Whether it be a film scan or a digital black and white photo, here’s a fun method for adding color back into your image using Topaz Labs. Feel free to download some sample images to the right so that you can follow along!

1. Adding Color with ReStyle

How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo

  1. Start by downloading the above image (to the right) and opening it in Photoshop or another compatible host editor that supports layer masking, like PaintShop Pro or Photoshop Elements.
  2. Duplicate the layer by pressing ctrl/cmd + J.
  3. Open Topaz ReStyle from Photoshop’s Filter menu.
  4. Press the Reset button in the bottom right corner to start with a clean slate. How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  5. On the left hand side of the screen choose the Architecture CollectionHow to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  6. Click on the grid-view icon Grid View Icon within the Presets toolbar to view multiple presets at once. This will make it easier to find the right effect.  How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  7. As you are scrolling through effects, look for one that can be applied to the sky only. Disregard the cityscape for now. This means you’ll want to find an effect that turns the sky blue.
  8. Click on the camera icon Snapshot to take a snapshot of any potential looks you come across. This will save that preset to your snapshots folder Snapshots folder for later compare and contrast.
  9. You are welcome to choose whichever effect you like, however for this demo the preset Olivine and Bright Blue Skies will be used. How to Add Color to a Black and White PhotoMasking can now be used to remove this effect from the cityscape. Typically I like to use ReMask to do the bulk of the masking with additional refinements using layer masking back in Photoshop.
  10. Expand the Masks module directly underneath the ReStyle module and make sure that it is checked.
  11. Select the Normal brush with a strength set to 1.00. Adjust the brush size as desired. How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  12. Brush out the effect from as much of the cityscape as you can, until you reach the skyline where you’ll want to switch the brush to Edge AwareHow to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  13. Zoom in close and carefully brush out as much of the blue from the cityscape as you can. You’ll want to decrease the size of the brush to around 0.01 for this.
  14. If you make a mistake, use the Reveal brush to brush the effect back in.
  15. Use the Navigator in the top right menu to navigate around the image as you are brushing out the effect from the cityscape. How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  16. The Strength slider can be reduced for a more natural transition between the skyline and cityscape.

Once you’ve masked out as much as you can, press OK to return the image back to Photoshop. The image may not be perfect at this point, however layer masking can be used to make an additional refinements.

If unfamiliar with layer masking, please refer to this article for instructions on how to use layer masks with plugins.

After additional layer masking in Photoshop, here is what the image looks like:

How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo

2. Image Separation with ReMask

Now that the image is partially filled with color, we can use Topaz ReMask to separate the sky from the cityscape. This will make it easier to add in color to the cityscape without have to conduct extensive masking in the sky again.

  1. Make a stamp layer to flatten your current work into a single layer. The purpose of this is so that you are able to continue working on the image without the layer mask interfering. A stamp layer will flatten your work into a single layer without actually merging all the layers together. To make a stamp layer press: ctrl + alt + shift + e (PC) or cmd + option + shift + e (Mac).
  2. Open the stamp layer in Topaz ReMask.
  3. In ReMask, go to Menu -> Preferences and please make sure you have these two options selected: How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  4. If not already selected, please check these two options and exit out of ReMask. Re-open ReMask for the changes to take effect.
  5. Back in ReMask, select the Blue Primary Brush (shortcut key E) and with a brush size of around 30, draw a line across the image where the cityscape meets the sky.
  6. Use the Red Fill tool (T) to fill the cityscape with Red.  How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  7. Press Enter to compute the mask. How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  8. Make any refinements to your mask as needed. What I recommend doing for further refining your mask is the following:
    1. Increase the Color Recovery slider to 100. How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
    2. Press the 0 key to access quad view mode (or 9 for a double view).
    3. Switch between different view modes in the top left menu.  How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
    4. Zoom in a bit and look for areas of grey within the mask.  Areas of grey mean transparency, which you don’t want. How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
    5. To fix this, use the green primary (Q) and red primary (S) brushes at a reduced size and dab in areas of grey.
    6. Refer back to the tri-map as you are doing this, making sure you do not break the blue boundary.
    7. Before pressing OK to return to Photoshop, view the Keep mode to make sure everything looks ok. You can make additional refinements to the layer mask back in Photoshop if you choose.

Congrats! You have successfully extracted the sky on its own layer. We can now edit the cityscape separately, without having to do tedious layer masking again.

3. Back to ReStyle

  1. Within your layers panel, duplicate the original background layer (the one that has no color applied to it) and open Topaz ReStyle.
  2. Browse through the Architecture collection again in grid-view mode Grid View Icon , taking snapshots Snapshot of potential effects.
  3. Access your snapshots folder Snapshots folder in the top menu.
  4. Click on the magnifying glass Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 1.13.04 PM underneath a preset to find similar looks. You can also click on an individual color within an effect to find other presets with that color.
  5. Click on an effect to take you back to the main screen.
  6. Try out different effects from your snapshots folder. Don’t forget about blending modes and the opacity slider, which can be accessed within the ReStyle toolbar.

How to Add Color to a Black and White PhotoFor this demo, I first applied the effect Vanilla Sunrise with a color blending mode. I then pressed OK, duplicated that layer and brought it back into ReStyle where I applied the Soft Pearl effect with a soft light blending mode to produce this result:

How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo

4. Additional Toning with Lens Effects

To tie everything together, let’s add some toning filters with Topaz Lens Effects.

  1. Create a stamp copy layer  (ctrl + shift + alt + e or cmd + option + shift + e). You should now have a single layer that contains both color in the sky and cityscape.
  2. With that layer selected, open Topaz Lens Effects.
  3. Select the Camera – Toy – Cool to Warm Light Vignette.
  4. Within the parameters, reduce the Camera Shake and Camera Shake Angle to 0.00.  How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  5. Press the Apply button in the bottom right corner to apply the effect.
  6. Next apply the Filter – Dual Tone – Cool to Warm I.How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  7. Press Apply.

Press OK when finished to return back to Photoshop. Here is the before and after:

How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo

Other Techniques

Here are some other tips and techniques for adding color to a black and white image.

1. Adding Color to Shapes

How to Add Color to a Black and White PhotoIf you’re a fan of coloring books, then you might enjoy this method.

  1. Apply an effect from ReStyle. I applied a blue filter from the Underwater collection for this example.
  2. Press OK.
  3. Back in Photoshop, go to Layer -> Layer Mask -> Hide All.
  4. Press B to access your brush and X to toggle to white (white = brush in, black = brush out).
  5. Use the Polygonal Lasso Tool to outline the shape and then color it in with the brush tool.

How to Add Color to a Black and White PhotoHow to Add Color to a Black and White Photo2. Using Color Blending Modes

How to Add Color to a Black and White PhotoColor blending modes add tint to the image without darkening or lightening it. The above example was altered with the following steps:

  1. Topaz ReStyle -> Graphic Collection -> Tanned Lily -> color blending mode.
  2. Press OK.
  3. Duplicate the original background layer and bring it back into ReStyle.
  4. From the Graphic Collection, Tobago Shaded Blue was applied with a color blending mode.
  5. Back in PS, part of Tanned Lily effect was masked out to blend in the Tobago effect underneath.
  6. Create a stamp layer to merge the layers together. How to Add Color to a Black and White Photo
  7. To give the image a final boost in contrast and color, this was done: Topaz Clarity -> Nature Collection -> Color and Contrast Boost I -> Opacity 50%.

3. Applying Color to Skin

How to Add Color to a Black and White PhotoAdding color into skin isn’t as difficult of a task as you might think. Layer masking is your friend here. Try and effect from the Portrait or Fashion collection in ReStyle. The effect Jasmine Fever was used on this image.

Don’t worry if the effect is too strong, apply it at full force, then back in Photoshop go to Layer -> Layer Mask -> Hide All. You can then brush in the effect to the skin only. Reduce the opacity of the brush for a more natural transition.

I hope that this tutorial has given you some new ideas how to add color back into a black and white image. Did you follow these steps? Share your results with us on Facebook and Twitter!

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