Brightening Cat Photos with Added Color

Bud with blue

Bud with blue

The work, done by computer mouse, sort of feels like painting. This way of putting color on a photo blends the realism of un-retouched photographic captures with the artifice of hand-“painted” backgrounds. I’m sure it’s been done elsewhere, and as photo manipulation goes, it’s an elementary technique. For me it’s new. I just wanted to smooth out a busy background and had no intention of using the virtual “brush”. But when I saw the rainbow display of clickable colors on the screen, I was gone, in a whirl, like a kid with a box of crayons.

I find this brightens my flash-free indoor photos of black cats, dark cats, and even cats with lighter fur coloration. Even with strong sunlight diffusing in from windows, some of the backgrounds turn out rather dark. Adding highly saturated hues has made the subjects, their fur colors, and facial features, really stand out.

With Bud above, I chose a blue with a hint of violet because he had bluish highlights on his fur. Bud looks pointedly!

Little Buddy:

Little Buddy with Teal

Little Buddy with Teal

In a previous post I used the same photo, but the color wasn’t quite the intense teal I wanted. This is more like it! I’ve tried mainly greens with Little Buddy, because green is a color I’m passionate towards. Here is my post on black cats and ways to photograph them starring Little Buddy, an excerpt from my book:

I find the hardest part is working around the whiskers and preserving their “real” look. I’ve often had to be content with a “sense” of whiskers. The spray of whiskers in the picture below worked out fairly well, I think. Another tricky area is edging up to the furry contours. The separate hairs are visible against the background and I want to preserve that. I don’t want a smoothed off division between cat and setting. I like things furry! Winsome Little Buddy has an expression both sweet and sly!

Winsome Little Buddy

Winsome Little Buddy

I never did any photo color enhancing before, or any retouching beyond evening out a stray speck of discolor. Photo manipulation enables artists to create fine art photos by enhancing colors and details. I haven’t tried any of those sophisticated techniques yet, so the subjects are essentially un-retouched in the first four photos.

These aren’t expertly done. I have the same fine finger imprecision I have with the traditional art materials I’m no longer able to use. Less set-up means I can do a small amount with virtual tools at the ready, but for me it’s very tiring so I can’t do much. I like the depth of the surfaces, although they fall far short of the transcendent luminosity, maybe even with multiple hues, that I’d like to have.

Anna in Sun

Anna in August Sun

This photo of my Anna, now gone to The Rainbow Bridge, was taken in bright sunlight. There’s no way I can retain the play of the natural light in the backgrounds, so I leave only hints. Her tabby fur now sparkles; before, contrast was needed. A good sun soak would always make Anna smile!

Choosing a color complementary to the cat’s fur or eye color increases gleam. At the end of this post:

there’s a picture of Bud with purple: Red-violet would have been the exact complementary to his yellow-green eyes, but medium violet, the split complementary, still lends zing to his gaze. I used purple because I like it, and because I thought it would look good with his deep sable brown coat.

I’m wondering if this technique would be helpful to those taking photos of shelter animals in need of homes. Someone with high level photo retouching skill could likely turn these out in a few minutes. I take much longer. It could counter any drabness of background, and would work for dogs too. As those with more art photo experience no doubt know, there’s also an easier way to put color in the background fast. You’ll first have to trace around the subject; the color will be a smooth unbroken surface, without the modulation of the painted backgrounds. I much prefer the latter, but when in a hurry, the flat color would also serve to show off the animals.

Found in Mom’s garage as a kitten, mini-panther Little Buddy has radial hypoplasia, so his forelegs have an unusual formation. He is 18 and a half years old. His story is in my book:

I’ll write an article about feline radial hypoplasia in the future.

To complete this next photo, we added other techniques.

Little Buddy with a rainbow in his black fur. He's a found kitty with unusual forelegs.

Little Buddy, we photo edited a rainbow layer over the picture. He’s a found kitty with unusual forelegs.

This image of Little Buddy is a composite of two photos, one of the sleeping kitty and the other of refracted sunlight. It includes both some “painted” background areas, and some changes to the subject. I shot both photographs, and decided exactly how I wanted one lined up over the other. My husband put them together in the photo enhancing program. This picture illustrates a point in my black cat essay cited above.

2017, and I can’t recall exactly how we joined the two photos; photo editing was new to me and my husband did most of the work! Here is a larger copy of our Little Buddy snoozing, sans the rainbow layer, before we sandwiched this picture with another.


Here is one of the pictures we may have used, showing sunlight slanting in the window and. refracting off of a disc. I know we tried several times, using different rainbow photos, adjusting the sizes and intensities of both images to fit. I think we adjusted the two images to each other to place the rainbow over the cat where I wanted it, and that wasn’t exactly frame to frame.


Now that I know a tiny bit more about photo editing I might try to redo this and other pictures in this post one day! After 5000 other tasks are done, LOL. Slowly, I hope to improve in all these techniques, and use them now and then.



About Leah

I'm Leah T. Alford, a writer fascinated by the natural world and animals, especially cats.
This entry was posted in Art, Cat Topics, Cats and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Brightening Cat Photos with Added Color

  1. Pingback: Extreme Photo Editing; Opinions by Bud the Cat | Catwoods Porch Party

  2. Pingback: Enhancing the Giant Egotistical Cat | Catwoods Porch Party

  3. sarasinart says:

    Great info! Thanks for checking out my blog.

  4. Kylee says:

    Hi there, thanks for commenting on my post. Love this article its very helpful, as im forever trying to make my cat photos better. I love your cats they are beautiful.

    • Catwoods says:

      Kylee, the cats and I thank you! You have a very pretty tortoiseshell kitty. If you try the technique on your photos, I hope you will post!

      • Kylee says:

        Hi there Catwoods I will definitely try it out. I will defniitly post just getting used to the site. Thanks Very much for commenting.

  5. Kev says:

    Kitty Cats!!! Beautiful pics… I’m going to have to try that colour idea… thanks for sharing!

  6. kathy says:

    What a fab idea! Love your darling black cat! My own beautiful black cat is nearly impossible to get a decent photo of, so I’ll have to try your way.

    • Catwoods says:

      Thank you Kathy, the kitties and I are glad you enjoyed their photos. I’ve found photographing black kitties to be a challenge, too. Have fun trying this, and any other ways, to capture cats in pictures!

  7. darkroomdiva says:

    I really love the purple one!!! XD thanks for liking, by the way!

  8. Catwoods says:

    Thanks very much for the reblog, robertthofherr!

  9. Pingback: Brightening Cat Photos with Added Color | roberthofherr

  10. a.h.richards says:

    I am a cat lover too, and new to your blog. Lovely cat pics. 🙂 My present cat is a stray named Sonja. She was found on a recycling dump, nursing four kittens. She is the sweetest kitty I have ever been adopted by. There is one pic of her on my blog.
    You have some beautiful kitties.

    • Catwoods says:

      Thank you very much, a.h.richards; the kitties thank you also! Enjoyed hearing about you being adopted by your kitty. I’d like to see her photo, but could not find it on your blog. If you have a moment, please post the link.

  11. awax1217 says:

    I get the feeling the cat knows he is being filmed and is posing.

  12. elmdriveimages says:

    Great work! Wonderful composition and color. My wife and I love cats as you know from visiting my site at Elm Drive Images and giving me a like on, Muffin…thank you for that.

  13. cdog5 says:

    I really like how the color enhances the photograph. I’ve been playing around with a simple version of Adobe, finding it fascinating! I like your idea about using color to enhance shelter photos — that would be great!

    • Catwoods says:

      Thanks, cdog5! Glad you are having some fun with the programs. There is so much that can be done with photo enhancement these days, and I wish I had the time and knowledge to explore it more thoroughly.

      I know that pro photographers sometimes volunteer to take photos of shelter animals that will be appealing to potential adopters. I just thought that if they could add color fairly quickly, that might help.

  14. Pingback: My Thanks to you | Two on a Rant

  15. Kate Gilmore says:

    Hi, Leah,

    I must have missed this while feeling sorry for myself. It’s very interesting, and I suspect that there is a whole world out there for you to explore. At the same time I can imagine the frustration of not being able to do certain really precise things.

    The pictures are wonderful and, of course, enhanced by the backgrounds.



    • Catwoods says:

      Kate, thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed the pictures. Lots of enjoyment doing these, but lots of work too, so it will take me awhile to get back to them.

  16. Experimentation can be a lot of fun and I really like what you have done with the backgrounds–it definitely enhances the kittys’ features making for some very lovely portraits-

  17. Beautiful! It really sets of their eyes! *(purrs)*♥

  18. vera ersilia says:

    Great photos. I am a cat lover too. Lovely animals all. The backgrounds are good as they are, you do not want to overwhelm the cat and make the background more important. What program are you using? I cannot afford Photoshop…

    • Catwoods says:

      The cats and I thank you for your kind words! We’re using a really old Photoshop program. We wouldn’t be able to afford the newest versions of any programs, either. As long as it does a few things, it’s ok for us at this time.

  19. Pingback: Black Cats in Sun and Shade: A Painter’s Eye View | Catwoods Porch Party

  20. ginnietom says:

    well done Leah…if u like more image processing take a try to some of my latest posts…
    I’m lightroom and NIK tools user (Color-efex, HDR – now new Google Collection), as well as photomatix for HDR…
    have a good week…:-)))

    • Catwoods says:

      Thank you ginnietom! I will certainly take a look, but I have so much to do for awhile, I will have to get back to working on photos later. Glad to have this link for when I do!

  21. Great kitty photos!

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