Sleeping Dinosaur
Oct 13, 2012
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Hello folks!

I wanted to write a tutorial about face editing next, but I figured, that having one about recoloring is a step that I should take before.
Also, this tutorial is made with GIMP: https://www.gimp.org/
(Insert a passive aggressive comment about: "I do not have a graphic program, so you must help me"-posts, as it is multi-platform and free)

Before we recolor, we have to choose, who we want to recolor, in this case, say hello to People 1_4... or let's just call her Maude for that tutorial:

So, for now I want her to have:
-brown hair and eyes
-green hair ties
-a white dress/blouse
-a green gem on her dress
-a green apron

Ooof, sounds like a lot, huh? No worries, we will get it done in no time!

First I'll replicate the layer with her face several times - one for every part of her face:

Now we gonna change the color of the layers to get the colors of our parts in the scheme we chose.
Therefore, we have several options.

1. Hue-Saturation

This is usually my go to option, as it has the color ramps staying as they were and the sliders are easy to handle. Be careful to not get over the top with brightness or saturation to still match the style. (If you need a lighter tone, we will face that later)

2. Brush
Yes, right, you can use the brush to recolor, though it is not really my go to option. You simple change the mode to "LCh Hue", pick a color you want and draw over the image.
The con: you can easily "find" the hue you want.
The down: you also recolor the transparent background that way and you have your lights and shadows have the exact same hue as the base color, which makes the look a bit more boring.

3. Colorize
It has the same ups and downs as the brush option, but can for beginners be easier to use than the Hue-Saturation function.

4. Curves
This option is more advanced, as you need a lot of color understandment to get to the right hue. On the other side, if used well, it is a stron tool to recolor. You have to adjust the curves of red, blue and green each to get the result you want.

There are plenty of other tools to change the hue, but these 4 are usually my go to (with 1 and 4 being my preferred and 2 and 3 only used for smaller things or if the other options just don't work at all).

I'm now gonna use option 1 to get all the hues I need for my layers.
They all worked not too bad, with the apron bein a problem, as it is white and therefore has no hue yet.
Here I used the curves and dragged the lines until I had something that roughly matched my wishes (I can still adjust later):

Now my layers look like this:

Having all the hues we want, we will have to adjust color and saturation to have everything matching, but I prefer doing that after having my items being cut out, as then I can adjust them in relation to the other items they are supposed to go with... time to do the

Layer Masks
The masks will work like a map for the program, they'll tell which parts of the layers are supposed to be erased aka transparent but without actually removing them. So if you accidentially delete too much on the layer mask, you have not destroyed your layer and you can simply add it back in.
You create the layer by right click on the layer -> add layer mask
The idea is simple: the parts of the layer mask that are white, are going to be opaque, black will be tranparent, grey will be semi-transparent depending on the brightness.
For the layer masks I usually use a brush and patience, but you can help yourselves with the several types of selection tools for a base to work from.
I started with my hair, as it is the layer that l will put on top. If I do that layer ver well, the other masks will be easier to make.

So here we have the layer mask for the hair (made with the mouse and brush tool):
As you see the background does not matter, it's transparent anyways. I made sure to also add the eyebrows and lashes to my mask.
As the hair mask is well done, I can have a lot sloppier one e.g. for the hair ties for the parts because I will layer them below the hair layer.
After some more brush fiddeling all my layer masks are done:

Now I'm gonna use the curves tool to have them all have the right contrast and brightness.
We will just use the value curve here and drag around the curve until our result has the wanted look.
To explain it simple, the curve has an in and output, default is just a line.
So you put in areas with the value 0 for example and get the value zero. By changing the curve, you for example say, that after a certain point in your curve everything becomes e.g. 255 - aka pure white.
That way you can recolor stuff that had a medium base value to either white or black without it looking off.
dress curve.PNG

Just remember - the curves, unlike the layer masks, are destructive. But if you screw up too much, keep your layer mask and just copy your base layer onto the screwed layer and start over with the color change.

With all my layers being adjusted that way, we get from
before.png to after.png

The most difficult part are the clean layer masks, but if you have them right, you can try around, until you get the right result.
For example, if I now decide, her hair should be pink instead, I just recolor the layer and have to do no further adjustment but adjusting hue and the curve and am done:

So yes - recoloring faces is pretty easy, the most annoying thing are the layer masks, but besides maybe some feeling for when the colors are right, no further skill is needed :)


Feb 14, 2019
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If i could triple post about how much I love you (non creepy way mind you) and how much this helps me with Gimp... I would. YOU..... ARE....... PURE AWESOMENESS

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