Picture of How to color a black and white photo
These instructions will show you how to turn a boring black and white (B/W) photo into a vibrant colored photo using Adobe Photoshop.

In these instructions, I am going to color a photo of a little girl, to show the basic steps and concepts of how to color a B/W photo. To color your own B/W photo, the concepts are the same, and it will not be a difficult task for you.

Black and white photographs were popular in the early 19th century. It took about a half century for people to switch from B/W photos to color photos. As a result, there still exists lots of B/W photos in our lives. Even for a color photo, its color is going to fade as time goes on. However, the world cannot only be in black and white. Color can help to tell a story, and it can be used to communicate on an emotional level. As you can see from the Figure.1, the little girl looks cold and pale. However, it looks much different in Figure.2. The girl looks prettier and the scene feels warm. As a result, putting color on B/W photos is an important skill.

Technical Ability Requirements:
Coloring a photo doesn't require a lot of skills. Even if you are a child, you are able to complete this task. However, it is better for the readers to know basic computer skills, like opening and saving files, and copying and pasting components. If you are familiar with Adobe’s graphic processor Photoshop 5 or 6, it will be very easy for you. Here I am assuming the readers have the basic computer skills like launching Photoshop software and creating a new project.

Required Time:
It usually takes 20 minutes for a starter to finish all the steps by following the instructions. As you get more familiar with it, it will not take longer than 10 minutes. But, the better you want your photo to be, the more time you should spend on it.

Coloring photos could bring you a lot of fun to your daily life. Just imagine if you colored your grandma’s old photo and showed it to your family, how surprised and happy they would be. When other people know you are able to use Photoshop and handle some cool skills, they will be jealous. Furthermore, this practice may lead you to a new interest in working with images.

List of Required Parts:
1. A black and white or faded photograph.
    In this case, an example image is provided as shown in the first figure.
2. Adobe Photoshop CS6 or CS5 on a working computer

List Required Tools:
Because we are going to use Adobe Photoshop to do all work, it is necessary to have a copy of Adobe Photoshop. You can either buy a copy from the Adobe official website or download the trial version. A trial version gives you a limit of 30 days to experience this software. Adobe Photoshop CS6 and CS5 both work well for this instruction. If you only have an earlier version of Adobe Photoshop, like CS3 or CS4, theoretically they can work because the functions we are going to use are basic functions in Photoshop. However, if you use CS3 or CS4, the user interface would be very different from the later version. As a result, it will be a little difficult to follow the steps here and you may need to find those corresponding functions by yourself.
Here is the link of the official website:

The system requirements of Adobe Photoshop CS6 are as following:
• Intel® Pentium® 4 or AMD Athlon® 64 processor
• Microsoft® Windows® XP with Service Pack 3 orMicrosoft Windows 7 with Service Pack 1. Adobe® Creative Suite® 5.5 and CS6 applications also support Windows 8. See the CS6 FAQ for more information about Windows 8 support.*
• 1 GB of RAM
• 1 GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on removable flash storage devices)
• 1024 x 768 display (1280 x 800 recommended) with 16-bit color and 512 MB (1 GB recommended) of VRAM
• OpenGL 2.0–capable system
• DVD-ROM drive
• This software doesn't operate without activation. Broadband Internet connection and registration are required for software activation, validation of subscriptions, and access to online services. Phone activation is not available.

You can get more information for system requirements from the official website:

OK, Let's Start our work!
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AdelF28 days ago
seghirm4 months ago
PenMar5 months ago

Black and white was not just popular in the 19th and first half of the 20th century. There was no color film available for amature use until the early 1950s.

AlexS56 months ago

The brush does not pick up the proper color from snapshot 2

paulj18 months ago


Does this work with older B & w photos ? I've seen tutorials using photos that were originally colour & just made into B & W for similar process...

Все равно очень круто!!!Спасибо за пост!
际夏 (author)  AntonBuldakov1 year ago
Try to use google translate to understand this. Thank you anyway
Very well done! I had no idea that Black & White could be colorized using CMYK. I will certainly experiment with this technique. Thanks for sharing!
际夏 (author)  Uncle Kudzu1 year ago
Yeah, it's kind of simple skills. I actually have several good examples. However, this instruction is my English class assignment,so it has too much details in introduction and conclusion.
ToyMaker1 year ago
Wow! that is really neat. Is there a similar process in GIMP? Because it's a LOT cheaper than Adobe PS.
际夏 (author)  ToyMaker1 year ago
Oh.. I haven't use GIMP before. I use Adobe PS because some computer labs in my school have that. Also the Adobe Photoshop gives you 30 days trial. You may experience with CS5 and CS6, added up to 60 days.
Macflame1 year ago
Many thanks for sharing. For twenty minutes work the result is very good. I shall give this a go and try to 'tweak' it a bit.
onemoroni11 year ago
Although I'm a confirmed B/W aficionado I like what you have done.
samalert1 year ago
Topic was nice but outcome is not very great. Frankly speaking the image is very oversaturated. And on some places it looked all washed.
samalert1 year ago
Topic was nice but outcome is not very great. Frankly speaking the image is very oversaturated. And on some places it looked all washed.
mh76dk1 year ago
those cheeks seem a little too much on the pink side to me (almost like bruises from someone holding a hand over her mouth). this being a somewhat artsy picture it may be intentional or not relevant though. Other than that little cosmetic issue it is a nice result and i am sure the guide is usefull for those who need to do this.
际夏 (author)  mh76dk1 year ago
Thanks for your advise. Actually I am taking a English class which require me to write a Instruction as an assignment, that's why you see me providing so much details. I did not spend much time on the graphic stuff. I agree that the final product is not so good. However, I believe it shows clear steps and if you spend enough time and get familiar with the procedures, you will get perfect photos.