How to Add Color to Black-and-White Photos


Colorization is a nice image manipulation technique. Basic colorization doesn’t require an in-depth knowledge of image editing. Everyone can use the following techniques in Photoshop Elements to add color to their images. Coloring an image can be fun and can be done really quickly, too.

There are two levels of colorization.

You can either fully colorize an image — i.e. add colors to old, vintage photos or current but black-and-white photos.

Or you can partially colorize an image — i.e. add emphasis to a feature in a photo.

Using Photoshop Elements there are two simple and quick methods to colorize your images. I like to use them both very much.

The Colorization Method

This method enables you to add a color to an otherwise completely black-and-white image.

Open the original image that you wish to colorize. Using the Lasso Tool, select an object in the image that you want to colorize. It should be a logically coherent area — a piece of clothing, a part of the body, a building, the sky, etc.

In case of smaller, well-defined objects you can also use the Quick Selection Tool.

In case of clear geometrical shapes, you can use the Rectangular Marquee Tool or the Elliptical Marquee Tool.

When you are finished selecting an object, right-click on the selected area and select Layer via Copy from the drop-down menu.

Now go to Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Hue/Saturation in the menu or simply press Ctrl+U to open up the Hue/Saturation window.

Tick the Colorize box in the bottom-right corner of the window. Set the most appropriate color for the object using the Hue, Saturation, and Lightness sliders.

Click OK when you are done.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

I selected the cat’s eyes (well-defined small features) with the Quick Selection Tool.


Click image to enlarge


Click image to enlarge

I selected the body of water (a large, partially well-defined object) using the Polygonal Lasso Tool.

The Inversion Method

Another method of colorization enables you to subtract almost all colors from an image, leaving behind just a partially colorized picture. This way, the part of the image that remains in color is emphasized.

Open your original image. As explained in the beginning of the previous method, select an object in it that will remain in color using one of Photoshop Elements’ many selection tools.

When you are done selecting the object, right-click on the image and click Select Inverse. Alternatively, you can do the same action via Select > Inverse in the menu or by pressing Ctrl+Shift+I.

Now go to Enhance > Convert to Black and White in the menu or simply press Alt+Ctrl+B. The Convert to Black and White window will open up.

In this window, select the style that best describes your image (e.g. portrait, landscape, urban) or set your own settings. When you are done, click OK.


Click image to enlarge


Click image to enlarge

I selected the stork’s beak (a well-defined small feature) with the Quick Selection Tool.

Remember, you don’t have to be realistic and stick to the colors as they should be. You can colorize your images according to your imagination, too.

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