Advanced colouring techniques, so what makes a re-colouring a photo really work?
I’ve talked about colouring before and the various blend modes but what makes the colouring process realistic and not fake looking?
Simply put, adding a layer of colour over part of a photo, only colours it. We dont want that to happen. We don’t want to just “add” colour to the photo, this will make it look very flat. We want make the photo alive! Below is an examples of flat colour versus varied colour. This is a small crop from a photo I coloured from Shorpy (dot) com
Using just a few colours leaves a very illustrative look to the photo. It looks like it has been washed over with dense water colour. Using many different shades can mean it takes 10 times as long to do but you will end up with much better and more realistic results. One method to help add more colour in varied random shades, is to create a layer of “render clouds” of two colours. This is perfect for creating natural shifts in colour shades, for tree bark or leaves or skies and ground etc.
Add some random colour.
You can see here two examples of the shades I used for the two main sets of leaves. The left corresponds to the leaves on the ground to left of the final image. The right half refers to the leaves in the tree top right. (see end of post for final image)
This technique of using multiple colours within the one layer is a clever way of saving time without compromising quality. For example you could use a colour graduated fill layer of three shades, red, orange and green. These can be used to colour the leaves of the tree or similarly use three shades of blue for the sky. By making sure you switch blend modes to the one that works best, you’ll get the best results, there is not set rule. Use trial and error, but modes like, softlight, overlay and colourburn are some that work well.
Planning the colouring before you start is a good idea. For example for this image I chose a fresh green for new plant growth and grass and an olive colour for older greenery and a straw like shade for the dry grass.
Once you have the entire image filled with lush hues, think about the time of day it was shot. If the shadows are long the sun is lower in the sky. This means it is very likely the sun was a warmer tone than mid day. Add some yellow or orange warmth to the lighter areas. Try a weak “photo tint” or layer to warm it up.
Take time over it, there are no short cuts or one button wonders. Take and area or object and colour it. Make it the best you can. If you lose interest, save you work and come back to it. Maybe leave it a day and then revisit the work, it always looks different on fresh eyes! Good luck. The basics of colouring can be found on the blog, just search for “colouring”.