Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Hand Tinting Black and White Photos

By Christina VanGinkel

I came across several old photographs of my father from the Second World War, resplendent in his Navy uniform, in black and white, but with notations on the back as to the colors of the medals he was wearing, his eye, and hair color, even the color of his uniform. I originally thought that my mother must have made note of all of this just for reference, which was until a friend shoed me a photograph that came from a similar time, but had been hand tinted with color.

I was awestruck, and I knew I wanted to create the same affect on my father's picture. After quite a bit of research both online and at the local library, I knew that I would be practicing on many other photos before I attempted the original of my father. I also discovered that different techniques have been used. Everything from colored pencils to paint, oil based worked better, especially colors that were on the transparent side, and to avoid acrylics as the paint itself was too opaque. Oil paint was also easy to wipe the excess off as long as you used the proper accessories and did it in a timely way.

As I was absorbing all of this, or at least trying to, I came across a set of markers that sounded almost too good to be true. Photo Twin markers from EK Success said they colored black and white photos without all the muss and fuss of other methods. The examples shown looked fantastic, and the markers were not outrageously priced, so I thought I would try them.

Numerous sample photos later, I have learned a few things. Use photos printed on a matte surface. Glossy finishes do not let the marker color adhere well. It just seems to sit on top of the paper, which is a perfect way to create a smear. Do not repeatedly go over a spot, as it will eat into the picture quicker than you think it will. If you think an area needs more color, let the color you have already applied dry before adding more. Keep cotton balls and Q-tips handy to help control the color. These pens also have two tips, one on each end. The narrow tip is perfect for getting at tiny areas that just need a spot of color, while the large end is perfect for general use and large areas. Resembling a paintbrush, but with the consistency of a marker, they are easy to control.

Above all else, practice until you think you have the technique down, then practice some more. This craft has a lot of room for individuality to it. Some people highlight just a spot or two on a photo, while others color the complete picture. Though I have not even gotten close to feeling comfortable enough to attempt to color the original photo of my father, I am noticing a lot of improvement in the photos I have colored. I love the different look it gives, and I have used several of my practice photos in my scrapbook and have even framed one of my grandson. If you enjoy photography, but are looking for something a bit different to try with your photos, I highly recommend trying this.

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