A basic step by step guide to colourising a Black & White photo

in Photoshop Elements

This is achieved by making layer masks and brushing in colours.

For best results use a good quality photo. Or prepare the photo before colourising. See hints below.

  • Open the image in Photoshop Elements and select ‘Expert’ mode with the Layers Panel open

  •  Select RGB Colour    

  •  Select Solid Colour    

  • Type in the item to be coloured. This makes it easier to identify later,   eg Grass

  • Select the colour. This can be changed later. The colour picker should open automatically, if not, double click the box in the Layers Panel. See arrow below

  • Layers Panel. From the dropdown menu select ‘Soft Light’ 

  • Press ‘Command i’  to invert the mask on a Mac [Control i on PC] This turns the mask black.

  • Select Brush Tool

  • Adjust size and opacity. This is where experience will be rewarded. Just experiment.

  • Paint over the area believed to be grass. Control colour by changing opacity.

  • The ‘White on Black’ layout on the left will allow you to paint on the colour. 

  • To erase any overpaint, simply click on the double arrow. It changes to Black over White. Now the same brush will erase the colour.

  • Repeat for each element in the image

Well done if you got this far! You will finish up with something like the above.


Work on a copy. Repair damage on the photo before attempting to colourise. See link below for a YouTube guide [also for colourising] The video is for Photoshop CC but is useful for Photoshop Elements.

If unhappy with a colour? Click the colour box in the Layers Panel. Change the colour hue in the Colour Picker and see it change in the image.

The Opacity Control in the Brush Menu is your friend. Change the opacity to get different shades of the colour. Add shades of yellow and brown to the grass and to shrubs. Perhaps some moss growing on the walls and slates? No need to be too 'perfect'

Short Cuts.  The method for creating layers given above can be sped up by creating a layer and duplicating it by pressing 'Command j' on a Mac. [before choosing the colour] I don't know what it is on a PC.

Don't have Photoshop Elements?  Or simply don't have the time?

The website below will attempt to colourise the photo.

Alternatively Contact us and we will pleased to give it a try.