a very basic tutorial on how to colour gifs or screencaps in photoshop, with or without a psd. if you’re looking to learn how to make gif’s, I recommend waywardism’s tutorial instead as it’s the best I’ve found so far.
I’ve had a few different people ask about my graphics and how I do my simple colourings, so hopefully this will be enough to get you started. most colouring tutorials I’ve found are confusing and don’t offer a complete overview of how it’s done, so hopefully this can be the tutorial I wish I had when I started making gif’s. you can check out my graphics here for an example of what I do.
what you’ll need:
NOTE: for the purpose of this tutorial I’m going to refer to everything as “gif”s but this tutorial also works for screencaps or any other graphic you may want to edit.
WHAT EXACTLY DO PEOPLE MEAN BY “COLOURING”?
it simply means using photoshop to enhance the colours of an already existing graphic. because tumblr gifs take frames from a media that is meant for the big screen and shrinks it down to a tiny 245 px wide image, using colouring really brings out what you’re trying to show. plus it just looks nicer.
gif without colour:
USING PSD’s TO COLOUR
what is a psd? .psd is the file extension for photoshop documents, and in this case it refers to files you can download with premade colourings. it may seem strange to learn to colour by using someone else’s first, but think of it as training wheels. and most gif makers use psd’s on a regular basis.
where to find psd’s:
most of the graphics I make are for Supernatural, and divachester’s old psd’s are by far the best I’ve found for colouring anything from that show:
a few more blogs you can browse:
how to use a psd
download the file and open it in photoshop. you’ll need to make sure layers are visible (on windows it’s Window > Layers on the top menu). generally the file will come with a sample image and a folder containing the the colour layers - these will be different depending on the psd.
have the gif you want to edit already open. right click the psd folder and click “Duplicate Group…”
you will get a pop up window. under “Document:” select your gif and hit OK.
open back up to your gif and make sure the colour folder is the very first layer. if it’s not, drag it to the top. all of the frames should now be coloured.
choosing the right psd for your gif
how you colour a gif is going to depend on a lot of factors, including how colourful or dark your gif is, what look you want to achieve and file size. colouring usually increases the size of a gif the brighter it is, so make sure you are staying within the 1mb limit if you plan to upload to tumblr.
the easiest way to quickly try out a bunch of different psd’s at once is to create a sample file. to do that you’ll need to create a new file about 500 px by 500 px. open up all of the psd’s you have downloaded and duplicate all of the folders into this new document. make sure none of them are visible (click the eye icon next to the folder so that it goes away) then save it as “colour sample” or whatever you’d like.
you’ll now be able to duplicate a frame from your gif into this document and quickly click through psd’s to find the best one for any situation.
note of caution: if you have a slow computer, having a lot of layers open can slow it down or even crash your photoshop. save before trying anything like this and don’t use an absurd number of psd’s in one file.
the majority of the time you’re going to want to tweak the psd to suit your gif. this can be done pretty easily without any real photoshop knowledge.
I’ll make a gif that’s a bit harder to colour than usual:
I find a colouring that brings out the purples and warm tones, but it is pixelated and too harsh:
one option is to reduce the opacity of the entire folder containing the psd
it would be fine to leave it at that, but if you want to fine tune it even more you can go through every layer in the folder and flicker its visibility: if the gif looks better without it, leave it off. anything inbetween you can adjust the opacity of.
for this gif I turned off a gradient map and reduced the opacity of the vibrance/saturation and another gradient layer
you can also fiddle with the setting that are already preset on the layers; playing around with other people’s psd’s is the fastest way to learn to colour your own gif’s better. try combining different psd’s and adding your own layers and just have fun with it.
COLOURING WITHOUT PSD’s
if you’ve been using psd’s, these layers should be somewhat familiar to you at this point. first thing you need to check is that you have the “adjustments” window visible above your layers (for windows you can make it visible with Window > Adjustments in the top bar.)
I’ll use this cap for the example, and you can try following along with it if you’d like.
we’re going to be working with the adjustments on this window above your layers:
depending on what OS and version of photoshop you’re running it might look different, but it more or less should have the same function. you need to be clicked on a photo layer in your list of layers for this to show (if for example you are clicked on a text layer you will not see it). just like with psd’s, you want to make sure this is above all of your animation frames, but below any text layers as you don’t want to modify those with colour.
generally you’re going to want to do the curves layers first.
you can drag this line into any shape and add as many points as you want and modify by colour, but I’ll stick with the basics.
"a" and "b" shown below are the two most useful shapes, and a combination of the two generally gives the best results in my opinion as shown in "c"
(layer “b” should be on the bottom of your colour layers and “a” should be at the top as it will lighten everything)
below is “c” from the previous example combined with a contrast layer with the brightness and contrast both at +17
I would recommend you always increase the contrast at least a bit, but the brightness is not necessary and can sometimes make things appear grainy, so use at your own discretion.
vibrance & hue/saturation
especially for lower quality caps increasing the saturation will bring it back to its original colours. here I have added +15 saturation.
I will shamefacedly admit I don’t really understand how vibrance works and I rarely use it. but it’s similar to saturation and gives things a nice glow sometimes, so I’ve used +50 here.
I added a low opacity gradient map and tweaked the “selective colour” option (which I will not get into on this tutorial but I encourage you to experiment with) and below is the result. I don’t generally use a lot of extra layers so this is a very simplistic approach.
my end layers are in this order, though you can experiment with that as well.
a quick note about gradient maps
I won’t go into too much detail, but they are a way to add colour and variation to your gif’s. it’s definitely worth playing around with and finding other tutorials for.
I’ll use this as a base:
and with an orange/blue gradient map set at “hue” with 40% opacity
one more trick
try adding a new layer and using the paint bucket to make a white layer and change it to 10-25% opacity for this effect:
there is a lot more to colouring than this, but hopefully this gets you started.
MORE COLOURING RESOURCES
if there’s anything you think I should add to the tutorial or if you have any links to more resources, please let me know!