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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
A friend got this cool peel-apart Polaroid as a birthday gift, so we've been playing with it. So, I've ended up with all of these black and white prints. And because it's a peel, because it's a very old camera the, the prints are pretty grungy. So I've got what looks like a nice antique photo, but there's a whole other realm of antique that I can go, which is the hand colored look that people used to do before colored prints. People would take black and white photos and, using a very particular type of tint, they would actually just paint color onto images.
What was cool about doing that was that you didn't actually have to know how to paint. It was really like a coloring book. All you had to do was get color into the right place and the tonality that was already there would do the rest for you because the tints weren't opaque. The tonality in the image could show through the tint and so you'd end up with these very soft pastelie-like hand colored images. I am going to do that here. It is a really easy thing to do in Photoshop as long as you have any version of Photoshop that supports layers, and you have one older than that, it wouldn't run on any new operating system anyway.
So, I've got my, my image here that I've scanned. What I'm going to do is add a layer on top of it, not an adjustment layer, an actual image layer. I want an empty one. And I'm just going to paint color into this. I'm going to start with Josh's sweater here. I'm just going to pick a color of some kind. I'll go with a blue of some kind. And I've got a paintbrush and as with any of the brushes in Photoshop, I can change the size of the brush with the left and right bracket keys, I just need to get some paint on here. Now, as you can see, I am not getting anything that looks remotely like a realistic hand tinting look here.
I'm getting just blue paint spilled on top of a black and white image. I'm not done yet. So if I, with this layer selected, go to the blending mode menu. The pop menu over here. This lets me change how pixels in one layer interact with pixels in the layers below them. So I've got blue pixels up here, and these black and white pixels down here. I want them to merge. And there are a lot of different ways I can do that. To get this hand-tinted look, what I want to do is multiply them. That's going to result in a darker pixel, so I picked a kind of light blue, aiming for a navy.
This still doesn't look quite right. The blue is too strong. It's overpowering the underlying layer. I'm just going to lower my opacity to about there, and now I'm getting still the original tonality Of the black and white image, but with some blue layered on top of it. This is exactly how hand tinting worked in the old days except I don't get messy paints all over my fingers, and now I can just sit here and paint over his sweater. And it, it really does feel like I know what I'm doing even though I'm not painting any highlight or shadow or anything.
I'm just getting all of that for free. And now I just work through the rest of the image, picking colors and painting them into the appropriate place. I don't need to do any other adjustments, this level of blending is going to work for all of the other colors in my image. You do have to be careful, I can't be too sloppy I, I need to stay within the lines. I need to be careful. It's, it's critical in eyes that you not paint over the whites in the eyes. They need to remain white. If you do paint over them, you need to grab an eraser tool and go back and put the white back in or take the color out, depending on whether you're a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person.
One thing to take note of, if I, I've chose a flesh tone color here that I think is working pretty well. And so I might go and paint his skin and then say okay next I'm going to paint his shirt. If I need to go back and get that skin color though I've got a problem cause I cannot just eye dropper this color that I've painted on. In other words let's say I then go and work on his shirt. We'll get in the let me give him a pink shirt It's not really his color, but I'm going to try it anyway. Now let's say I want to go back and touch up that skin tone.
If I grab my eye dropper tool and click I'm not actually getting the original skin tone color that I was painting with. I'm getting the color of that, of that flesh tone color mixed with the black and white texture that was beneath it. The only way I can get back to that exact skin tone color is to turn all of my blending off. So go from multiply back to normal, and from 35% opacity back to 100%. Now, I can sample that color and then set all of this stuff back and I will have the skin tone color that I'd found before.
What I might do then while I'm painting is to just sock these colors away up here in my swatches palette, with my skin tone color selected I can just click right there. And I might even give this a name, Josh skin tone, because I might choose a different skin tone for Jacob. And now I can go back later and get that up. So I can build up a little palette of colors. Now I just paint through my image, and I'm done. If I want, I can flatten the image later. But what's nice is because these are all in a discrete layer, I can turn them off and on. I can go back and edit them. I can easily erase them. I can alter them. I can change the pink shirt to a green shirt, whatever.
I know that I'm going to be okay. So this is a very nice way of getting a classical, hand-colored, antique look on images that you might have that already have an old analog look to them.
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