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.  In this 1934’s photo, F9C-2 Sparrowhawk is piloted by Lt. Harold B. Miller, commander of the Heavier-Than-Air Unit, over Moffett Field, California. 

To color this image, we were using the historically-true colors from the present-day models. You can access these colors in the History of the example document. 

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

Let’s start with the wings. Call the Color Capture dialog  (1). Open the color image (2). Click on the area (3).

The wings are sunlit, so it’s better to choose the most saturated shade of yellow. When you select the color, it gets displayed in the Color Picker.

Now outline the wing, avoiding stripes, emblems and the hook construction.

Next, choose a shade of blue from the reference image (or History). The less saturated tone look more natural in bright light.

Add strokes to the circles of the star emblem. If necessary, reduce the the brush width.

Select the bright shade of red. 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.

Note that 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 chose shade of red color using HSB controls in the Color Picker dialog to the values shown in the screenshot. Or just choose the next color from History. Follow the suggest masks pattern. 

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.