1. Home

How To Hand Tint Your Photographs


How To Hand Tint Your Photographs © Liz Masoner 2007 licensed to About.com, Inc.
Hand tinting, or hand coloring, your photographs is a process by which you use paints to color a black and white image. This process started before color film was available and was very popular in the late 1800s with traveling photographers who sold portraits by going door to door in rural areas. Today hand tinting is a favorite way to add a personal touch to photographs.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varies - Average 15 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Pick a Photo
    Photos to be hand tinted should be black and white without a lot of pure white or pure black areas. For hand tinting, a lack of sharp contrast can actually be helpful. Select an image without too many tiny details or large expanses of one color. As you become more comfortable with hand tinting you can move into more challenging images.

  2. Gather Your Supplies
      The minimum supplies you will need for hand tinting are:
    • Matte or satin finish black and white photograph (NOT INKJET)
    • Tinting Pens (available in the scrapbook section of most hobby stores)

    Depending on the drying time of your pens you can use lint free cotton cloths to help blend the colors but this is not necessary.

  3. Decide on an Order
    When hand tinting it is a good idea to start with the smaller areas to be colored first. This helps prevent accidental color errors later on. Decide on a progression of areas to color. Generally, you will go from smallest to largest and then return to smaller areas for touch ups.

  4. Begin Coloring
    This is a lot like coloring in a coloring book. The lines already on the image will provide texture, you are just adding a "wash" of color to the image. Pens often come with wide and fine tips. I would suggest using the wide tips whenever possible and holding them at about a 50 degree angle to allow for a smoother stroke. Depending on your pens, the colors will be very faint at first and may take several layers to reach the intensity you desire.

  5. Review and Correct Your Work
    After you have colored all the areas, review your work to ensure you haven't missed any spots and to see if you need to add an additional layer of color to any areas. Make any necessary touch ups.

  6. Let it Dry
    Most tinting pens require up to 24 hours before they are completely dry. Set your tinted photo in a cool, dry place that is away from dust while it is drying.

  7. Enjoy Your Work
    Enjoy your finished photo. Try not to be hard on yourself if the image isn't perfect. You will see many more "errors" in you work than anyone else will ever notice.


  1. Do NOT use an inkjet print. The tinting pens are liquid and will no nothing but smear inkjet images.
  2. Have your lab print 4 or 5 copies of the image you wish to tint. This gives you some test images for practicing and deciding on what color looks best.

What You Need

  • A black and white photograph with matte or satin finish
  • Hand tinting pens
  1. About.com
  2. Home
  3. Photography
  4. Developing and Printing
  5. Hand Tinting Your Photographs

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.