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Coloring With Photoshop – Hair

We left our heroine a bit on the pink side, but we’ll get back to that in a little while. The color of the hair can affect the way we see the skin tone, so I’d like to work on that, right now. When colorizing hair, like skin, I like to take my colors from the historical era I’m trying to duplicate. I, myself, prefer the portraits of the 40’s. Whether black and white, or the rarer color, most are wonderful examples of light and dark, depth and tone. I’ve compiled a collection of images, black and white and color, from different eras that I can use as a reference, just to sample skin or hair color from. Continuing with the Rita Hayworth as a redhead reference, I’ll start by sampling a darker tone from the hair.

I sampled a palette of four basic colors. Make a test swatch of all your sample colors on the image you’re coloring. See what the colors look like using different blend modes. I personally like using the Soft Light mode as the colors are a little more realistic. However, you might want to change to the Color mode when you’re layering the lighter colors on, later, to add more vibrancy.

I’ve chosen to start with the second color from the left in my initial hair sampling rather than the very darkest, simply because I thought it looked a little better. You can do whatever looks best to you, of course. Add a new, blank layer and change the blend mode to your choice, again, mine is Soft Light. Doing it before you start adding the color allows you to see the image underneath as a guide.

Go to Filter> Blur> Gaussian Blur and add just enough of a blur to soften the color you’ve just added.

Next I added another blank layer and began coloring using the next lighter color. I didn’t go over the entire head, but started with the areas that were lightest on the head and bringing the color out a good ways, leaving the very darkest the base color.

Repeat the Gaussian Blur on this layer and apply the Layer Blend Mode if you haven’t already. I hadn’t in the image above for viewing purposes, but, again, it is easier to do it before you start coloring. You can bring the Opacity down, if you wish and you think the result is better, but you can, of course, adjust throughout the whole process.

Add another blank layer and sample the lightest color. This will be applied only where the highlights occur on the image.

Soften using Gaussian Blur. I used the Color Blend Mode on this layer; Soft light also made the highlights pop, which was the result I was looking for, but was a bit too bright and didn’t blend as well, I thought. It’s always up to you, the artist, what to use. Compare and user your own judgment, if you don’t like how it looks, try something else!

Now’s the time to start adjusting the Opacity of the hair color layers, if you want to. I kept the darker base layer at 100%, lowered the medium layer to 75% and the brightest, highlight layer to 50%. The overall result is not that much different, just a touch more subtle. (Note: Don’t forget to go back and take care of any halos of hair color left by the Gaussian blur softening process! Go over the outside edges with the eraser tool, or add a mask to the color layers, and then soften, again, slightly, to get rid of the harsh edges)

Next we’ll move on to the lips. Again, make a swatch from your inspiration image. You don’t have to make separate swatch images like this, naturally, but I save them to a Color Swatch folder so I can use them later.

Make a swatch layer on your image to test blend modes. Don’t stop with just Soft Light and Color, by the way. Go through all of the blend modes, it doesn’t take that long and you might find a better result like I did using Overlay on one layer! ­

For the lips, I used all the colors on four layers. The base layer is the darkest color, on the entire lip area, softened slightly with a low Gaussian blur, Opacity 100%, Overlay Blend Mode. Next layer (colors are from left to right on the swatch above), color over the entire lip area, softened slightly, Soft Light Blend Mode, 25% Opacity. The final layer, the lightest color, is again over the highlights, softened, Soft Light. The Opacity on this one will be brought all the way down to 15%.

While using just one color doesn’t look bad, by any means, blending four colors together adds a bit more depth.

Correcting Skin Tone without Starting Over

Finally, I want to tone down the pink skin a bit. I’m going to use a bisque skin color (swatch, below) and the Divide Layer Blend Mode to make the skin very white.

That’s scary! Bring the Opacity down to 15% to make it a little less so. That takes a lot of the pink out but I’m going to add one more layer, this one a little browner then the last.

Change the blend mode to Multiply and bring it all the way down to between 10 and 15% (I used 12%). I did this layer just to bring a little more color back into the white. There are as many different skin tones as there are…I can’t think of a good analogy right now, but there are a LOT! Generally, just try to keep the color you go with natural for a person who’s alive, and you’ll be good.  I’ve also colored the eyes during the process.

In this series we’ve gone from a greenish black and white to pretty in pink to flaming red hair and porcelain skin. If you’ve learned anything I hope it’s to layer colors and try different settings! If the colors are too bold for you, in the hair for example, tone it down by changing the Opacity!

About Janine Smith (114 Articles)
Janine Smith is the owner of Landailyn Research and Restoration, a Fort Worth, Texas based company whose services include family history research and photo restoration. Janine honed her skills in restoring badly damaged photos as a volunteer with Operation Photo Rescue, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair photographs damaged by unforeseen circumstances such as house fires and natural disasters. <br> Janine’s work is well-known in the world of genealogical and historical societies, museums, libraries, university archives, and non-profit organizations; appearing on the board of directors for several organizations and institutions. She is a sought-after lecturer on photo restoration and preservation to libraries, genealogical and historical societies. <br> In addition to being a Lynda.com author, Janine is the author of many articles on research and restoration appearing in newspapers and magazines, both on and offline. Janine's history and photo restoration columns appear regularly on TipSquirrel.com and in the popular Shades Of The Departed Digital Magazine. <br> Janine is the winner of the 2010 “Photoshop User Award” in the photo-restoration category.

6 Comments on Coloring With Photoshop – Hair

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  3. Thanks, very clear and useful!

  4. Very good info for photo retouching.

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