How to Colorize a Black and White Photo Using the Photoshop Channel Mixer

How to Colorize a Black and White Photo Using the Photoshop Channel Mixer

If you’re using Photoshop and search the internet for tutorials on how to colorize a black and white photo, you will find numerous different ways. The method I’m going to describe is one that I think works the best and I’ve never seen this described when doing online searches.

After you’ve brought your black and white image into Photoshop and assuming you’ve cleaned it up as needed, you’re ready to begin. For learning the method, it’s best to start with a simple image without a lot of details. If you don’t have one you can find millions of black and white stock photos online you can quickly download to work with.

Before you begin colorizing, you need to make sure the image is in RGB mode. In the top menu click IMAGE and then MODE. Simply choose the RGB Color option if it is not already selected.

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Ensure image is in RGB COLOR MODE.

The first thing to do is to select the area you want to colorize. Each section that’s created will contain a single color. The Pen Tool works well for outlining a complicated shape, but it can be timely and tedious when doing so. You will learn to work more quickly as you gain experience.

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Outline the part to colorize using the PEN TOOL.

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Completed PEN TOOL selection.

After selecting an area with the Pen Tool, a popup appears, and you will want to set the FEATHER RADIUS option to 1. This will work well for most situations, but you can change as needed. The Feather Radius softens the edge of your selection. If the edge is too hard, it won’t look natural. Increasing the Feather Radius will also look unnatural but there may be exceptions. It will depend on what you wish to accomplish.

If the feather radius option does not automatically pop up, you can access it in the pen tools bar by clicking the SELECTION option.

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Click SELECTION to find the FEATHER RADIUS option.

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Set the FEATHER RADIUS and click OK.

Next, you will want to go to the Layers pane. If it’s not visible click on WINDOW in the Photoshop ribbon and select LAYERS. In the pane at the bottom click on the CREATE NEW FILL OR ADJUSTMENT LAYER and then choose CHANNEL MIXER. A new layer is created and color adjustment slider bars (Red, Green, and Blue) will appear in the PROPERTIES pane. Note that the selection outline will disappear.

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Create a new CHANNEL MIXER layer.

Now you can start adjusting the sliders and the area you had selected will start changing colors. You will need to play with the settings and adjust to taste and whatever you feel is appropriate. There is also a dropdown for OUTPUT CHANNEL that you can change in order to achieve the color you’re looking for. If there are specific colors that you will use more than once you will want to record the settings so you can quickly obtain the desired color again.

A picture containing indoor, small, sitting, table

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Adjusting the CHANNEL MIXER colors.

You can also adjust the opacity of this layer if you want the color to be more subtle. Experimenting with other properties in Photoshop may create other possibilities.

These steps are not that difficult to master so it shouldn’t take much practice adjusting for the different colors you will be using. The real work comes in doing this for each section of the image.

It should be noted that you’re making a new layer every time you create a new CHANNEL MIXER. If you’re working on a complicated image, then you will of course have numerous layers for each section. Make sure you rename each later so you can keep track of them.

As you can see, the steps for colorizing a black and white image are fairly simple. But it can require many hours of detail work and it can become monotonous. However, it can be rewarding once the project is complete. We live in a world of color and the satisfaction of modernizing old technology can bring about great satisfaction with your final version of the colorized image.

If you’re using Photoshop and search the internet for tutorials on how to colorize a black and white photo, you will find numerous different ways. The method I’m going to describe is one that I think works the best and I’ve never seen this described when doing online searches.

After you’ve brought your black and white image into Photoshop and assuming you’ve cleaned it up as needed, you’re ready to begin. For learning the method, it’s best to start with a simple image without a lot of details. If you don’t have one you can find millions of black and white stock photos online you can quickly download to work with.

Before you begin colorizing, you need to make sure the image is in RGB mode. In the top menu click IMAGE and then MODE. Simply choose the RGB Color option if it is not already selected.

Graphical user interface, text, application, chat or text message

Description automatically generated

Ensure image is in RGB COLOR MODE.

The first thing to do is to select the area you want to colorize. Each section that’s created will contain a single color. The Pen Tool works well for outlining a complicated shape, but it can be timely and tedious when doing so. You will learn to work more quickly as you gain experience.