Adobe recently gave Photoshop the ability to instantly colorize photos using Adobe Sensei AI technology. Here’s a new 1.5-minute video tutorial by Adobe showing how you can now breathe color into a black-and-white photo with just a few clicks.
After loading up your photo, go to Filter->Neural Fliters to open up the new Neural Filters panel.
In the beta filters section (the Erlenmeyer flask icon), you’ll see a Colorize option. Click the toggle to turn it on.
Voila! Photoshop will use its image recognition technology to colorize the elements of your photos in the way it thinks best.
If certain areas of the photo are slightly off, you can make custom adjustments in the Colorize panel as well. The result is added on top of your photo layer as a Smarter Filter on a Smart Object.
To get started with the Colorize Neural Filter, make sure you’ve updated to the latest version of Photoshop CC. You’ll also need around 130MB of disk space to install the Colorize filter itself.
Photo colorizer and restorer Hint of Time has shared an 8-minute video where he shows his process for not only colorizing an 80-year-old black and white photo, but also brings it to life with subtle animation.
“I decided to add a little twist and not only colorize but also give this photograph a 3D effect,” he writes. “It took me about 5 hours to colorize and animate this old black and white photograph in Photoshop and After Effects.”
Hint of Time has uploaded multiple videos that show his process for colonization, and his results are rather impressive:
“When I do colorization or restoration work on an old black and white photo I always do research before anything else and try to find the colors of historically significant elements like uniforms, a person’s features, buildings, or even popular color palettes of the decade,” he writes. “The colors are then adapted to the scene in the photograph and added by hand with the help of Adobe Photoshop. Color accuracy is more important than perfectly drawing over the edges. The objective is to have an end result with colors as historically accurate as possible. The research, colorization, and restoration are processes that take a long time but the dramatic comparison of the black-and-white photos and the colorized version of the picture always makes it worth the hard work.”
When you see the term “colorized photo” you probably imagine skilled retouchers working in Photoshop, or perhaps a machine learning algorithm that does that same work automatically. But the original colorized photos were hand-painted prints made from glass plate negatives. And, as Vox explains, the best of these images came out of Japan.
In a recent episode of the Vox YouTube series ‘Darkroom,’ producer Coleman Lowndes dived into the history of hand-colored photography, and explained how meticulously painted photos helped to introduce the mysterious Empire of Japan to the world starting in the middle of the 19th century.
As the video explains, the practice was popularized by Italian-English photographer Felice Beato, who hired fine artists from the woodblock print industry to create “expert quality” hand-colorings of photographic prints. What set these prints apart was both the highly skilled nature of the artists themselves, and the fact that they chose watercolor as their medium.
The popularity of this hand-coloring, though introduced by foreigners, eventually gave rise to a thriving industry of local photographers who specialized in this kind of work. And the photo albums that this industry produced and sold to tourists had a real and lasting impact on how the rest of the world perceived Japan and Japanese culture for decades to come.
Whether or not that perception was accurate is another question entirely. Much of the work they produced was purposely staged to look like iconic Japanese paintings and woodblock prints instead of representing the modern day. These prints, so undeniably beautiful on the surface, in turn helped to entrench certain stereotypes and tropes.
To learn more about the art of hand-colored photographs and how they shaped the western perception of Japan and Japanese culture, check out the full video up top. It’s a fascinating little piece of photo history, and a nice break from all the automated AI-colorization we’ve been seeing lately.