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If you have ever taken a high school or college photography class, you may have actually done a technique called hand coloring or antique tinting. And that's where you use these chemical dyes and Q-tips. Real technical sharp tool there. To hand tint or hand color the image, you would just dab on the color over a black and white image to hand color. I have seen lots of effects like that done in Photoshop, but the problem is that they usually look too precise. If you remember back what the original tool was, it was a Q-tip. There were no hard edges on the Q-tip. So, this technique I'm going to give you here is a more accurate representation or simulation of that old darkroom, lab type, photography type effect.
So to begin, we are going to create a Black & White Conversion adjustment layer to convert this to grayscale. So I'll use the Black & White adjustment layer to do so. And while you are here, you can decide how you want the grayscale version to convert, and you can play around with the different sliders to identify individual colors. So if I want the red taillights to have little bit more detail, I'm going to open up the Reds a little bit. I'll go to the Green. Since this image is predominantly green, you can control a lot of the contrast with the Green slider, and some of the sliders may or may not have any other effect. I'm going to open up that license plate because there is a lot of orange and yellow in there.
So I'm going to bring that license plate back up, so it's bright. Then you can just decide about the other sliders yourself as well. Turns out, if I use the Blue slider, I can open up the chrome and the bumper a little bit, so that looks about right, good enough. Next, we want to bring the color version back in layer that on top of the grayscale version. So we are going to go back to the original layer. Command or Ctrl+J to duplicate that. Then we are going to move it up to the top of the stack. Now, it looks exactly like the way we started. So we are going to blur this layer to kind of simulate the hand coloring, and create all these soft swathes of color by doing the blur.
We'll do Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and we'll use a pretty high radius. We want the color to spill out beyond its edges, all right. I mean there's no painting within the lines here with this technique. So Radius of 10, the higher, the resolution of the image, the higher the radius we'll use. I stick with 10 for now, click OK. And now you have your choice of blend modes of how you are going to blend that back down to the image. Your best bet is going to be one of the Contrast blend modes. There is Overlay, Soft Light or Hard Light. Let's start with Overlay. You will see right away I get a real nice antique color effect where I get this nice, soft atmospheric glow of color blending back in the grayscale version, and it's all just spilling all over the edges real nicely.
If I want a more subdued effect, I can choose Soft Light. You can see it's much more faint, a really nice faint tint. Hard Light will give you yet another variation. It's kind of a little bit stronger than Overlay. So there is really no right or wrong here. You just decide what you want. I'm going to stick with Overlay for now. And now we want to limit the color to only certain parts of the image, maybe in the highlights and mid-tones to gets the darks of the image really filled up. There is not really a lot of detail here in the darks in mid-tones. So we are going to open those up, and we are going to use our friendly Advance Blending sliders to do it.
We'll just double-click on the image layer. That brings up the Layer Style dialog box where we get the Blend If sliders. We are going to drag the Black slider to the right. As we do so, you'll start seeing the shadow details coming back. But again, we get this weird kind of amoeba like effects where the image is getting eaten away. That's because it's a very hard transition, it's opaque from 74 and higher, in terms of tonal values, everything that's lighter than 74 is just going away, it's becoming transparent. We want to create a blend, so I'm going to hold down the Option key or the Alt key to split the sliders and get a nice soft transition between what's colored and what's black and white. So you just decide where you want those details to be. There's no right or wrong here. It's just kind of mix and match to taste.
Again this is non-destructive, so you can come back and edit this at anytime. I can just double-click on the thumbnail to get these sliders back. All right that's good for me. I'm going to click OK. Here is before, here is after. I'm just undoing, you can see, I'm bringing back some of the shadow detail by using those Blend if sliders. I'm not completely happy yet, I have lost too much of the red of the taillights, and I have lost all the color in the license plate. So, I'm going to go back to the Black & White adjustment layer; the great thing about adjustment layers is that they have layer masks built-in automatically.
So I'm going to get my Brush tool, type B for the Brush tool, and my layer mask is filled with white, so I need to paint with black. That's my current foreground color. I'm going to start with a low Opacity, say 50%, and I'm just going to paint with black on that layer mask right where I want some color to come back. So, on the red taillights here and maybe just a little bit of color. As you notice, I'm not trying to get right up to the edges here. It's okay. I just want the hint of color, as if I was using a Q-tip, there you go. So here is before, I'm going to drag through these two layers on their eye. I call them in the Layers panel, there is before, and there is after. So a real nice classic effect to get antique hand coloring, where it's not so precise and crisp.
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