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Tutorial: Spicing up black/white images

Written by , translated by redforce · Created on Jul 04, 2008, last updated over 13 years ago CC BY-NC License
Spicing up black/white images


Today we try to spice up a grayscale image by coloring some parts. We use a photo of Rose McGowan (known from the TV series Charmed where she plays Paige Halliwell) as the original, color the whole image and especially point out the lips and eyes.

Tutorial details

  1. 1

    Save the image “Rose McGowan” (link is on the right side, below the tutorial details) and open it with GIMP.

    Make sure that Image / Mode / RGB is selected. Otherwise you won’t get colors in the next steps.

  2. 2

    To bring a minimal touch of color into the image, use Colors / Color Balance with these values:

    Shadows: 5 / 0 / -5
    Midtones: 0 / 0 / 0
    Highlights: 5 / 0 / -5

    The image should now have a very slight red-yellow tint.

  3. 3

    Enlarge the image to 200%. Now we want to color the lips red:

    Choose the paths tool and start on left corner of the mouth by setting a point. Set further points like shown in the picture. Connect the last point with the first one by pressing CTRL.

  4. 4

    In order to get nice curves (we have to fit the lips with our selection), press and hold CTRL and click into the middle top point, hold the mouse button and drag the line to the left. So you can define the bending of the curve. Repeat this with the other points until the lips are selected correctly.

    Hit ENTER to create a selection from the path.

  5. 5

    - Create a new layer.
    - Choose Select / Shrink, value: 5px.
    - Fill the selection with color #c60000.
    - Select “Soft light” as the layer mode.

  6. 6

    The next step is for the eyes: We will color them blue (although she has brown eyes in reality):

    - Create a new layer again.
    - Select the paintbrush tool, some blue (for instance #0085ec) as foreground color and paint over iris and pupil. Use the eraser tool to erase everything that is too much.

  7. 7

    Again, set the layer mode to “Soft light”.

    Duplicate the background layer. Apply Colors / color Balance (same values as in step 2) to the duplicate.

    Then apply Filters / Blur / Selective Gaussian Blur: blur radius: 5 / max. delta: 20. Set the layer mode to “Soft light”. This steps accents the bright areas some more and generally makes areas smoother without blurring the edges.

    If you want to point out the colors some more, you can simplify duplicate the lips or eyes layer.

    At the end, my layers look like this:

  8. 8

    After our little image adaption, Rose McGowan looks like this:


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This topic (Spicing up black/white images) has been rated 4.2/5.0.

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truckerbob33 member for over 11 years truckerbob33 2 comments rated this topic with 3/5
almost 9 years ago

I give this a 3/5 because I have yet to try it.

about 12 years ago

Here I use similar principle to make color image from bw: (but site on russian)

lousiewhei member for about 12 years lousiewhei 14 comments rated this topic with 5/5
about 12 years ago

You make wonderful pic.

Is the purpose of red-yellow tint to give it a faded-old photo look? Is there rules about human visual we should follow when changing the colours of a photo?

shamima sultana rated this topic with 4/5
over 13 years ago

very nice

almost 14 years ago

This tutorial is featured on 70 creative Gimp tutorials

Lina rated this topic with 5/5
over 14 years ago


kaos mercury
over 14 years ago


devvv member for over 17 years devvv 1475 comments
almost 15 years ago

mareen / jessica:

click the FG-Color and enter c60000 in the hex-field. click OK, then go to edit / fill fg-color. thats it :)

jessica stout
almost 15 years ago

how do you "Fill the selection with color #c60000."

about 15 years ago

I'm pretty much a novice and having a hard time with the basics. I can't find any colors, let alone #c6000. Can someone tell me where to find the colors? Also, I clicked off the right screen toolbox and now I can't figure out how to reopen. Greatly appreciate any help.

about 15 years ago

How do you get rid of the outline around the lips? When you click on shrink, and fill it in, it leave an outline of the original lip colour

over 15 years ago

Nice tutorial. I've got some B/W photos that could use a little treatment like this. Thanks for posting.

devvv member for over 17 years devvv 1475 comments
over 15 years ago

Where exacrly is the problem? The prodcedure for eyes and lips is pretty the same - you just need a layer with the color and set the layers mode to soft light... Which step is the one that is not detailed enough?

over 15 years ago

I had the same problem as Megan. For the eyes I grabbed the color from the new layer that was a solid color, then deleted the layer and brushed the eyes with %25 opacity. Same effect.

almost 16 years ago

I got lost at the add new layer part. The menu that was supposed to pop up I guess didn't come up. Could you tell me how exactly to add the layer, in detail?

almost 16 years ago

Nice tutorial!! Thanks

almost 16 years ago

it looks great! thanks for sharing

almost 16 years ago

Amazing effect. Thanks for the tuts.

Beaniebaby2468 member for over 16 years Beaniebaby2468 5 comments
almost 16 years ago

Wow! Cool effect. Nice tutorial I will definately use this one. :)