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Photo Retouching "Improving" photos, post-production, correction, etc.

Colorize with masks

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Old 10-21-2004, 08:19 AM
ajcutler's Avatar
ajcutler ajcutler is offline
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Originally Posted by Doug Nelson
When colorizing, I start by making masks. Tons of masks. I think I counted over a dozen on the colorized WWII soldier shot I use on the main page of

After I've made my masks I'll start colorizing. Each mask is saved as a selection, and these selections can be combined and subtracted from each other as well as inversed to more finely hone the area. If I spend more than a couple of minutes on a new selection area (same thing as mask, only from a different direction) I'll save it in case I need it later.

My current favorite colorizing technique is to work on a new layer, using a selection based on the aforementioned masks. I'll then use the pen or fill tool to lay down one color (each new color uses a new layer). The color will invariably look really weird, but if you select the 'color' blend mode and then turn down the opacity you'll see a remarkably real coloration appear.

I used to create masks all the time for colorizing and then I started comunicating with Vikki (and you know how great her colorizations are), and she told me she doesn't use selections and just paints directly into a particular area (of course each color is in a separate "color blending mode" layer).

I thought about her technique, and reflected on how much time her method would save, could not see any downside, and about a year or so ago I started doing it all most of the time.

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Old 10-21-2004, 09:07 AM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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I've done both, and they're essentially the same thing (painting). And each can be converted into the other. I just prefer separating the area selection and coloring into two steps. But ultimately, the best solution is the one you feel the most comfortable with.
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Old 10-21-2004, 03:03 PM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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I wouldn't say the methods are essentially the same.
One thing I've always been curious about, is the process of creating selections for specific areas, and seperate layers for each color. Why not just create one or two "color" layers, and paint on that? It's like coloring in a coloring book. If one is able to make a clean selection, couldn't one also just avoid the work and paint instead? For me, that method is very labor intensive, and the results can look like a "Ted Turner colorized" movie image(due to the "paint" bucket approach).
I don't think, in all instances, "whatever you're comfortable with" applies. If you want specific results, you should use the method that will give you those results. Many people are comfortable using "Brightness/Contrast" sliders, because it's easy, but we all know that isn't the best method.
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Old 10-22-2004, 02:33 AM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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It's a matter of control. With two color layers you can lower or raise opacity, or erase and repaint. And if you decide later you want to lower the opacity of one section of a layer more than another, you must mask or copy to a new layer. With my method, everything stays controllable up to the final printout. I can alter individual opacities, hues, even contrasts. If my hair color choice makes the lips look too dark, no problem. And then if lightening the lips make the cheeks look too orange, no problem.

Of course you could also do this with many color layers instead of two, but my method has the advantage of having a backup (the saved selections) if you mess up a layer and need to start over.

But, as I said, the best method is the one you like and can finish with. If it's too hard and never gets done, or at least was no fun to do, then that's a poor method for you.
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Old 10-22-2004, 10:00 PM
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PixiePirate PixiePirate is offline
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Question What am I doing wrong??


I decided to try my hand at using masks a while back. I can see the advantage of masking out a large or heavily detailed area instead of selecting it 2 or 3 times if you mess up (been there, done that).
The problem I keep having is that the edges of my selections become really visible-for example the face where it meets the hairline. How do I prevent that? Is there something I'm doing wrong?
I also did levels adjustments on some of the selections-is that what could be causing the problem?

Thanks for your help!
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Old 10-22-2004, 10:31 PM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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Levels can exagerate tonal differences, which can appear to make mask edges expand and contract (I actually use this deliberately for this purpose, I posted a demonstration with a feather here), but with a well-made mask there should be no difference in appearance from painting directly on the image or on a color layer.

Try this: in QM mode, doubleclick on the QM icon and change the opacity to make the mask completely opaque. You can even change the color. I'll normally save this for a final fine-tuning pass, but it is a great help. Once you've made your best mask, leave QM mode and save the selection.
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