Colorize a black and white photo in GIMP

This is a quick tutorial on how to use GIMP for colorizing a black and white photograph. The technique is described in general instead of in detail since each photograph will be unique in its own composition. The photograph I used is of Albert Einstein (and I borrowed the photo from this site) and this is one of my favorite photo of him since there is something beautiful over the playfulness in his smile.

The same technique can be used for Adobe Photoshop or other software as well and the method we are using are similar to what we did earlier when we exchanged a selected color in an image.

Let us begin!

  1. Start off with a black and white photo. The wider spectrum of grey tones and the more dynamic the photo is, the better the end result will be.
    Black and white photo loaded in GIMP
  2. Create a new layer
    New layer
  3. Select the brush tool and with the new layer selected, paint with a warm orange color over all parts of the portrait where you want skin.

    Advanced:You can start of by a large brush and go into more details using the eraser afterwards.

    A mask is created for where the skin in the portrait is

  4. When you have painted parts of the photo where there is visible skin, with the selected layer in the Layers toolbox, change the blending type to multiply. Using the transparency of the slider you can adjust the strength of the color.
    Colored layer is set to Blending type 'Multiply'
  5. Do the same for the other parts of the image you want colorized, adding a new layer for each new color. Set each layer to blending type, Multiply when finished.
    Repeat the proces
  6. When all parts have been colorized, right click on any of the layers in the Layers toolbox and select Flatten image.

    Advanced:Using Color adjust, you can set the overall color to meet your goal or to tweak the full color range. It can also be used to ting the part of the photo which was not colored into a warmer or colder tone.

  7. Done.