Sunday, February 23, 2014

Talking Shop : Project Colorizations / Part 1

I've had a few questions about colorizing black and white photos. I'll do a series of posts called : Project Colorizations where I'll explain several different techniques. And if anyone wants to talk shop on colorization, card making, photoshopping, PsP7, etc., feel free to do so in the comments.
I can also be reached by E-mail at

In this series of posts (spread out over time between others) I will display the colorizations completed for Mets Fantazy Cards Like They Ought To Be! project and in each instance I will break down how I colorized the image.

Sometimes they come out great. Other times, not so much.
It's not a crap-shoot though. Besides patience it takes determination. Sometimes things are done from necessity and I've learned a lot as I ran into problems and worked them out.

First of all, I primarily use Paint Shop Pro 7.02. It's a graphic program that's well over ten years old but it's still one of the best for basic graphic imaging (I have tried PsP9 and PsP11- both fell short and I returned to PsP7). PsP7 is very deep and it really did take me a long time before I could use it to it's potential. I didn't say fullest because I think there is more to learn.
Now I pretty much know my way around the program and what does what. And it does zillions of things. Still, after over 12 years of using PsP7 I discover something new that it can do every once in a while. PsP7 is simply a fantastic graphic imaging program that came bundled with a pretty impressive (for 1999) animation shop.
I have GIMP and CorelDraw6 but it's rare that I need to use them.
PsP7 is a very light program that cost me 99 bucks at the turn of the century. Best $99 I've ever spent on a PC program.
___________Colorization in general

I don't always do colorization's the same. I dabbled with colorizing years ago when I first got PsP7. After a long time of not doing that type of thing, and learning other things that PsP7 could do, I returned to colorizing recently
with a better understanding of how other functions of the program could help in doing colorization.
So I'm really not all that experienced at colorization itself. But I've been cramming a lot lately.

I've learned stuff just by looking at the work of other colorists like the folks from Baseball Birthdays and OOTPdevelopments. These guys do great work and they, like the custom card makers out there, are inspirations to this project. And as David Wright would phrase it: "Well, obviously I'm somewhat inspired by the Mets."
Colorization does take time. The more the better. But because I don't always have the time I have a number of overall processes that vary. How much time I have to complete it, how important I consider the work to be, and the quality of the original source image, stuff like that dictate the process. Spending any time colorizing a bad quality (or small in resolution or size) image is not a good idea unless you absolutely have to. I've had to.

There are fast & loose ways to colorize the image and get pleasing enough results.

There are also slow & deliberate ways in which you break each individual subject in a photograph down to its own layer and colorize each one separately.

Colorizing is done through use of coloring filters as well as by hand, (or mouse, with painting tools in a graphic type program like PsP7) manually working certain color additions and details. After all the color work is done, I'll merge all the layers back into one single layered image (.bmp or .png) and save it.

Now having said that, sometimes you hit a bump & you have to improvise as you work it.

I can tell you from experience that sometimes I get great results using the fast method. On the card above I used it. While doing the page it was on, at the last minute I needed to make that rookie card and I wanted it in a half hour topps. Jesse Hudson took maybe all of 5 minutes to colorize, Les Rohr around 15 minutes. Time-wise these are exceptions and also small images that I was forced to use because of the lack of photos available of these guys.

Now, basically because the original images were small, the color work was done directly to the images at the small size (always avoid enlarging a digital image). Considering the time put into them, these two came out great and I was happy with them.


The average time spent on a color job is around 2-3 hours for a decent to nice sized, mid to hi-resolution picture. But sometimes it can take days to get it right. Salty Parker took about 5 days of work at about an hour a sitting. I wanted this one to be as good as I could so I gave it all the time it needed. I did tests, or takes, of different colorization filters, lighting, contrast and whateverelse on each layer and chose what I thought looked the best. That's a lot of time, but well worth it, especially since there are so few color images of Parker out there.

The Salty colorization was done in the more time consuming layer method and I believe it shows. Pictured is the complete work and the merged layers consisting of his face and skin color. The face alone is comprised of five separate layers: skin, eyes, lips, hair with hat shadow, and eyebrows.

Salty Parker Eyes.

Now granted, I like to punch up the saturation and make colors pop on a digital screen, especially blue and orange, so this might not look to you to be natural colors( the green grass is too vivid and, to me, that skin job looks almost 3-D. It's creepy. Or is that just his nose?). The thing about going over the line is the entire completed work can be taken and dialed back a few notches to look more natural.

Yikes! It is his nose.

Sometimes using the more complicated and time consuming process, the end result is less than I had hoped. But usually...,strike that, always, however much time and attention to detail you put into the color work the better it will be, regardless of using layers. Because the colorization is not finished until it's finished.

Right before I posted this page I blurred the face and hat. L'il bit. Now the skin is not so shiny looking. I couldn't do anything for that nose.
So you can always step off from it & go back later if you think of something that can improve it. And I suggest you do step off before you consider it finished. Look again after a time, even ask others to look at it, to get another sets of eyes to see if it's on track and where it might need additional work.
Well, at this point I am really sick of looking at this one, so it's finished.

Went back into this after not looking at it for a long time. Tweaked gamma and background tints.

UPDATED- 11/14

Z-Tip: When applying color to the black & white image it can sometimes be helpful to take the original photo and lighten it a little bit,or ramp down the contrast. In this way it will accept color changes better, colors not getting lost in the dark areas. Later, after completed, you can always adjust the contrast again to whatever best suits you.


  1. Hi Warren,
    Cool colorizations, if possible I would like to see rare player cards by year they played that I have only seen b&w photos of
    Like Hal Reniff, billy wynne , bill graham ('67) al severinson , Don Rose , Rich Folkers , al Yates, Chico Fernandez,
    Bob Johnson (not the pitcher) , Steve chillcot , billy cotton, bill denehy , Barry raziano, Rich Chiles , Bob Miller ('73)
    Mario Ramirez,

    Patrick S

  2. Thanks for your comment. I will refer to you as anonymous#2.

    Colorizations are fun but they also can consume a lot of time.

    Having said that, if all those guys belong on Met cards I will try and fulfill your wish list retroactively. Whenever I make a card from your list I will notify you here, in this comments thread.

    Funny, I just saw a post at CenterfieldMaz about Chico Fernandez and the first thing I thought is "that guy needs a fantazy card". And in many cases the lack of card is due to a lack of photo. Even for colorization I would prefer a nice mid to hi-rez black & white photo to work with. Maz did provide a color photo but the quality is lacking. Well, Chico's number one on the list for me so I'll see what I can do.

    Some of those (Reniff, Graham, Folkers, Johnson and Miller) I might have color photos of. I'll check.

    Barry Raziano? I hope your not making these names up, lol.

    Thank you for bringing these players to my attention,

  3. Oh, you left your name at the end there, sorry Pat. I'll put your name in all those cards too, somewhere.

  4. I found a small, clear, B&W photo of Barry Raziano. I'll color that up but can't say when I'll get to it. What year card would you like Raziano to be? Also found a usable Bill Denehy. Hal Reniff is a tough one as far as Mets photos go.