Coloring Black and White
With the Detail Smart Brush Tool

Here's something that's a lot of fun - coloring black and white pictures on your computer with the Photoshop Elements Detail Smart Brush and a Wacom pen - either a Bamboo or an Intuos.

It's not difficult to do because the Detail Smart Brush has a Color category with pretty much any color you would want plus its really simple to modify the colors.

Normally I'd be suggesting that you make a new layer for every new color but the Detail Smart Brush just goes ahead and creates a versatile and useful adjustment layer for each new color.

In fact, coloring a black and white picture with the Detail Smart Brush and a Wacom Pen Tablet is a matter of taste and doing the painting.   The things that will make your masterpiece look truly wonderful are the decisions you make about layer opacity and layer blend modes after the painting is all done.  This is a layer intensive activity so you'll end up with lots of layers by the time you're finished!

A screen capture of the layers palette is in the right column.

Coloring Black and White

Here's a wonderful image that's just begging to be a colored black and white.

coloring black and white original

After working on this for a couple of evenings the image contained 18 Adjustment Layers using just about every one of the colors in the Smart Brush Color category.  A couple of the adjustments from the Portrait category were also used.

The layers palette to the right contains the names of the adjustments used on each layer.  If it makes more sense to you then change the names to something more descriptive as you go - something like blue dress and curtains - you get the idea ...

After coloring the black and white, the  image is somewhat overpowering.  The red curtains and the really dark blue jacket, in particular are not appealing.

black and white colored

Once the painting was done I went through the layers one by one and changed the opacity and or the blend mode to see what difference the changes will produce.  The layers that contained a lot of one color were of particular interest - such as the curtains, the blue jacket, the purple tablecloth and maybe the blue dress.

Adjusting The Layers

Let's take a look at the different layers after coloring the black and white image and do some modifications ...

colored black and white original
Original As Painted

The Original 50's Couple Image after painting with the Detail Smart Brush and a Wacom tablet.
colored black and white
Red Layer

Blending Mode changed from Normal to Screen and the layer Opacity lowered to 89%.
Colored black and white
Blue Jacket Layer

The Blending Mode was changed from Normal to Screen.  This gave the Jacket a nice, light blue color.
colored black and white

The Opacity of the tablecloth layer was lowered to 70% and the Opacity of the reflection in the toaster was lowered to 47%.
colored black and white
Venetian Blind

The Blend Mode of this layer was changed  from Normal to Soft Light.
colored blacvk and white blue dress
Blue Dress

The dress can be modified in many different ways.  With this version the Blend Mode was changed to Screen but it  could have been Soft Light or Color or Multiply and it would depend on what effects was desired.
colored back and white
Yellow Apron

The was really overpowering so the Blend Mode was changed to Soft Light and the Opacity of the layer was lowered to 56%
colored black and white faces

This is a subtle adjustment - the opacity of the Faces layer was lowered to 45%.  Before it was lowered the face color was overpowering on a full sized picture.

So after making those modifications to the layers, here's the new image ...

colored black and white

Ah - this one is bit easier on the eyes but you know what - that's entirely up to you.

After modifying all of the layers they were merged down into a copy of the Background one by one and when I was finished there were only two layers left - the original black and white Background and the Copy of Background with all of the color layers merged into it.

Here's another reason that it's generally a good idea to Merge the layers.  If you don't then what you have is a huge Photoshop File (.psd).  In my picture the final 18 layers created a file size of 26,580 KB.

To Merge Down the layer immediately above the Background Copy selected that layer and then Layer > Merge Down or simply Ctrl-E/Cmd-E.

Now with two layers it was easy to lower the opacity of the top layer to create even more subtle colors.

If you like the rich, vibrant colors assaulting your visual senses then stay with it!

There you go - one very effective way of coloring black and white pictures using the Detail Smart Brush tool and a Wacom Intuos4 (it will work just as well with a Bamboo).

Coloring Black and White
Layers Palette

Darned impressive, isn't it?

coloring black and white layers
The two Red and one White Layers are from the Portrait Category and the rest are from the Color Category of the Smart Brush.

The Detail Smart Brush was used with a Wacom Pen (Intuos4 Medium) which made coloring black and white much easier than it would be with a mouse or trackpad.

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