Hand Color Old Photos

The introduction of localized adjustments via the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom 2 is just beginning to reveal many creative uses. One possibility that may not be readily apparent is the ability to colorize or hand paint old black and white photos. We've all seen many Photoshop tutorials on how to apply this classic and nostalgic technique. But now, it's possible to do directly in Lightroom.

Let's start with an old photo. The young lad on the right happens to be my father-in-law who recently turned 90!


We'll start by coloring his hat green. Open the adjustment brush and click on the small rectangle next to color.


That opens the color picker. Choose a shade of green.


Set your brush size and feather amount then start painting the hat green. Use Auto Mask to make it a little easier.


Once you have the areas you want colored in you can make changes to the color using the sliders in the Adjustment Brush panel.


Here I adjusted the exposure, brightness, and contrast. The shade can be tweaked using the saturation slider. One thing to note, you must use the saturation slider inside the color picker and not the saturation slider in the adjustment brush panel. Since the image is already black and white it is already fully desaturated so the slider in the adjustment brush panel has no effect.

Repeat this process for other areas of the photo.

Skin Tone

Press the Y key for a Before and After view as you work through the image.


This is just a quick look at hand coloring images. Zoom in, take your time, tweak your colors and you can do some amazing work right in Lightroom.

You can also to this to modern images. Convert to black and white or simply desaturate your color image and start applying a nostalgic hand colored effect. Lightroom continues to amaze me. Explore and find those hidden treasures!