Colourised Black and White Photos (7 replies and 5 comments)
Dear forum members,
I know this may sound a little stupid, but I am looking to recreate the look of colourised black and white photos. For some reason, they look very nice to me and have a painting feel to it. However, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that makes it so beautiful.
Does anybody have any ideas on how to achieve this look? I’ll attach photos below for reference.
By carefully colouring in the various parts of the picture in some suitable software - Photoshop, Picture Publisher or whatever you like best. Use varying additive and subtractive brushes, depending on the part of the picture you are working on.
In ye olden days when I had hair and computers used 8-track tape, many fashion shoots were shot in B&W and then painted by hand using watered down inks and tiny brushes and spray bottles. This gave exactly that 'painted' look to a magazine cover, but took forever - at least a day, sometimes a few days!
The technique was extremely popular for German glossy weekly women's magazines.
Thanks for the insight, I didn’t know people back then specifically took B&W photos to paint it again.
To clarify, if I had taken a photo of a subject in colour, is there any way to achieve the “colourised black and white photo” look through editing software by manipulating the colour, like perhaps using an adjustment layer?
I once used those colouring inks. It was more of a coloured stain, it was translucent so you could still see the black and white detail underneath. I think that is what you see, the used then were rather weak but it was very easy to do. If you made a mistake you could then rub off the mistake and start again. The ink/ stain was very forgiving and took some time to dry but when dry it was permanent. The photos you attached look digitised using modern software but the original hand painted photos looked hand painted, the colours were rather weak and had to be built up over time to get the right colour tone. Today’s software has changed all that and has perfected the process so it’s hard to tell if they are genuine vintage photos other than the fact that the clothing indicates the year. I do prefer the ink/stain method of the originals as they look authentic. I am sure computers can mimic the look you are after if you experiment. You can still buy the inks so you can practice painting old photos before you switch on the computer.
Shud read “the colours used then were rather weak”.
Thanks for the reply! Will try to experiment myself
Example of early painted photos. Notice the rather weak and basic colouring. Now perfected by modern software.
I think you'd have to decolorize a color image and then add color over select areas to look like a hand-tinted b&w photo. Now maybe working with a color image will make it easier to isolate a block first, like just the face or just the shirt, etc., pull that color out and then add an overall color tint to the b&w version before moving on to the next area. I don't know. But the look is of a monochrome image that has been tinted in select areas, so a face, for example, has an overall tan or beige color (though sometimes they brushed some pink into the cheeks). The complexity of color in skin tone in a real color photo gets lost.
Thanks a lot! Your comments really are the most well explained! Will experiment
I understand there are a number of companies manufacturing photographic ink/ stainer/ dyes etc and they are not particularly expensive either. The ones I used to use were made by ‘Ilford’ and are not available anymore. Attached are a couple of photos showing the transparent effect on a glass jar and also photos of ‘Mixol’ products and various colours which can be mixed to achieve the right tone.
Sorry photos would download.
It's important to amass a collection of images that fit the aesthetic you are looking to recreate and then find commonalities among them. There are certainly color palettes that are unique to certain film stocks, such as Kodachrome, but you may also be looking at the approach to lighting. Lighting in old portraits is frontal while cinematic images are often backlit or crosslit. You can see this approach to lighting in the Netflix series The Crown. If you are looking to recreate the look of colorized old photographs, this short video might help:
It might also help to learn how to turn color images into black and white images, in which case I would recommend looking at how Phedon Papamichael turned his color movie Nebraska (2013) (Dir. Alexander Payne) into black and white and how Pascal Dangin achieved the classic effect on Frances Ha (2012) (Dir. Noah Baumbach)