Masterclass in Photo Colorization

Flight of SparrowHawk

this tutorial requires

F9C Sparrowhawk, a light 1930s biplane fighter aircraft that was carried by the United States Navy airships USS Akron and Macon.  This photo was taken in 1934.  In his photo, F9C-2 Sparrowhawk was piloted over Moffett Field, California by Lt. Harold B. Miller, commander of the Heavier-Than-Air Unit, . 


To be utterly precise, we captured the historically true colors from the present day models and several images.

To follow this tutorial, you can download the CODIJY file with the ready color palette saved to the document’s History.  

get Prepared

Open the photo in your CODIJY application and make sure that the Pencil tool is in the Line mode. Set the brush size to the 5 pixels.

Colorize Wings

To apply the first masks to the wings, call the Color Capture dialog and open the color image in it. The wings are sunlit, so it’s better to choose the most saturated shade of yellow by clicking on the colored area. The color is now selected and you can start drawing.

Outline the appropriate areas of the wing, avoiding stripes, emblems and hook construction.

Now open the Capture dialog box and choose a shade of blue. It can be less saturated to look more natural in bright light.

Outline blue areas. If necessary, reduce the the brush width.

Let’s move on to the red color. Take a close look at the model. We have several areas of red, but unlike the model example, the outer rim of the engine is painted to match the fuselage.

Add red masks. The bright color will look unnatural on the slots in the engine grille – so it should be applied only to its lighter areas.

To color the dark parts behind the propeller, reduce the saturation and brightness of the red color in the Color Picker dialog to the values shown in the screenshot, and apply additional masks there.

Colorize the fuselage

To get a natural shade of white, we picked up a color photograph of an airplane in similar weather conditions. 

The tint is a little pinkish, but rest assured that the CODIJY algorithms will apply it correctly to the fuselage surface. 

The tail of this biplane model was clearly a dark blue color. In order not to make a mistake with its shade, let’s again resort to the original colors used in aviation and choose a shade of moderate saturation.

The glow of the lower wing suggests that it is a metallic color.  You can leave it monochrome (using the Color Protection pen) or apply a shade of gray. However, note that it reflects the colors of the sky, so it’s better to use a color example.

Next pick the grey color for the propeller and apply it around the grid and on the mounts.

When all the parts are completed, let’s generate the result.

We haven’t added the colors to the background yet, so they bleed into the background. However, if you find a place where the biplane colors spread out, just add a few more strokes there. To do this, you can refer to the used colors in the History.

Colorize background

Now we will work on the field in the background. It’s hard to tell if there are any green areas on it, but we’ll add them to liven up the picture. You can color the bare ground using colors from the Forest: Paths library. We’ll also add a line over the white stripe using the Protection pen.

Let’s look at the result. If you are satisfied with it, move on to the pilot. Zoom in so that you can work on it comfortably at pixel scale.

The high resolution of the photo allows you to work out the details and even overlay a few shades to make the pilot’s facial features look natural in the bright sun.

When we zoom out again, the end result looks amazing, and you can’t tell it’s been colorized.

Note that should the difference in lighting make some shades appear unnatural over the dark areas, we recommend reducing the brightness and saturation of the tone to an acceptable level.

We hope you enjoyed this lesson. If you have any questions please email them to CODIJY support or post them to our Facebook group.