Photoshop Tutorial: Colouring intricate parts of an old photo with gradient maps


Colouring an old photo can take some time, its best to work with as many techniques as you can to get the job done. Such as colouring an old photo with gradient maps. Many people use coloured layers to mask out an area and then paint in the colour. The best analogy I can think of is that it is like adding to colour with a piece of stained glass above the image. Switch on a light behind the glass and the image is flooded with colour. Paint out some of the stained glass with black and only some of the colour shines through, affecting certain parts of the image.


Gradient maps still use the stained glass analogy but when the light shines through it uses the dark and light tones as a tool to apply the gradient colour. You can use many colours in a gradient map or just two.


This video example shows how this technique of colouring an old photo with gradient maps can be used to colour a tricky or fiddly part of an image.


To colour this shirt by hand would take far too long and we can make a shortcut by using gradient maps. To make the colours denser or change the properties of the colour the layer style can be changed also. These affect the way the colour interacts with the underlying lying layer. Whilst making the image a different colour adding a style to the layer changes the brightness, intensity, lightness, hue and many other effects. By using these in combination the correct colour is usually possible to achieve.

Using a gradient map for the smaller part is not normally needed as a quick colour mask will do the trick. Set a layer above and fill it with a colour. Then hide the layer and reveal it a bit at a time by painting on the mask.

For more on “colouring” just use the blog search, or click this link “colouring images and techniques” you will get many results and you will be sure to pick up some tips. If you wanted to see an overview of all colouring techniques see our main page colouring a black and white photo.