Here’s a simple tutorial that will result in a photo like those old hand-tinted photos. The process is easy but delicate, and can take a little time, or a lot of time, depending on what type of photo you are planning to colour.
The more details you want to hand colour, the longer it will take. A simple portrait might take half an hour (or an hour if you are very concerned about how natural it looks), but hand painting an old landscape can take many hours, depending on how much of it you want to colour, and on how detailed you want to get. The more natural you want the landscape to look, the longer it will take.
This works on old landscape, still life, or portrait images. Essentially, any old black and white photo you want to tint.
If you like to colour, you’ll enjoy this. The tutorial is short – the text amounts to less than a page (but the included photos stretch it to 3 pages). While the tutorial is short, completing the work on your image is likely to take you a fair bit longer than reading the tutorial, depending on complexity.
You can choose to colour only parts of an image (selective colouring), or colour all of it. The image used in my tutorial took me about 20 minutes to complete since it’s a portrait with little in the way items I wanted to colour – here, it was simply the skin tones and the tie, since the suit was black to start with, and I chose to leave it that way. Painting a colour over black using the method I used in my tutorial won’t work well, and may slightly tint the black, but mostly … you’ll be disappointed with the results. Overall, the effects on my late Great Uncle’s portrait of him as a young man are rather splendid, I think.
Just to give you a comparison, I’ve included an original colour image of my (late) Great Aunt (his wife) in her early 20s. The photo has a much softer focus than the black and white one, and this seems to be sort of typical of the time. Looking at several of the old “coloured” photos from that period (1920s to 1940s), a lot of them are “tinted” and have a soft focus – I have several similar photos, some men and some women, where the soft focus has been applied. Adding a soft focus to your photo is not such a difficult thing if you want to do that after hand-colouring it (not before).
There are several filters that offer soft-focus effects for photoshop, and several of them are free. I’d suggest Virtual Photographer from OptikVerve Labs if you haven’t got a filter you like. Along with the soft focus option, there are many others you can install with this plugin. It also can be installed as a stand-alone product without requiring photoshop to run.
Download the full tutorial: HandColouringWithPhotoshop (NOTE: this pdf requires a password to open. The password is notheft .