In thirty years as a digital imaging specialist, this is a question I am often asked. Colouring black and white images is fun and very interesting. Saying that, I watched two of my favourite films last week, ‘Christmas Carol’ and ‘Its a Wonderful Life’ and thought the results were quite disappointing.
This may be the fact that the original black and white films are so brilliant and atmospheric, that applying unnatural colour channels would detract from the cinematic experience, rather than enhance it.
Nevertheless, colouring photographs can work in the right circumstances. If you want to try for yourself, this quick tutorial may help.
The top image is in fact a colour image. Convert it to a black and white image in Photoshop by choosing Images > Adjustments > Desaturate. Then, select the Channels palette and select the Red channel. The whole image should turn red.
If the channel image does not show in different colours, check the Edit > Preference > Interface > Show channels in colour option.
To express colours in the Red channel, choose filter > Artistic > Cutout. Set the value of the filter that simplifies paper as if cut and click OK.
Click the RGB channel on the top part of the Channels palette. The black and white image should change in to red tinted as per the second image.
If you try this for yourself, send me an example. If you have created some Photoshop images, you would like to share, you can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. I will send an A2 Fuji Matt, Crystal Archival Print, if it is exceptional.
My name is Steve Howard. You have been reading the digital circus.