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branwen's intermediate guide to colorizations


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{x-posting old tda tutorial}

Branwen's Intermediate Guide to Colorizations

This will expand on my beginner's guide to colorizations, which you can find here. I'm using the same folder/layer mask technique I talk about there, so if you haven't read it, review that first. Today I'll be showing you how I made this:


Before I start a colorization I always filter the picture at least a little. For this colorization, I started with this:


When I filter, for each step (e.g., sharpen, topaz, etc), I copy everything visible and paste it in a new layer. On Macs, that's Command-Option-Shift+E, and on PCs, it's Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E. That's what I did here, too.

Step 1: Sharpen | 78% opacity
Step 2: Topaz Detail, Feature Enhancement 1 | 100% opacity
Step 3: Topaz Detail, Skin Smoothing | 50% opacity
Step 4: Gaussian Blur on Soft Light | 15% opacity
Step 5: White/Transparent Gradient Fill on -90, Black/Transparent Gradient Fill on 90 | Soft Light, 20% opacity

That left us with this:



I started by finding a somewhat natural skin tone. What I've started doing is applying the initial skin tone to the entire picture minus the eyes and teeth - it helps sidestep some of the hard-cutting, particularly around wispy hair (which definitely would have been a problem here), and in general, your skin tone won't really get in the way of adjusting the colors later.

Step 1: Color Fill #dc804f | Soft Light, 100% opacity
Step 2: Selective Coloring, Reds -41, +25, +24, 0; Yellows -26, +20, +35, +38; Neutrals -1, +6, +7, 0 | Normal, 100% opacity
Step 3: Color Fill #c85109 | Soft Light, 21%
Step 4: Selective Coloring, Reds -4, +8, -16, -3; Yellows -9, +16, -4, +41; Neutrals -4, -2, -2, -7 | Normal, 100% opacity

That leaves us with this:


That's not bad - but we're not done.

If you really want your colorization to look natural, you shouldn't stop there. People have a lot of different shades on their faces, and that's not all just covered naturally with one skin shade. You're going to want to use soft brushes on soft light (using the color fill/layer mask method I talked about in my last tutorial) across other areas of the person's face.

In this case, I used:

Step 5: #ecb393 above the eyebrows and nose | Soft Light, 45% opacity
Step 6: #853522 across the eyebrows, outside of the bottom of the nose, and the outsides of the cheeks | Soft Light, 27% opacity
Step 7: #4d5776 on the outside of the bridge of the nose, under the eyes, and the insides of the cheeks | Soft Light, 33% opacity
Step 8: #a74914 across the bottom of the eyes and between the eye and the nose | Multiple, 12%
Step 9: #4a2c1c across the tops of the cheeks | Soft Light, 27%

That left me with this:


That looks better, but I wanted to make this colorization look a little creepy, so I went further.

Step 10: #000000 around the eyes and across the top part of the cheeks | Soft Light, 100% opacity
Step 11: #f60606 around the bridge of the nose, the outside of the eye, and the skin bordering the hair directly about the eyebrow | Soft Light, 31% opacity
Step 12: #29ae0f across chin, bottom of nose, middle of cheeks, and between eyebrows | Soft Light, 20% opacity
Step 13: #6b4c11 around eye and across the top of the cheeks | Soft Light, 18% opacity
Step 14: #7f0404 around the eyes and eyebrows | Soft Light, 53% opacity
Step 15: Curves Layer to make the graphic a tiny bit darker

That leaves us with this:


What I talked about with skin? It's true of hair, too. The natural shadows in a black&white pictures get you some of the way there, but if you really want you colorization to pop, you'll probably want to add in highlights.

I actually didn't really need to do too much to the hair for this colorization - I probably could have just added the highlights and called it a day, because the skin color layers happened to make a really pretty hair color. In this case, though, I was looking for something a little more creepy and otherworldly, so I added some layers to the hair before adding in the highlights.

Step 1: #b42121 | Soft Light, 45% opacity
Step 2: #ebe59d | Overlay, 44% opacity
Step 3: Curves layer to add more depth and tone the red down a bit

That leaves us with this:


If I wasn't going for a creepier effect, that red would be too bright. As it is, it works - but it still looks flat, which means that it's time to add in the highlights.

Step 4: #bf4274, streaks from top to bottom of some of the lightest hair | Soft Light, 45% opacity
Step 5: #2e1511, across some of the darkest/most shadowed parts of the hair | Soft Light, 60% opacity
Step 6: #36381b, random streaks from top to bottom of hair | Soft Light, 100% opacity
Step 7: Curves layer to add more depth


That leaves us with this:



Now it was time to add some fire. I found fire stock pictures from the same pack and put them all on screen.


Then I layer masked away a lot of it, including everything over her face. I didn't want it to look overdone, and I did want the individual flames to be visible.


In general, it's a good idea to cover both the whites of the eyes and any visible teeth with a white brush (as always, using color fill/layer mask). They're nearly always a greyish color in a black/white picture, and it'll look unnatural if you don't.

These were better than they often are to start out, but the left of the girl's eye was still a little grey, and again, I was going for a creepier vibe.

Step 1: #ffffff on the eyeballs | Hard Light, 31% opacity

In general, I like to go for more natural eye colors in colorizations - I find that it's easy to fall into a bright blue/green trap because it absolutely is easier, but it tends to look unnatural. In this case, though, I was going for creepy, so I used the eyedropper to find a color on the girl's hair and used that for her eyes.

Step 2: #d33d21 on the pupils | Overlay, 100% opacity
Step 3: Curves to brighten it a tiny bit


It's easy to overcolor the lips, IMO. In this case, one layer really would have been all I needed. (I often include highlights on the lips as well, but the lighting in this makes it unnecessary.

Step 1: #573a0c | Soft Light, 100% opacity

That would have given us this:


I'm not stopping there, though, because again: I'm going for creepy here. :P

Step 2: Selective Coloring, Reds +100, 0, 0, 0; Yellows +5, -11, -4, +22; Neutrals -39, +19, +17, +6 | Normal, 100% opacity
Step 3: Color Balance, Shadows +9, -4, -11; Midtones -11, +2, +9; Highlights, -27, +4, +37 | Normal, 100% opacity
Step 4: #8b180d | Overlay, 100% opacity
Step 5: Curves layer to brighten the lips a bit
Step 6: Selective Coloring, Reds +6, -16, +11, +5; Neutrals -2, 0, 0, 0 | Normal, 100% opacity

That leaves us with this:


The background is fine the way it is, but I wanted to make it a little darker so the reds really popped.

Step 1: #080e0d | Soft Light, 80% opacity

That leaves us with this:


Not bad. But, once I'm done with every feature, I like to put a few final touches in - nothing drastic, just to make the colors pop more.

Step 1: Selective Coloring, Reds -19, +10, +10, 0; Yellows +34, -51, +16, +12; Neutrals -8, +3, +1, -2 | Normal, 100% opacity
Step 2: Color Balance, Shadows +5, -1, -2; Midtones -6, +6, +11; Highlights -2, 0, 0 | Normal, 100% opacity
Step 3: Curves layer to make things a little darker
Step 4: Vibrance +55, 0 | Normal, 100% opacity
Step 5: Black/White Gradient | Luminosity, 38% opacity

That leaves us with the finished colorization:


Here are all the steps in a fun GIF:


And here's another GIF of the process with a more natural looking colorization:

(click for slower version)

Some general tips:
Particularly when it comes to the skin and hair, don't be afraid of experimenting with odd colors. While I often use shades of orange, yellow, or red for skin/hair highlights, I'll also branch out into other colors - even colors like bright blue or green. Keep in mind that you're slapping a lot of colors on top of each other and lowering the opacity quite a bit, and they don't necessarily give you an effect you're expecting.

In addition, use the natural shadows and lighting on the original picture to guide where you're putting your highlights. You can branch out from that as well, but it's a really good starting point, and it's easiest to identify as well.

Don't make the eyes or teeth too bright. You really don't need that much - #ffffff set on hard light and a fairly low opacity will do the trick.

I hope that was helpful!

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