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B/W to colour in Paint Shop Pro

A once popular pastime for photographers was to hand colour photographs. In Photoshop this is a relatively easy task, you just set the brush mode to Colour, select an appropriate colour and paint in. This method preserves the grey levels in an image and overlays them with your selected colour. PSP doesn't have colour blending modes for its paintbrush.  I have seen many articles taking readers through a long winded process of making selections and then changing the Hue and saturation values, but PSP has a useful retouch tool which can do the same thing.

Step 1.

Open an image (or use our sample image, click on the heading picture to download).  In order to apply colour on a B/W picture it has to be converted to RGB. From the menu select Colours > Increase Colour Depth > 16 million (24 bit). Although the image is still visibly B/W it is now in RGB. Select the Retouch Tool, the pointing finger icon (or press the letter Z), open the tools options palette (press the letter O), and from the bottom drop down list select Colour to Target

Step 2.


Create a series of Dabs and use the eyedropper tool to reselect the colour

Turn on the colour palette (press the letter C) and pick a light blue from the colour picker. Now paint all over the background (don't worry about being too precise when you get near the couple, we will clean up the edges later). You can save your colour to use again later by either double clicking the colour swatch and adding your colour to the Custom Colours, or by creating a new blank document and paint in a dab of the colour. You can use the eyedropper tool to quickly reselect a colour dab (press the letter Y for instant access to the tool).  Keeping a set of swatches on the desktop will enable you to re-apply the same colour when retouching later.

Now paint in the clothes - use a light colour on dark areas, this way the darker grey tones will pick up a hint of colour.  Using a dark colour will overpower the dark tones and you will have very strange looking day glow style colours.

Step 3.

Once you have covered all the areas with a colour, you can rework some of the edge details. Use the eyedropper tool to re-select the colours from your dabs document and paint over any edge spills.  Because you are only applying a colour you will be able to repaint over areas without loosing image detail.

Finally, the image is not going to look 100% right, but you can make it look more convincing by applying a Darken RGB (select this from the Retouch Tools Options drop down list) and paint over the darker areas. This is similar to a dodge tool in the darkroom.

Using a pressure sensitive graphics tablet such as the Wacom intuos range will make many tasks easier especially when you need to apply subtle colours. PSP's tablet options can be found on the last tab in any of the painting tools options palettes.

Web Weaving in PSP.

One of the best things about PSP is the ability to optimise images ready for use in a web page. PSP has many built in features that will assist you in this area so let's take a look at a couple of them.

First, prepare an image for the web. This will depend on your screen size but as a general rule most people will be viewing at a 800 x 600 pixel resolution, so your image needs to sit within that space. It is best to do all your retouching work and add any effects to the image at full resulotion before you downsize the image. On our sample picture we are going to add a Photo Edge, Image > Picture Frame and select Photo Edge 2.  The edge is automatically applied as a new layer which can be resized to tweak the composition. Select the Deformation Tool (press the letter D), and drag any of the handles in or out to alter the Photo Edge layer. Double click to apply the new setting.   Select the crop tool and trim off the surplus picture area. The picture still has a layer, you won't be able to use this on a web page unless you flatten the image first. Select Layers > Merge > Merge All (Flatten).

The picture is too large to use on a web page, resize the image using Image > Resize. In the dialog box enter a new Pixel size (make sure the maintain aspect ratio box is checked), and set the Resize type to Bicubic resample.  Click OK. Your image is now ready to be saved. From the file menu select Export > JPEG Optimizer, on the dialog panel select the Quality tab and set the compression value to a low number - setting this too high will result in a smaller file size but will introduce JPEG artifacts  (these can be seen on the small preview window.) On the second tab, select progressive.  This displays a low resolution picture quickly which will progressively build into the correct resolution when viewed on the web. The last tab is a guide to the download times using different speed modems.  These will vary depending on the amount of traffic on the web.


A nice feature in PSP, which I haven't see elsewhere, is the JPEG artifact removal filter. This smoothens out the JPEG artifacts (diffused blocks of colour) which are caused by using too much compression on an image. From the menu select Effects > Enhance Photo > JPEG Artifact removal. Try these settings, Strength - Normal, Amount 50, as a starting point. Every image will be different so you have to experiment with the settings. This filter really works well as can be seen below


 Pictures on a Page.

One the things that annoys people most is the fact that they can't print more than one picture on one page unless they use a DTP layout application. PSP has the answer to this. Select the images you want to print and open them in PSP - this can be done quickly using Browse (Ctrl + B).  Select single images, or select a number of images, by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on each image in turn. With a selection of images open on the workspace, select from the menu File > Print Multiple Images. A new window opens with your pictures down the left side. Drag these onto the blank page and arrange them in the order, or resize them. Alternatively, click on the Auto Arrange button on the toolbar and all the images will be arranged automatically (you can even save the layout for future repeat prints). Clever stuff - happy printing!

©Vincent Oliver - 2002

January 5, 2008

© Vincent Oliver 2008
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