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Strictly speaking, a black and white image lacks color. And yet by adding color to a black and white image, you can produce a much better final result in many situations. Fortunately, as you'll see in this lesson, adding a bit of color to an otherwise black and white image is remarkably easy. The way I think of this, is as a black and white image, but one that is printed using ink that is of a particular color other than black. Let's get started. In this case of course, my image contains color, because it is a color image, so I'm going to start by converting it to black and white.
I'll go on and Click on the Create New Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel, and then choose Black and White from the popup. This adds my Black and White Adjustment Layer and I can continue to refine my image based on this conversion. For example, I'll turn on my own image adjustment feature and then go through the image, and perhaps lighten and darken up a variety of different areas, within the image. Once I've created a baseline black and white conversion that I'm happy with, I'm ready to add my color tint. And that's done through the Black and White Adjustment Layer. I'll simply turn on the Tint check box, which will apply the default color tint to the image.
In this case, a nice sepia that actually suits the image quite well. If you'd like to change the color of this tint though, you can do so by simply clicking on the Color Swatch associated with the Tint checkbox. Clicking on this Color Swatch will bring up our Color Picker, and here, we can choose any color of the rainbow. I generally start by adjusting the Hue, using this Vertical Gradient slider. Once I've established a Hue that I'm happy with, I can adjust the overall saturation and brightness of that color. The left to right axis is our Saturation level.
To the left is less saturated and to the right is more saturated. The vertical axis is brightness. Up is brighter and down is darker. Generally speaking, you'll get the best results by using a color that is relatively subtle in saturation. A vibrant color is going to look artificial and somewhat cartoonish. Instead, look for colors toward the left end of the scale here, that are not very saturated. And of course, as you continue working, you can Click throughout the color gradient to try out different color interpretations.
The color will generally impart some level of mood to the image. If it's a cold subject, either literally or figuratively, then you're generally going to want to work with a blue or cyan tone. A typical example would be a winter scene. If its an image that connotates warmth. Again, either literally or figuratively, then you'll tend to favor colors somewhere in the yellow to orange and red values. And some images will benefit from other colors. For example, bits of industrial machinery, locomotive engines and things like that, actually look quite nice with a very subtle magenta color cast.
But in this case I'd like to impart a sense of timelessness about this image. I'd like to harken back to an older time, so something in the vein of a sepia tone is actually what I'm going to be going for. Generally speaking, the sepia tone has a value of somewhere between about 45 and 50 on the hue scale, that's degrees around the color wheel. But of course, feel free to fine tune this to the value that you feel works best for your particular image. In this case, I think this tone is looking pretty well, maybe I'd like to make it just a little warmer, a little closer towards the oranges and reds. But again, not too terrible saturated so the color is just a subtle little tint. I think that's looking pretty good, so I'm going to go ahead and Click OK in the Color Picker.
But keep in mind, at any time, you can change the color tint simply by clicking on the Color Swatch once again. And of course if you decide you don't want the color tint at all, you can turn off the Tint check box. So we have maximum flexibility here, when working with our black and white interpretation and adding the color tint. But in this case, I much prefer the image with the color tint, so I'm going to leave that option turned on. A touch of color added to a black and white image combines the focus on luminance of a black and white image with the emotional response we often have to any given color. As a result the color you add becomes potentially more powerful than the original color in the image.
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