Fun With 1940s Colorizing

David Hamilton Behind the Scenes

Much Ado About Nothing PosterSometimes the really fun projects sneak up on you by accident.  When I started work on this poster for North Coast Repertory Theatre  I knew that I was going to get to have some fun with the 1940s style. I’ve been enjoying playing around with the WWII era while working on the layout for the new Humboldt Fire website (lots of pin up girls) so I was looking forward to another chance to visit the decade.  But looking at posters from the time period, I realized they had more than just a specific layout. Playing around with Photoshop filters, I quickly determined that adjusting hue and contrast settings wasn’t going to be enough. I needed to pick up a new skill.

I looked around online and found a great tutorial on colorizing photos.  Of course it felt a bit silly making my own photos black and white only to add color back into them, but in the end it was an incredibly rewarding and very simple process (though a bit time consuming.)  Most people who look at the poster probably won’t notice, but on a subconscious level I like to think it will make a difference.

How to: 1940s colorizing



The technical stuff:

If you think you’d like to give it a try (and if you’re doing any work with 1940s design, I highly recommend it) a couple of tips that weren’t included in the tutorial: (1) the best way to get a nice skin tone is to just lower the cyan curve.  I played around with yellow and magenta for a while before I figured that one out. (2) I recommend saving your selection paths individually before converting them to adjustment layers. It makes it a lot easier to create new selection paths when you can just select a whole area and subtract selections that you have already saved without having to toggle between layers.

Hope you have as much fun as I did.  If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email at