Creating Hand Colored Photos With PhotoShop Elements 5.0

In the early years of photography photos were all monochrome. In  an attempt to create more realistic images or more artistic images photographers and artists would hand color the photos.

According to Wikipedia they would use watercolors, oils, crayons or pastels, and other types of paints or dyes and apply them to the surface of the photos. To do the coloring they would use brushes, cotton swabs, or their fingers. In later years airbrushes even came into play when hand coloring an image.

Then, like that wonderful scene from The Wizard Of Oz, came color! Bright glorious amazing color. And the art of hand coloring photos began to fade away.

I decided that I would like to try my hand at coloring a photo. Well at least my mouse. 🙂 My medium of choice was not to be dye or paint, or even pastels. Nope I planned to use good ol’ photoshop. 

I headed outside to see what I could find to use for a subject. Not much going on out there today. I finally found a little spring robin sitting on a fence and took a quick shot of  him. Good thing I wasn’t planning to use that image for anything too important!

Here’s the SOOC shot. Not so great. Yikes!

But that’s ok, I had plans for that little robin…

Yep, he was to have all his color removed and then hand (I mean mouse) painted.

I’m sure there are many ways to hand color a photo using photoshop and other similar programs. They may even be easier than what I did. I don’t know, but I will share with you how I did it. The final results aren’t that bad if I do say so myself.

Oh, you want to see it? Ok; you asked for it.


The Painted Robin

Now for the how to’s…

  1. Open your photo in elements 5 and adjust the levels as you normally would then crop however you like.
  2. Now convert your photo to black and white.
  3. Copy that black and white photo to a new layer and name it “edges” or something like that.
  4. Increase the contrast of your new black and white layer; mine didn’t need much but yours may need more just play around with it a bit.
  5. Apply a slight gaussian blur to this layer. Very slight, I think I may have taken mine a bit too far.
  6. Next using those wonderful filters find the edges. Filters -> Stylize -> Find Edges.
  7. Change the blending mode to overlay and you have done all you are going to do to your “edges” layer.
  8. Now copy the “edges” layer to new layer and name it “painted”.
  9. Change the blending mode on the “painted” layer to soft light.
  10. Select a fairly large brush and change the blending mode of the brush to dissolve with an opacity of somewhere around 5%.
  11. Now select a background color; I picked green. Brush your background color over the entire photo. Choose a slightly different shade of the same color and brush over the photo again. I think I used a total of three shades of green on this robin.
  12. Next you will need to pick a fairly small brush size, set that brush’s blending mode to normal with an opacity of somewhere around 80%. Now choose the colors you would like for your subject and carefully paint your photo. I started with a nice shade of brown and painted in the fence, then a darker brown for the birds legs, and yet another brown for his back and wings. I picked black for painting his eye, yellow for his beak, and what else but a nice shade of red for his chest. You may want to play around with more than one shade of each color setting the opacity to a lighter % as you work to layer on the colors. I did this with the reds and layered on three different shades. Have some fun like a kid with a coloring book; just take your time. As you paint over an area you will see your background (the green spatters in this case) disappear and small details of the image appear. That’s all you are going to do to the “painted” layer; for now.
  13. Next move the “edges” layer so that it is on top of the “painted” layer. That changes things a bit doesn’t it?
  14. Back on the “painted” layer adjust the contrast and saturation until you are happy with what you see.
  15. Finally merge the layers, give your image a name, and save.

That’s it you are finished and you have just hand (rather mouse) painted your photo. Nicely done!

 As usual I have uploaded the finished product to my photog site and created several Zazzle products with it as well. *shameless self promotion time* 🙂 Be sure to check out the Variety Store and You Say It!

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Have a great weekend everyone.

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8 thoughts on “Creating Hand Colored Photos With PhotoShop Elements 5.0”

  1. Thank you Ana, One of these days I might try it with one of the horses from down the road. They seem to enjoy having their pictures taken; usually run right up to the fence when I walk by.

  2. What a great idea that came out so nicely. Great job! Thanks for stopping by my blog today. Wonderful photography!

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