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What Colour Was Your Great-grandmothers Hair?


Elder Care

I've just made another Photoshop video. This one is about colour tinting (or "colorizing") an old photo. You may not know this, but back in the 1800's - long before colour photography was invented - people used to hand-tint black and white photographs with coloured inks or water-colour paints, and I wanted to achieve that type of effect. Tinting monochrome prints using Photoshop is considerably less messy!

The photo I decided to use was a recently restored photo of my maternal great-grandmother (my mother's, mother's, mother). It was taken sometime in the late 1880's when she probably in her late teens. It's a typical Victorian studio portrait: Great-grandma is wearing her best dress, is standing against a painted background of a garden, and has one hand resting on a rustic looking chair.

The only thing I knew for certain was that Great-grandma had blue eyes, every other colour was a conjecture. Her dress was a dark colour, and after experimenting with a few different colours, I decided that navy blue looked best. I coloured in the background light green - although it could have been cyan. The bamboo chair was obviously a bamboo colour. That just left the colour of her hair to try and figure out.

My maternal grandmother had strawberry-blonde hair in her younger days (I've seen colour photos of her when she was young) but when I tried to colour her mother's hair that colour, it just didn't look right. Too light. Auburn? No, that didn't look right either. I asked my mother, but she had no idea. Great-grandma was a white-haired old lady by the time my mother came along.

The only thing I could do was just to play about with the colour sliders until her hair looked "right". That's when I made a profound discovery: my great-grandmother's hair was brown - like mine! It was the only colour that looked natural.

My great-grandmother and I never met, but thanks to Photoshop, I now have a better idea of what she looked like than would have been possible just from a black and white photo.

I've posted her picture on my webpage.

Shaun Pearce is a writer and video maker.His latest production "Photoshop Master" shows you how to get the most from Photoshop, and can be downloaded from http://www.learnphotoshopfast.com.







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