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Hand Coloring Photos

Use this technique for coloring black and white photos. It's a great way to personally enhance images for your next scrapbook or photo project.

Hand Coloring Photos


  • Photos: Black and white photo. Remember that you can have a color photo printed in black and white at your photo processor or on your own computer if you have a photo quality printer.
  • Tinting Markers or Photo Tinting Kit: These are a special marker designed for coloring on photos. The tints are very subtle. There are several brands available. Some manufacturers have a liquid compound included with the photo tinting kit. Follow manufacturer’s labeling and instructions.

Step by Step

  1. Read and follow specific manufacturer’s labeling and instructions.
  2. Apply liquid pre-tinting solution if needed.
  3. Work one area at a time. Work with one color of marker at a time.
  4. Gently rub the marker in a smooth fashion over the area you want to tint/color. You don’t have to push down on the marker.
  5. Since the colors are so soft and subtle, you need to “build” color. Go over an area and step back from the photo. Do you want more color? Go over the area again and step back from the photo. Keep “building” layers of the color until satisfied with the final hue.
  6. Repeat process for all other photo areas you want to color
  7. Allow photo to dry for 24 hours before using or framing.


  • Have your subject wear light clothing with some contrast. Extremely dark colors will appear almost black on the photo print and tint colors will not be detectible.
  • Avoid any heavy shadowing in a photo especially around the face. Shoot outdoors or with a flash.
  • When photographing people use props as a way to add interest and charm to the photo. Props like hats, dolls or teddy bears or flowers.
  • Avoid busy backgrounds.
  • Color only the prop or other focal point of the photo.
  • Don’t forget that landscapes can be fun to photo tint.
  • You can also use chalks and pastels to color black and white photos, but you’ll need to use a fixative to set the chalks/pastels.
  • Try printing photos to high quality papers and coloring with colored pencils
  • You can use handmade papers in your computer printer, but make sure the paper isn’t too thick for you brand of printer.

Maria Nerius is the author of Creating Your Family Heritage Scrapbook: From Ancestors to Grandchildren, Your Complete Resource and Idea Book for Creating a Treasured Heirloom

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Does anyone have any examples of what this looks like? Please share if you do?

Another option is Marshall oil paints that are made for photo tinting. A little more work than the markers, however, you can blend the colors.

I too wanted to color my black and white and as this article suggests, I looked for the photo tinting kits. I was unable to find the kits but I did find photo tinting markers. The name brand is ZIG Photo Twin. They have "sets" of different hues. I bought the Soft Hues and Natural Hues and was very pleased with the results. As with anything new, you should practice first to see how the pens work. And there is a difference in the photo finish either matt or glossy.


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