I decided to share this photo of my grandparents’ wedding in 1955.
I colored it with Photoshop a few years ago to give to my grandma after my grandpa died in 2010.
First, I had seen an article about the wedding in the local paper. Back then, weddings were reported in depth, and this one was greatly detailed and long, and included a photo of the bride. It described various colors, including those of the bouquet and dress, so I knew how to make those things accurate. It even included a very detailed description of the mother of the bride’s outfit. 🙂
The tree in the background didn’t colorize well, so I decided to compose a background with some other photos of trees. I had to make them fit around everything (i.e. cut parts out) so I used Layer Mask. Masking is a tool that allows parts of a layer to be hidden. You can use various methods (brush, gradient, fill, etc.) to create a mask, which is a grayscale “image”. Where the mask is black, the layer is transparent, and where it’s white, the layer is opaque, and in between are various levels of opacity.
Masking allows you to make edits to the opacity of an image instead of deleting them totally with an eraser. With the eraser, you can undo 20 moves (changeable number in preferences), but with the mask you don’t have to undo, and you can edit something you did 150 moves ago.
After I got the trees in place, I started with colorizing. For actually applying color, I used the paintbrush and the paint mode options:
The ones I use for this type of work are usually Overlay and Color Burn. Overlay has the effect of laying a color over everything and is “translucent” meaning you can still see the image but it has a color on top. You can adjust the strength of the color with the opacity setting to the right. It’s kind of complicated how it actually works, but here is a good article from Adobe which covers all the modes.
Note: the images below are displaying layer blending, which is different than color blending that I just talked about. In these images, the leaf image is being blended into the mountain image, and what I was talking about was a color blending into an image. So for Overlay, the leaves are being laid over the mountain and for Color Burn, the leaf image is burned onto the mountain. With color blending it’s a little easier to understand what’s happening because it’s just one color being applied. But you can kind of see what’s going on – in Overlay you can see that the orange color is laid over the mountain. In Color Burn, the orange color is used to darken the mountain and on the darker parts you can’t really tell what color is being used.
Color Burn makes the image darker where you paint, based on the color you chose for the foreground. I like this one instead of the other darkening modes because it seems to create more contrast. You usually can’t see the foreground color very much unless the area is light that you’re coloring.
These two modes (and the rest) are also found in Layer Blending Options so you can do the whole image or layer at once. I use Overlay most often for most of my stuff and also sometimes Color, which just makes everything a color. Like I mentioned above, here’s a great article on all the blending modes.
The other tool that I use is the Burn tool. It’s a little different than the Paint tool using the Color Burn mode. For one thing, there are 3 settings: highlights, midtones, and shadows. As you’d expect, these settings burn colors on the highlights, midtones, and shadows. Using the shadow setting is great for creating more contrast so the image “pops”. There is an opposite tool called Dodge which can brighten highlights. I used Burn to enhance the shadows in the photo or the darkness on the sides of things so they looked more like they belonged in the photo. You can kind of see a bit more detail on the suit jacket, for instance. I don’t know how Photoshop picks stuff up when it doesn’t seem like it’s there at all in the original!
These techniques might need some practice. For masking, my biggest tip is to zoom in extremely close. Zooming in is one of the best ideas of Photoshop. You can only go up to 1400% though, which has actually not been enough in a few cases for me, I think when the image was really big? For coloring, just don’t be afraid of trying stuff out and undoing. It probably won’t be right right away, and like I said you can undo up to 20 times by default (or create a snapshot that will be saved for the future if you want to revert). Have fun!