colorizing using cmyk adjustment layers

Photoshop Tutorials


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'Another colorization tutorial?' I hear you ask. Yes! Because contrary to other methods of colorization, CMYK adjustment layers are (I believe) a lot easier. I'll be using Adobe Photoshop 7.0 for this tutorial, but I imagine it would work similarly with other versions as well. You should have a pretty good knowledge of Photoshop and its tools for this tutorial.

We're going to start out with a picture of Audrey Hepburn. Your source picture shouldn't really be smaller than this and should be of good quality.

1. The first step is cleaning up your image a bit. First and foremost, go to
Even though your image may appear to be black and white, this command will ensure it and get rid of any unwanted tints, etc.

Simply play with the brightness, contrast, and levels a bit until you are satisfied. You can't really tell the difference on mine, so I won't post it- but you get the general idea.

Save save save! your file as a .psd.
Save after about every step from now on using

2. Now, go to

Using the selection tool of your choice (I use all three differently, depending on the type of selection I want to make) select the skin and the skin only.

Use the Ďsubtract from selectioní tool to deselect eyes, eyebrows, lips, and jewelry.

Now hit the 'Q' key to go into quickmask mode. This will help you see how well you've selected the skin. Your foreground and background colors will turn to white and black. Black brushing adds to the pink (the non-skin) and white brushing takes away. Use the blur tool at 100% strength (it's under the eraser tool, in case you were wondering) on rough edges, mainly near the hairline. This will make a more blended, soft transition and not a harsh line. This is what mine looks like after all that:

Press 'Q' again to exit quickmask mode. The pink will disappear, but your new selection will be there. Don't mess with it now unless something looks really wrong to you. You can go back into quickmask and check it, if you like.

3. Go to
Copy the settings below.

Now it's time for the colorizing.

I suggest using single-point curves for your first colorization- it keeps things simple. Unfortunately, I can't really give a lot of advice here because it all comes down to playing around with the different curves and using your good ol' eyeballs. Basically, up and to the left gives you more of a color, where down and to the right gives you less. Obviously, for skin, we want the cyan channel to be pretty down to the right, correct? Upping the black and CMYK levels gives you more or less dark shadows/contrast.

I thought she looked a bit too orange, so I went back and played some more. You can go back by clicking the curves icon-thingy in the layers pallet.

4. The same technique (steps 2 and 3) is used for all the other objects in the picture. Make sure that when selecting a new object, you are in the background layer. I'll quickly show you the order in which I like to colorize, but it really doesn't matter. (Also, remember to name each layer according to what you're colorizing.)

Iíve decided to leave the background/her shirt black and white in this colorization, just because it looks better that way, in my opinion.

5. All that's left is tweaking. If you see something that's not right, go back and play with the channels some more. To make the colorization more "real", I added a layer (LAYER > NEW > LAYER) just above the background layer and named it 'Highlights'. Here, I used a low opacity brush in pinkish red to add some depth to her nose, cheeks, and chin.

6. If you're done colorizing, you can add some effects or text for presentation. Then, flatten the image.
Save it to your computer. I usually save mine as .png because the quality is good, but jpeg or gif are okay, too.

Hope this was helpful! If you have any questions, donít hesitate to post here or send me a PM.


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Author Arimalka View profile
Submitted on Feb 16, 2006
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