Black and white to colour in photoshop

black and white to colour header

So I ended up playing with the converting of a black and white photo to colour (color for any american english people out there) in photoshop yesterday,

I’ve actually thought about doing it for ages but saw a link to a tutorial on it which turned out to be a dead link. Anyways I needed a decent Black and White photo (to start with anyways I’ve plans to convert a few old photos once I get the knack of things) I did a quick search and who could be more perfect to do than Google Image search for Marilyn Monroe. You’ve got colour and black and white photos so you’ve go something to base things on (also some really high res images which is nice)

Selected my photo .. and basically means selecting the various areas you want with the lasso tool (I used the polygonal lasso tool for it’s clicky goodness) add a slight feather to the selected area copy and paste as a new layer. Then up to Layers and Adjustment layer -> Hue/Saturation

Adjustment Layer

Then make sure to tick use previous layer to create clipping mask

Use previous layer to create clipping mask

And hey presto .. it’s slightly pain staking cutting out the bits but so cool to start seeing the results once you start adjusting the Hue / Saturation levels ( make sure to tick colorize or you may be wondering why nothing is happening)

Hue / Saturation

And so you start to see some results … my first looking something like Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe … Second version appearing a bit more like a technicolor version but I’m preferring it.


And finally adding a vignette and a gradient mask onto the image and I got the result I wanted.

Final Version of Monroe

Hair seems to be have been the trickiest part of this for me and yes I’ve left it rough in a few places hope you like the tips (though maybe they could be a bit clearer)

And of course once you’ve got all the areas mapped out it’s quite handy to tweak any colours to your hearts content

Marilyn Monroe Red Dress

Edit: Should add a video tutorial on this is available at Black and White to Colour Video obviously goes into more detail about extracting things ended up pretty much following the first few steps and go the inspiration for photo character from it as well :)


  • Cool, that’s pretty much the way I do it too but here is another way for quicker jobs. Simply add a new layer above the photo and set blending mode to overlay then just paint colour on using a soft brush. You can still change the colour and opacity later to achieve the desired effect.

  • Cheers @Britec :) I always find it amazing how little I really know about photoshop


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