors)
  • Every layer with color should have the blending mode set to ‘color’
  • Everything in the image MUST be colorized
  • Use a minimum of 6 different colors (you can definitely use more!)
  • Keep in mind that it’s extremely difficult to paint over something that is black…find an image that you are able to avoid this as much as possible


  • Once you find your image, open it in Photoshop
  • marilyn monroe
  • Make sure that both the height and width are no smaller than 6″ and the resolution is between 200-300 (if it appears grainy, you might need to select a different image)
  • Save the original image!
  • Go to Image—>Mode—>RGB Color
  • Duplicate the layer the image is on by pressing Command J (this way you have the original layer if you need to go back to it)
  • Go to File—>Save and make sure the format is ‘psd’
  • Add a new layer (command shift n)…this will be an empty layer that you will use to paint….each color will need to be on a new layer
  • Set the blending mode to ‘color’ (this option is on the layers panel)
  • Select the Brush Tool (B)
  • Select a soft brush (the one with fuzzy edges)
  • Choose your brush color (the default colors are the black and white squares at the bottom of the tool panel…double click on the front square and select your color)
  • Make sure the brush opacity is set to 100%
  • If you go out of the lines, you can add a layer mask to fix it
  • Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 7.51.08 PM
  • Repeat steps the steps in green for each new color
  • It’s important to make each color a different layer in case you want to adjust the color later. It is difficult to adjust the colors if they are in the same layers
  • When you are finished, save your file with all the layers as a .psd
  • Reread the last step and make sure it’s .psd
  • Go to Layers—>Flatten Image
  • File—>Save As
  • Change the format to a JPEG or PNG
  •  marilynmonroe
  • Upload this file and the original 


p.s…. this is the coolest video ever! If it doesn’t work at school (it’s youtube), make sure to watch it at home:


Student Examples