Tutorial Tuesday (Photoshop Elements)

Heritage Photos Get a Makeover!

Ever wondered how other scrappers got that subtle-but-lush, hand-tinted look to their black-and-white photos? It’s super-easy, doesn’t take long and adds a really elegant look to your images. I’ll show you how, using this lovely 100-year-old photo of my great-grand aunt Ethel.

I started by making 4 copies of my photo, for a total of 5 layers. I selected my Brush tool and a royal blue from the Colour Picker. The eyes are done on my top layer because they’re the feature I want to have the most control over in this process. ZOOM in a LOT.

For eyes, I like to use a round, soft mechanical pencil brush. The edges of the brush are softened a little, which lets a tiny bit of the underlying layer to outline the area being brushed over. The size should be small enough to fit inside the area and allow for complete coverage. 9 pixels worked well for me. I painted over her irises with that blue colour I chose earlier. One thing to keep in mind: If you’re brushing over an area with an opacity of less than 100%, do all of your brushing in one action, with the left mouse button clicked the whole time. Otherwise, wherever your brushstrokes overlap the colour will be darker.

This is what her eyes looked like after I’d covered both irises completely with blue. Freaky and unnatural!

By pulling the Opacity of this layer down to 32% I could make the eyes look soft and let some sparkle through in the catch-lights.

Turn off the top layer before you move on. It eliminates distraction and gives you a clearer view of the changes you’re making on the layer underneath it. Bye-bye, blue eyes.

I’m still going to use the blue for the ribbon around her neck. I want the edges of my brush to be sharper, so I chose a hard mechanical pencil brush, and it could be a little bigger because I was covering a larger area. In the Brush settings it shows the Opacity as 60%, but I changed it to 100% before I did my painting because I knew I’d have to adjust the size of my brush to get into the tiny corners. I didn’t want those lap marks to show.

Very garish! But infinitely adjustable.

I decreased the Opacity to 45% – I left it just a little darker than I wanted my finished ribbon to look, because when I turn on all the layers again, the layers above are going to add their opacity adjustment to everything below.

The next item I painted was this brooch, on the centre layer. It was this that let me date the photo. I know Great-Grand Aunt Ethel had her first child, a boy she named George Albert, in April, 1913. I used a gold-yellow for it.

With the Opacity decreased to 35%, it doesn’t look nearly so tawdry. And you can read the embossed lettering better too.

On to the lips… second-to-last layer.

I liked this rosy pink for her lips and cheeks. Did you know that your blush will be the same hue as your lips, but slightly less saturated?

100% opacity. Clown school, any one?

Opacity decreased to 34%. Much better!

To blush her cheeks on the very bottom layer, I used a round spray brush – darker at the centre and gradually fading toward the edges – I found for free at Brusheezy.com. But having a circular patch of colour on our cheeks is really and truly clown-school unnatural. So I adjusted the shape/roundness and angle of the brush to match the contours of her left cheek. Did you know that you can “see” the outlines of your brush just by hovering the tool over your image? That’s how you adjust these settings.

First blush. Notice how all the other layers are not visible.

To do the other cheek I adjusted the brush angle to its negative value but left the roundness alone.

Yes, she looks very embarrassed.

I left the opacity exactly as is, at 100% and turned on all the rest of my layers. And magically, her face just looks pretty, with a hint of colour in her cheeks and on her lips. As long as you haven’t merged your layers, you can tweak the opacity of your colours on each layer until you’re in love with the result. Just remember that a light touch gives the best result.

It really is that simple! I bet you have a favourite black-and-white photo you want to try this with. Have fun!!

Below is just a quick-and-easy mini-tut especially for mskinsey. She wanted to know how to apply a border around photos and other items. So here you go…

My photo extended a long way past the edges of my frame. I used the Elliptical Marquee tool to select an elliptical area on my photo layer that just overlaps the edge of the inner area of the frame where the photo goes. Then I inverted the selection [CTRL/CMD>SHIFT>I] and cut away the rest of the photo [CTRL/CMD>X]. That makes the next step super-easy. I just clicked on the layer thumbnail for my photo and that selected the outside edge of my ellipse.

I clicked on the Select tab then chose Modify>Contract from the pop-down menu.

I first typed in “15” but it didn’t give me enough space between the frame and the marching ants, so I changed the number to “30“.

With my marching ants now 30 pixels inside the frame (you can see them peeking around the left upper edge of the menu box) I clicked on the Edit tab, then Stroke (Outline) Selection and entered the width and colour I wanted to use. I also chose for the stroke to go inside the marching ants. That’s a personal preference.

And that’s all it takes!

Next week I’m going to show you another way to play with shadows on their own layer, using the same layout, which is my January Color Challenge entry. (I’m all about working smart, not hard!) Take a look and see if you can guess what we’re going to do…

Don’t forget! If you use any of the techniques or tips I’ve shown you this month, post your work to the GingerScraps Facebook fanpage Challenge Gallery, or if you’re not a Facebooker, you can post a link in the comments here for me. Then I can enter you into a draw to have your very own personal tutorial right here in February.


  1. https://gallery.gingerscraps.net/showphoto.php?photo=278850&title=pea-picking&cat=500

    I know this is from December so doesnt count for drawing but wanted you to see anyway! I extracted the pea flower from a photo. I did it the tedious way because the lasso and are don’t speak to each other yet. I usually use the magic want but I like having the mask to “put back” Thanks Ellen

  2. I took a peek… you did a great job!I’ll add you to the list. Start thinking of a technique you’d like to see in a tut.


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