photoshop creative

How to hand-tint black and white images, part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
October 11, 2013

How to hand colour images in Photoshop to produce authentic vintage postcards, come back tomorrow for part 2 of this tutorial

Download all the files you need for this tutorial here


Make sure the Adjustments palette is visible (Window>Adjustments) and select Black & White. Converting with this feature allows you to alter the colours by hand, giving better control and conversion. If you do not have CS5, convert to monochrome in another way. The Hue/Saturation adjustment is handy or work with Channels and Levels for good overall control.


Selecting the Black & White adjustment instantly converts the image. Moving the individual colour sliders allows you to adjust the overall colour levels in the image. When you’re happy, Shift-click the visible coloured layer and the B&W adjustment layer, then press Cmd/Ctrl+E to merge them together.


Duplicate the merged layer and hide one of them for a back up (press the eye icon). Click on the top layer to work with this only. Select the Brush tool, and in the top bar select a hard edge brush at 100% Opacity. Press the Quick Mask button at the base of the side tool bar (Q). Make sure the side bar colours are set Foreground black, Background white.


We want to separate out the individual colours and areas within the image. Start by painting over the sky area. When you start painting in Quick Mask the area you’re covering will turn red. Zoom in and paint carefully making the brush size bigger or smaller when necessary. Use the [ ] keys for speed.


When painting on the mask, if you make an error just press X to switch the Foreground and Background colours. Black paints on the mask and white erases it, so try to be precise when painting. When the sky is all red press Q to come out of Quick Mask mode. The image will be an active selection. Press Shift+Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the selection.


Inverting the selection should leave you with the sky area as an active selection. Making sure you are clicked onto the top layer in the Layers palette, press Cmd/Ctrl+J to put the selection onto its own layer, then give it a label. Repeat steps 3-5 on all areas you want to be the same colour, so sand, umbrella segments, sea, rocks and chairs in our case.


When Masking areas make the areas quite simple, don’t over complicate colour combinations. To help your masking when painting, make the original coloured layer visible and hide the black and white layer to check your progress, that you’re painting in the lines well and getting all the correct information.


When all areas have been masked and placed on their own layers we can begin to add some vintage colours. To do this click onto the first layer you wish to colour, we are working on the sand layer first. Go to the Adjustments palette and select Color Balance. An adjustment layer will appear in the Layers palette.

Continue to part 2 of this tutorial…