Tips for Using Chalks to Hand Colour Photos

Some of those older, vintage photos in our collections have a marvellous hand tinted quality that I have always liked to use in my layouts.

The secret to getting that soft, muted quality is to use chalks rather than watercolours. Watercolours tend to get a bit too strong and unless you are a master retouch artist, then those tiny areas of the face can be a bit hard to get at.

Chalks can give you that muted quality and also soften the image from being plain black and white to being a pastel coloured version of the same photo – much more falttering to faces and skin tones.

When you chalk a photo, it MUST BE PRINTED ONTO MATTE PAPER. There is simply no way that chalk will adhere to either a gloss or a satin photo.

I use some good quality chalk from an art supplier as they have a stronger pigment and therefore you aren’t rubbing forever to get some colour on the page. Some good brands to consider would be Windsor and Newton, Monte Marte and Micador. They range in price, and I can definitely say that you get what you pay for.

To hand colour a photo, start with some clean tissues and clean cotton buds. Use the tissues to colour the larger areas and the cotton buds to do the smaller ones (like the face and hands). Start with the lighter colours and use a “Less is more” approach – it’s always easier to add another layer but you can’t take one off very easily!

Use a circular rubbing motion and be light with your hands and then heavier with your pressure as you get more confident. DON”T rub the chalks (if they are in stick form) directly onto the page – they’ll just be too strong in colour.

MISTAKES: You can get rid of some mistakes by using a good quality PUTTY RUBBER (also available at an art supplies shop). If you just can’t get a hold of one, use some Blue Tack – works just as well.

FIXING: To “fix” your chalks to the image (ie: make sure that the chalks don’t rub off) it’s best to just rub off any excess and leave it at that. The traditional way to fix chalks or pastels is to use Fixative spray or hairspray, but as I can’t say that it’s acid and lignin free, I wouldn’t risk it.

Here’s some examples of layouts that have used chalked images or chalking as a technique:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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