Photograph: Hand-Colored Photos (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , August 9, 2009 9:39 pm



We’re back from France and finally over the jet lag. Time for the weekly Unplugged Project to resume!

The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project is photograph so we came up with a super-easy photo project using some of the many photos from our trip.

Inspired by a very old, hand-colored black and white photograph of my mother as a child, I thought it might be fun to turn some of our trip photos into old-fashioned, or maybe even funky-looking colored pictures.

First we each chose a few favorite trip photographs to play with. Since our pictures were all digital, it was easy to transform them into black and white using my photo editor (not exactly “unplugged,” but this is just the first step).

After experimenting a bit, I found that for darker pictures, or those with many dark colors, the result was improved by lightening the exposure slightly (any simple photo editor can do this also).

TIP: Before altering with your photos with the editor, make a duplicate of your photo and use that. You don’t want to permanently change your one and only copy of that favorite picture!

We printed the new black and white pictures onto plain white document paper. Regular paper is easier to color on than photo paper, and even if the picture appears a bit grainier on ordinary paper, that simply adds to the old/artsy effect.

Wait for the ink to dry completely before moving on to the next step. This might take a little while if the picture has lots of dark bits.

When everything is dry, you can start coloring. We used colored pencils since they allow the picture to show through the color.

  • You can try to reproduce the real colors (more or less – of course the cat wasn’t really yellow!), such as here:

  • Or have fun and do crazy colors for more of a modern art look:

  • Experiment with pressing hard, or lightly.
  • Keep the colors in the same family, or vary them.
  • Try coloring some areas and leaving others black and white.

Whatever you decide to do, the effect is really beautiful, almost luminescent sometimes!

The children and I found this fun and easy, even my 3 year-old. She wanted to color a baby picture of herself.  I love that green hair:

Use your pictures for a scrapbook or album, frame them, or make a collage out of them.  You could even turn them into cards or family gifts.


If you joined in this week’s Unplugged Project with your own photograph project, then please put a link to your project post (not just your blog) in Mr. Linky below.  Please leave a link in a comment too since Mr. Linky has been having problems lately.  If you didn’t do a photograph project, then please don’t link, but read more about how to join in here.  We’d love to have you!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Have fun!


15 Responses to “Photograph: Hand-Colored Photos (Weekly Unplugged Project)”

  1. Welcome back from France! I love the self colored photos. My mom had one from her high school days, that I use to adore as a child (the way she had colored her necklace made it look like Froot Loops). I hope you enjoy our project as well. The link is
    .-= almost unschoolers´s last blog ..Photos on a Phenakistoscope =-.

  2. Page says:

    Looks like you guys had a good time in France. I got my package of goodies and loved it. Thank you so much. And I just posted my Pay It Forward post. Thanks for letting me be a part of it. So fun!

  3. mom2my9 says:

    This is an awesome idea! I’m going to have to try this with my kids. Thank you so much. I’m bookmarking!
    .-= mom2my9´s last blog ..My Testimony of Jesus Christ =-.

  4. Claire in Tasmania says:

    What a lovely project!

    We’ve been growing some sprouts this week, and planting seeds in the garden (it’s heading into Spring here). We’re photographing the sprouts and one of the garden beds each day to watch their progress.

  5. […] and get your kids moving, shaking, doing and learning or playing! This week’s theme was photos. On her site, she printed off greyscale images of family photos and recoloured them. You should […]

  6. Themommy says:

    We did this yesterday for our first day of homeschool. My little preschooler wasn’t too into the project, but I really loved it. Thanks for getting crayons back into this mommy’s hands. They feel so good there…
    .-= Themommy´s last blog ..Unplugged Project: Photos =-.

  7. Meredith says:

    What a lovely and simple idea, thanks we’ll try it!
    .-= Meredith´s last blog ..Sweet Sixteen! =-.

  8. Mom Unplugged says:

    Thanks Meredith, it was really fun and very easy. I plan on giving some of these framed for Christmas. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment! Enjoy!

  9. Rachel says:

    Wow, this is a really great idea! I just found it today via The Crafty Crow. I would love to link to this post if you didn’t mind.

  10. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hi Rachel,

    I’m glad you like the idea! It is fun and very easy. Please feel free to link. Thanks for your comment!

  11. pam says:

    I just found this post on One Pretty Thing. We are photographers and have many photo shop techniques at our disposal. But THIS looks like FUN! Can’t wait to play with it! Thank you!
    .-= pam´s last blog ..Playing with Gourds, Dried Leaves and Mod Podge =-.

  12. […] love this idea for making a portrait for mom from a special […]

  13. Kelli says:

    I really love this project idea! I found you featured on The Crafty Crow. I can’t wait to do this with my son!

  14. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hi Kelli, I hope you enjoy it. It is really easy and the results are truly beautiful! Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Andrea R says:

    I did this project years ago when my children were just small. I took pictures of them dressed very simply with some beads and a hat with a flower. I printed the pictures in Black and White, then colored in only the flower and beads.
    I then took that to a copy shop, and had them print the picture on cardstock to make smaller fold over cards. Everyone I sent a card to absolutely loved the “old time” card, and many asked me if I noticed a similarity between the child on the professional card and my own child! They were amazed to find out I had made the cards myself, and it was my child in the photo!

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