Tuesday, July 22, 2008

That "Hand-Colored" Thing...

Much of the comment on yesterday’s post had to do with that hand-colored portrait of my sister and I. I got to thinking… is hand-colored portraiture still available these days? The answer is “yes.” And here’s a lil blurb on the art I found:

About Hand Painting

Also known as hand-coloring or hand-tinting, this process has been around since the mid-1800's and for many years was the only way you could have a color photograph. The technique involves applying oil based, transparent paints directly on to a photographic print. The paint is normally then 'rubbed down' with cotton swabs until a desired effect or density is achieved. Though the use of cotton is common, there are a variety of techniques used by different artists to achieve different effects. Today, you can use digital technology to hand color images on your home computer, but most purists (like me) prefer the old fashioned method.

That’s from Ontario photographer Patrick Brown’s web site. He doesn’t publish his prices, preferring instead for you to contact him if you want a hand-colored portrait done. And… seeing as how Google Is My Friend… there’s more:

Handcolored photographs are making a big comeback lately. While the process of handcoloring photos has been around almost since photography itself, now we have many more options available to us.

The time-honored way to do this is to print photos on fiber-based paper, not photo paper, and tint with photo oils. There are a couple of sites with excellent information, and other books on this subject, so I'm not going to go into the process further. It's still a good way to do this, but my book, "The New Way to Handcolor Photos With Pastel and Other Media," is about new techniques.

With advances in technology, and the new ways in which we print, including what we print on, you now have a nearly unlimited palette with which to work. The book is about photography, but I think it will be useful to scrap bookers, collage artists, fine artists, hobbyists, and digital artists, as well.

The above was taken from Marlena Montaney’s web site. Ms. Montaney owns Smiling Dog Studio and works primarily in pastels.

I only went two pages deep into my google search, but that was more than enough to confirm the art form is alive and VERY well. I’d seriously consider having a hand-colored portrait done, were I still in the family-raising bid’ness.

As parting shots on this subject… check out these four 100-year-old Russian hand-colored photos. Simply amazing stuff, then and now. And this site has a collection of Russian hand-colored post cards titled “Moscow – 1890.” Here’s one such… a shot of the Kremlin and St. Basil’s cathedral.

I’ve stood beneath that tall white tower on the quay overlooking the Moskva river, Gentle Reader. And ya know what? Aside from the motorized traffic, that scene looks pretty much the same today as it did 100 years ago. Amazing, that.


  1. Hand colored photos are so neat. It is like the best of both worlds in one photo. A little bit of color and a little bit of black and white.

  2. There's something about the hand-coloring process that brings about an other-worldly quality. Of course, that's the advantage, isn't it? You can color in ways slightly beyond what happened in nature.

  3. My Dad has a beautiful hand-colored picture of my Mom that he had done in Japan.

  4. Very cool.....I love the photo of you and your sister...I'd love to have a b/w one of my husband and his sister done.....


  5. You didn't tell me what you were ! The pictures are beautiful!

  6. What fun links! The tinted photos are very cool. Several years ago, we bought some special colored pencils to color black and white photos. They were kind of neat, but not nearly so bright as the oils.

  7. I didn't mean to imply that there is anything wrong with hand tinted photographs. They're not strange in a bad way, but just unusual. "Otherworldly" is a good word to use. I always thought they looked like a hybrid between a photo and a painting. I can remember spending hours as a child gazing at a hand tinted portrait, trying to decide if it were a picture or a painting. It was many years later that I found out that it was both.

  8. When my roommate was in photography school, she learned to hand-color photographs. I tried my hand at a few as well. It was a lot of fun. We used oil pastels I believe... I think I still have one hanging up around the house somewhere.

  9. Very interesting! I had no idea that's how it was done.

  10. Ash: You're so right!

    Jim: That's particularly true in the case of those four Russian photos I linked (not the post cards).

    Amy: I have a hand-colored portrait of my Mom, too. But mine was done in the US, in the early '40s.

    ASW: Do it! That would make a great present, dontcha think? I'm glad you're back up and running again, too!

    Jenn: Oops! My Bad! I'm "hot sauce," but I assumed (wrongly, yet again) you'd get that from the narrative accompanying my results... I should post that.

    Lou: I would think the hand-coloring would be right up your alley. Granted, it's not as creative as painting from scratch, but I also think the art requires a good eye for color and a steady hand. OTOH, one could really get "wild and crazy" with color on some photos...

    Becky: I didn't take your remarks as being disparaging, but thanks for the clarification. My Mom explained the whole process to me when she flipped out over the color of my shirt, so I learned at a relatively early age what hand-coloring was all about.

    Susan: "Rolling your own" is waaay-cool! I should look into this, coz I bet ENMU has similar classes.

    Jenny: See? You really can learn stuff from blogs! LOL!

  11. I was guessing that but thought I better ask!

  12. I've got hand colored photos of the family from as early as 1859(great-grandparents wedding)...one of the earliest....up until the 1940s and 50s.

    Also some great hand colored postcards from various 20th century eras.

    Great stuff!

  13. Jenn: And now you know "the rest of the story..." ;-)

    (I'm always looking for opportunities to work Paul Harvey in, somehow... somewhere.)

    Pat: You have some of the best archives I've seen on the blogs. Hopefully you'll scan and post some of your hand-colored pics. I'd LOVE to see the older stuff!

  14. Hello there,

    I just wanted to tell you how nice it was to find your link to my site, Smiling Dog Studio. Also glad you liked it!

    That book on hand-coloring is available, now, through lulu.com. However, my contact info on the website is wrong due to some sort of hacking meltdown within Yahoo.

    I'm working on fixing, but in the meantime, I can be reached through my other site, showmethedough.weebly.com.

    I've enjoyed your blog immensely, like the witty commentary. Those Russian photos are gorgeous. I especially like the stories about your travels while growing up. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Marlena: What a great surprise, and thanks for dropping by! I enjoyed your site, as well (you do great work). Maybe one of my (three) readers will commission some sort of work from you as a result of my mention... or at least buy your book!


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