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Add a Little Colour with Photo Retouching

The evolution of photo retouching has given us amazing abilities in altering our pictures. With Photoshop, we can change people’s hair and skin colour and even alter the shape of their features. One novel idea that has become popular is to take old black and white photos and colourise them. While using a professional service can get you the best results, there are several techniques you can use to create the effect you want.

First, you will want to have a photo editing program that allows for layers, masking and manual colour correction. Photoshop is probably the most versatile program for any kind of photo retouching. Next you will want to upload your pictures. The complexity of your picture will influence the difficulty of the colourisation, though the method is relatively unchanged. It is best to start out with a simple picture, like a nature shot without too much detail, to get the steps down properly.

Once you have opened your image in Photoshop, you should begin by clicking “Image” in the navigation bar, choosing “Mode” and then “CMYK Color.” This will convert your image into a model that uses primary ink colours, which will give you more striking results. It stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and key, which is black.

Now it is your job to use your knowledge of detail and a lot of experimentation to find the right colours for your picture. Start by choosing a section. If your picture has the sky in it than that is the best place. Use a clipping path to select this area. Photoshop offers an array of tool to help. If your horizon line is simple and the sky is evenly shaded, the “Quick Selection” tool will do. If you are dealing with a tree line, one of the lasso tools or the pen tool is a better selection.

Once your clipping path is set, you should refine it using the handy “Refine Edge” tool under the “Select” menu. Here you can check “Smart Radius” and dial up your radius to get into every nook and cranny. This is also very handy for dealing with getting in between individual strands of hair if you’re dealing with a human or an animal.

Now go into your layers palette and find the icon for “Adjustment Layer” and click on “Curves.” Since your clipping path is still active, Photoshop will automatically create a layer mask. Now you will see a histogram that shows the distribution of colour. Go through your four colour sets and curve the lines up or down to get the right blend that you want. For sky, you would probably only want to manipulate the cyan and yellow curves.

Now use this technique for every other piece of your picture. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Each layer mask can be returned to and altered as much as is needed without hurting the original picture. After you have completely colourised everything in your picture you would like, experiment with adding further adjustment layers, such as a “Hue/Saturation” layer, atop the rest to boost the tones and make the colours sharper.

Once you are satisfied with the effect you are finished. After practicing this photo retouching effect on a few simple pictures, you will be better prepared to work on more complex portraits.

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