Photography - How to Hand Color Your Black and White Prints
Adding Color to Black and White Photographs
Handcoloring is the technique of adding color to a black and white photograph. The process dates back to the earliest days of photography and its purpose was to add realism to the prints. With the introduction and wide use of color film, handcoloring has become a creative form of expression and a unique art form.
The actual process of applying color to a black and white print is not that difficult. The artistry comes in the choices made by the colorist. The results can be subtle or dramatic depending on whether you choose to color the whole print or just a portion of it.
The Basic Process of Handcoloring Prints
For the best results you want to start with a black and white print that has a range of tones and not too much contrast. Resin coated paper is easier and faster to process in the darkroom but is harder to work with when the intention is to handcolor your print. There are some RC (resin coated) papers that work well, however. One is Lummos RCR (resin coated rough) which has a rough, absorbent surface, however this may be hard to find. The other is Kodak P-Max Art RC, which is made specifically for handcoloring. Fiber based papers are more absorbent than RC papers and provide excellent results for handcoloring. But take a little more work in the darkroom and the paper also tends to roll during the drying process.
Supplies Needed to Color Photographs
The most popular and effective coloring agents for handcoloring are photo oils and pencils. The popular brand, Marshall's sells these in convenient sets or by the individual color. A few other necessary tools are PMS (prepared Medium Solution), Q-tips, cotton balls and toothpicks.
The pencils are easy to use and come in a variety of colors. The oils take a little more technique but offer a wider range of hues and the ability to mix colors.
Cotton swabs make excellent application tools, as do cotton balls for large areas and cotton wrapped toothpicks for fine work.
The PMS is used to prepare the surface of the print and make it more receptive to the oils. PMS should always be used with pencils, as it softens the lead and gives the finished product a smoother look. After the PMS is applied to the entire print and the excess is rubbed away with a cotton ball, it's time to apply the color.
The amount of color applied is up to the artist based on the final look desired. You can highlight just one item in the print, leaving the rest black and white, or color the whole print. The range between the two leaves the artist with a wide range of choices.
Afraid you might make a mistake? Don't despair. Mistakes can be removed with a magic rub vinyl eraser or with PMS. Removing color with PMS is time consuming, you must wait for the print to dry before you apply more color, but it does offer the opportunity to start over if necessary.
Computer Generated Color
Handcoloring is a unique and interesting way to express your creativity and make your black and white prints a work of art.
Having your own darkroom is easier than you think. With the right equipment and a little bit of space, you can develop your own black and white prints at home.
During the development process, re-exposing your print to the light source adds a solarized effect to you black and white prints.
With a few simple lighting techniques you can take portraits like the old Hollywood stars.
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