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How to Color an Old Black and White Photo

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Coloring a Black and White photo is easy, Coloring it well is a different story. Because there are so many different colors present in a normal photograph – hundreds of millions, it can be very difficult to reproduce that range.

Coloring a Black and White Photo

Today you will learn some great tips and tricks on how to color a Black and White photo in a way that won’t take you forever. This is the same method you would use if you wanted to make a photo accurate, but it would require much more painting.

I would recommend this technique for photos of your own family. Chances are that art galleries are not going to be impressed, but your Grandmother is sure to think you are the most amazing artist to have ever lived.


Start out by creating a group above the Black and White photo and changing the blending mode of that group to COLOR. This will make every layer in the group also act as a color layer. Now choose a random Color and start painting over an object.

It doesn’t matter what color you choose to begin with because you can always change your Color later by hitting CMD+U, and adjusting the Hue and SAT sliders. This way keeps you from stressing about choosing the right Color from the beginning.

Once everything has been colored separately, choose a slightly larger Brush with a soft edge, and a Flow of 10. Sample different Colors in the image by hitting ALT, and paint them into other areas. The idea here is to get the Colors to blend together. In this photo for instance, the green grass would cast some color on the legs of the girls, so that has to be painted on.

Episode Timeline

  • 0:37 – Introducing Amelia’s Great Grandmother
  • 2:20 – Painting in the grass from a reference
  • 4:20 – Painting in Skin
  • 10:00 – Using Hue/Sat
  • 11:40 – Using Blend If to Color just the darks
  • 13:40 – Blending in Colors
  • 17:10 – Using Soft Light to Add Depth

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