I always shoot my original images in color, even
if the sole purpose of the assignment is to deliver B&W prints.
Why? Because when you shoot in high-resolution color, you have a full
complement of options available later in Photoshop. For example, you
can always convert a copy of the photo to B&W, keeping the color
original intact. Or, as in this hack, you can mix the two formats.
For this assignment, I want the image to have the artistic feel of
B&W photography. I'm also interested in playing
with hand-coloring to produce an unusual effect. By shooting the
original photo in full color, I can use a little Photoshop magic to
combine these looks.
For my source image, I selected a night picture of the Port of San
Francisco, as shown in . The clock tower
dominates the foreground, and you can see the Bay Bridge off in the
distance. Even though I like this photo in full color, I see some
creative possibilities that might emerge by playing with it a bit.
Figure 1. Full-color night shot of the Port of San Francisco
What I have in mind here is to desaturate the entire image,
essentially converting it to a B&W photo. I chose to
desaturate it instead of converting
it to grayscale, because that way, I can retain all the RGB
information. That information will provide me access to those
channels later, when I'll be ready to return some
color to the picture.
First, you convert the image to B&W by applying
Image→Adjustments→Desaturate. In effect, you now
have a B&W photo. Make whatever level adjustments you like to
make the tones pleasing to your eye. Now, you're
ready to start hand-coloring.
Choose History from the Window drop-down menu. This opens the
palette, which enables you to keep track of what's
going on. Next, from the Tools palette, select the History Brush, as
shown in .
Figure 2. Use the History Brush to restore color to specific areas of the picture
In the History palette, click in the box next to the level you want
to serve as the source for your painting. Generally speaking,
you'll want to go all the way back to the original
state of the photo. Next, determine your brush size. I like to use
the keyboard for this; the left bracket ([) makes the tip diameter
smaller, and the right bracket (]) makes it bigger.
At this point, all you have to do is start painting the color back
into your image. If you find that an area looks a little too intense
right after you finish restoring the color, select Edit→Fade
History Brush to back off the intensity.
Once you finish restoring the color to the selected areas of the
photograph, you can perform a final saturation adjustment by choosing
Image→Adjustments→Hue/Saturation. You might want to
pull the color back a little by sliding the indicator on the
Saturation scale to the left. This gives your artwork a nostalgic,
hand-colored look. But any look is possible with this technique, so
experiment and see what you discover.
The final result is guaranteed to attract attention, as illustrated
Figure 3. The final version of my hand-coloring (for now, anyway)
As usual, keep the original image as a Photoshop document
(.psd), with the history steps intact, so that
you can go back in time and make changes as your artistic eye