Hand-Colored Photographs

How to hand color photographs via www.ABeautifulMess.com Photography has come a long way since I can remember. In the 90s when I was in high school, I bought a disposable film camera nearly every week. I carried them with me everywhere and amassed a pretty impressive collection of random high school memories. My favorite disposable cameras were the black and white ones, which I liked to paint with a set of Dr. Ph. Martin’s paint that my mom let me borrow from her art room.

Today I’m working with Canon USA and taking a time machine back to my high school days to show you my favorite painting technique. It’s so fun! So pick out a variety of your favorite black and white images, print them out and paint with me! 

How to hand color photographs via www.ABeautifulMess.com As always I used my Canon PIXMA iP8720 printer to print my photos on luster paper. The quality is amazing! No matter what size photos I am printing, I use 13×19 paper and arrange the photos in Photoshop on a 13×19 page. Here I am printing four photos, all 5×7 inches. 

How to hand color photographs via www.ABeautifulMess.com Supplies needed: Printed black and white photos, watercolor paints (I love these Dr. Ph. Martin’s brand, which you can find at most art shops), paint brushes and water. 

How to hand color photographs via www.ABeautifulMess.com Tip 1: Start with light coats of paint, water it down a bit before applying. You can always add more color, but you can’t go back if you apply too much. 

How to hand color photographs via www.ABeautifulMess.com Tip 2: Photos with more contrast and darker areas look more realistic when painted. Photos with large blocks of white space (or very light tones) will show more brush marks and look less realistic. 

How to hand color photographs via www.ABeautifulMess.com Tip 3: Print extras so you can practice! This is probably the most important tip. Not only is it good to practice your technique, but it’s also fun to try coloring different areas of the photo or experimenting with different colors before you commit.

You can see here that I tried something kinda weird on the bike photo. It didn’t end up being my favorite, but it was fun to try. And the sky on the house photo was just too much space to fill evenly, so on the final print I decided to leave the sky and focus the color just on the buildings. 

How to hand color photographs via www.ABeautifulMess.com The thing I enjoyed most about this project was the experimenting. Laura and I printed a bunch of extra prints and tried different colors and applications. I could do this all day. The “playing” part is by far my favorite! 

How to hand color photographs via www.ABeautifulMess.com I’m super in love with the result. It’s kind of a pop art effect. A little bit of an Andy Warhol vibe due to the punchy colors. Fun! 

How to hand color photographs via www.ABeautifulMess.com How to hand color photographs via www.ABeautifulMess.com I framed my photos minimally with white mats and simple, inexpensive frames. I think they make a pretty rad grid as a set of four. 

What do you think? Do you want to try this technique? Please do. I promise you’ll have fun. We’d love to see your photos on Instagram using #mybeautifulmess XX! Elsie 

Credits//Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Project Assistant: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Actions. 

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