How To - Work With Monochrome Images

There are many ways to work with monochrome images, including selective adjustment of tonal values, contrast and even image color that can emulate toning. In this installment of our Web How To's we'll play with colorization, adding color to selective parts of a monochrome image that can make it look like a combination hand-painted (with photo oils) and toned photograph. You can paint in selectively with brush tools if you like, but this how-to deals with a more simplified approach.

Step One: This is the cover image from our March, 2005 issue of Shutterbug. Feel free to right click and copy it if you want to work along. The photograph was made on Plus-X film and scanned with a Nikon Coolscan scanner. It was made with a Nikon FM camera and Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 lens. You can scan in any image of your own or make one with your digital camera on monochrome mode, or easily convert from color to black and white with your imaging software. We used Adobe Photoshop for this technique.

© George Schaub, All RIghts Reserved

Step Two: We want to colorize the tree and branches one color and the sky another, so we have to Select the sky to isolate it. This is done easily with the Magic Wand tool. Choose the tool and then click on a white area of the image (the sky). Keep the tolerance at about 22 and uncheck Contiguous, as we want the blank sky in every part of the picture selected. Next you'll want to go to Select>Invert so that the Selection is of the branches, leaves and limbs. Now whatever we do will be applied to the branches etc. We'll get to the sky later.

Step Three: We want to add a sepia tone to the tree. (Note: If you have scanned a black and white image as a Grayscale image then first go to Image>Mode and change it to RGB. This allows color to be accepted by the image on the screen. If you know you want to do this type of work with a monochrome image then scan it initially in RGB mode.)

Next, go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation. This box appears. Be sure to click on the Colorize box in the lower right. Now move the Hue/Saturation sliders as shown until you see the image color you want. Here we're showing a sepia effect, but you can tweak it to your taste.

Here's the result of the sepia toning of the tree and limbs. Now we want to add color to the sky. So now we have to move our Selection to the sky area and protect the colorization we've already done.

Go to Select>Reselect and the Select>Invert. This will then Select the sky area.

© George Schaub, All RIghts Reserved

Step Four: Now it's time to pick a color for the sky. Go to the bottom of the toolbar where you see the black and white box (Note: highlight foreground/background color boxes from magic wand toolbox illustration). Double click on the black box (the foreground color) and you'll get the Color Picker. Slide the sliders and place the cursor in the color box and pick a color for the sky. Here we've selected a light blue. As you click inside the color box you'll see the color on the top of the foreground/background indicators change.

Next go to Layer>Adjustment Layer>New Fill Layer.

Step Five: When you get the Fill box it will default to Foreground Color. All you need do is set the opacity of the fill. Keep it below 50% and experiment with different percentages to get the look you like. Too much fill will make the color too opaque. Just click OK and the color will fill the selected area.

Here's our final result.

© George Schaub, All RIghts Reserved

Because we worked in Layers we can adjust the strength, or richness of each Layer. In the Layer palette shown here just highlight the Layer you might want to change and work the Opacity slider back and forth.

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