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VectorVonDoom

Local Vintage Photo Colourisation, The Faster Way

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I've been thinking about doing some vector drawings of my local area so was looking at old photos. I fancied trying to colourise a couple to see if you can do it more simply and quickly than tutorials tend to show.

These are done more like a colouring book, you probably managed not to go over lines when you were about 5 and this isn't a lot different and if you do then that's what undo's for. So rather than selecting and masking each area I just used a soft brush and two layers, one with blend mode of soft light, which I did most of it in, and the other with a blend mode of colour. Then you pick your colour and paint and sometimes go over the area with a different shade and low opacity. The soft brush means you don't have to worry about edges quite so much. Finding a decent skin tone is the trickiest as you notice straight away if it's wrong but the more you do the more of a library of colour you have. Of course you can use more layers or use selections and fill but a lot old photos are bad enough quality that it takes longer to select the area than just painting it.

So if you fancied doing so colourisation but the tutorials made it look like some sort of magic and like too much  faffing about then try it this way.

Pier & Harbour Staff c1905.jpg

Gordon Road Hereward 2.jpg

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Thanks. You can't just pick what looks like the right skin colour for the person and use that, it depends on the blend mode you're using and how grey the face is. But they look like they might be a good starter or not, I'm not sure.

For example from those swatches the round bit is normal then the faces are colour blend on the left and soft light on the right. The lady on the left has light grey skin, the middle a bit darker and the right one the darkest. In colour mode they're way to brown/orange and in soft light too grey and all too dark.

Gordon Road Hereward line_Balancer.png

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Great Job ... I will try this


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It's a nice quick technique among many others. But you need to be certain you pick the correct colour and you can't quickly change certain areas of the picture, if you change your mind later on, when working on two layers. In the end a good colourized photo depends on the overall synergy of the colours. It's great to achieve quick results on low-res images though. The downside of using said blend modes is that most of the time the b/w shines through. It's hard to explain what I mean exactly but in my colouring my goal is to remove that effect. 

 

The power of masking and layering is the non-destructiveness, which saves time on the long run.

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Oh I know, I'm not saying masking's a waste of time but sometimes you just want to have a quick play and not spend ages on it and, as you say, it works ok on low-res ones that are hard to mask properly. What blend modes do use then as one of the well known colourists said in a q&a that they do theirs in soft light and colour modes.

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I guess you have read the q&a of Marina? She uses Photoshop the old school way (nothing wrong with that of course, it's the way I learned it 20 years ago lol). But now we have Affinity with more powerful tools. I can't remember the last time I used a pixelated layer for colouring. I now tend to stick on using masked adjustment layers with the advanced blending settings. Almost the same as luminosity masks in Photoshop but without turning the document into massive file sizes. Most of the time I leave the layer in normal blending mode. Darken, average colour and colour dodge are used from time to time as well. 

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I found a better resolution local photo, still only 1300x1700 that I enlarged but then cropped at the end. But it's good enough that I could try the recolour adjustments on.

It's of bathing machines in Margate 1915, I though it was quite a modern looking photo. I wonder if they all wore jackets and no trousers on the beach or is he a perv.

 

 

Margate 1915.jpg

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2 hours ago, VectorVonDoom said:

I wonder if they all wore jackets and no trousers on the beach or is he a perv.

 

Uhh .. it's England right? :)

 

Looking good. Although the water would heavily reflect the sky colour. 

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1 hour ago, EZeemering said:

 

Uhh .. it's England right? :)

 

Looking good. Although the water would heavily reflect the sky colour. 

You'd think it would be more blue but even in the middle of summer without a cloud in sight it's still basically a murky brown, a lot of sand gets mixed up in it. I did add a couple of tints of blue/green's to it, that's about as blue as it ever gets.

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The mans face is way to brown  ( eg. compare to legs) for my personal taste (less colour often looks more realistic than more colour), and has a strong line demarcation visible on the neck. I much prefer the softer tonal variations available through the approach used by Ezeemering (masking and gradient maps). You should check out some of his colourisation work. Brilliant stuff.


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That's the trouble when you've not seen the original or thought about it. I did use masking and adjustments for that one and I have seen his work, it's right below. His face and hands are a fair bit lighter than it should have been but I didn't like it so dark. The b&w was very grey all over so he had a very decent sun tan but pasty legs, or did you think I  did two completely different skin tones for the fun of it? So I also had to do an exposure layer on it to bring it up as it would have been so dark. And the neck is as the photo is, it's just the lighting/shadows, not sure what you think it is. But if you ever come up with constructive criticism that's always welcome.

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I would expect his face to be slightly darker than his legs as people didn't go to the beach to get a tan back in those days.

Going to the seaside was for taking in the sea air - for medicinal purposes - and maybe having a bit of a splash about in the water - for similar reasons.
Having a tan was considered something that the lower classes had because they worked outdoors and, as such, someone who could afford to hire - or even buy - a bathing machine wouldn't want to be seen with dark skin as it would make them look poor.

Also, people usually didn't walk around with bare legs back then so their faces - in whichever class of society - would naturally be darker than their legs (if they were darker at all).

Here's a nice little related article http://www.seasidehistory.co.uk/sunworship.html
As the picture was taken in 1915, it's just in the middle of the switch-over between a tan being unfashionable and fashionable.

Edited by GarryP
Added a little extra info'.

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15 hours ago, VectorVonDoom said:

That's the trouble when you've not seen the original or thought about it.

 

That's the hardest part of colourising. The amount of research and trying to understand lighting conditions. Anybody can pick some colours and paint between-the-lines, but it's those final details which make or break the image. My photography background helps with the lightning, but knowing which colours to use is just plain ol' research and a lot of googling. 

 

Also you'd be surprised to see how much colour is lost in b/w images. Especially the reds. So don't be afraid to bring those back.

 

 

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