I’ve never really been a big fan of Reddit. I’d never actually posted to it until a few weeks ago. After my last colorization, I did a ton of research and studying, particularly in terms of how to properly handle skin tones. As a result of that research, I discovered that there’s actually a colorization group that does weekly group color challenges. Each week, a black and white image is chosen, and the group is challenged to submit a colorization of the image. It’s not a contest, but rather a chance for everyone to learn, practice and challenge themselves to improve.

On January 27th, I decided to give it a shot and submitted this as my first proper colorization (i.e., not crappy painting). A few months of studying had produced new ideas, techniques, and tips that I thought were worth pursuing, so I set out to recolor the provided photo of 1930’s actress and sex symbol Jean Harlow. This first use of my new technique became a sort of milestone for me; it was the first time I did a genuinely non-destructive recolor.

This colorization was built using a series of layer masks. Some parts of the image, such as the skin tones, are comprised of numerous masks. In this case, the skin was colored using a half dozen layers of differing colors, shadows, and highlights. One thing that I didn’t do is fine tune the contrast before I began. If I had, certain areas such as the fence posts on the right-hand side of the photo would have shown better texturing. Additionally, I might not have failed miserably on the ivy in the background (and by “failed miserably” I mean “I gave up”).

Issues or not, this technique provides a much more realistic colorization for complex textures and, in the end, is infinitely more straightforward than the methods I had previously used.

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