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Hand Painted Photography     Rosemary Pipitone    

Getting Started Hand Coloring Your Photographs



*Note: I still work on real Black & White, Silver Gelatin Photographs. However, I see the growing interest in working on digital media and will be updating the tip section to include digital papers. I am currently working with Master Digital artist, Carolyn Schultz to test papers & canvas. Thanks for your interest & patience.


What you need to begin:

Black & White Photograph, 5 X 7 or 8 X 10, Matte finish

Marshalls Oil Paints and/or Marshalls Colored pencils

Marshalls P.M. Solution

Wax Paper, styrofoam plate, white plate or other flat palette

Cotton Swabs

Round Wooden Toothpicks

100% Cotton Balls

Drafting Tape or Artist's Tape

Kneaded Eraser


Coloring Your Photographs

If your photo is printed on RC paper, then you may need to pre-treat the print with Marshalls PM Solution or Marshalls Pre-Color Spray. If you are working with an unmounted fiber-based paper, it will have the tendency to curl. Use some drafting tape to flatten it while you work.

Rub a thin layer of PM Solution over the surface of the print & let dry for a few minutes.

Squeeze a small amount of paint onto a palette.

Begin applying paint either top to bottom or inside to out. This will prevent smearing the paint.

Dip a cotton swab or cotton ball (depending on surface area) into the paints. Careful not to pick up too much paint. A little paint goes a long way

Use small circular motions to apply the paint. Work paint out almost to the edges. Blend down to desired shade. Do not let paint build up or puddle.

Carefully blend the edges where one colors borders another color.

Add Neutral Tint mixed with a little bit of the color you are working with & apply in the shadows of backgrounds, foliage, folds of clothing, etc. Blend lightly.

After this, you may see an area that needs a boost of color or highlights that need to be rubbed down.

Use a kneaded eraser to clean any paint from the eyes, teeth, jewelry, & white portions.

For coloring eyes, lips, cheeks, details to hair & clothing, use a tiny hand wrapped cotton swab or a Marshalls colored pencil.

When using pencils, be sure to use a very light touch or you will destroy the surface of the photo.


Backgrounds: Apply a coat of paint to cover most of the background. Come close to the hairline but be careful not to smear too much paint into the hair. Ultra Blue, Viridian, Violet & Neutral Tint in any combination are nice background colors.


Apply an even coat of paint into the hair. Careful not to runover into the face. Blondes: Raw Sienna & Yellow with Verona Brown in shadows

Brunettes: Verona Brown with Sepia in shadows, Try a little Vermilion red in the highlights.

Redheads: Burnt Sienna and Verona Brown. Try a little Orange in the highlights. Face Apply an even coat of paint to the face, arms and legs. Add a touch of Cheek or Burnt Sienna to the shadows in the arms and legs.


Blondes: Flesh # 2 or Regular Flesh with a little cheek

Brunettes: Flesh with a touch of orange in highlights and Verona Brown and Carmine in the shadows.

Olive Skin: Flesh mixed with a little Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna in the shadows. Use Cheek color on cheeks and Lipstick Red for lips.


Same but blend colors down more and use less color in cheeks and lips.


Same as above, except use Burnt Sienna mixed with a Cheek or Carmine on cheeks and lips and a touch of Verona Brown in the shadows

Eyes are easily done with the pencils. Ultra Blue, Sky Blue, Viridian, and Verona Brown are the best colors. Try using the tiny point of a wooden toothpick to add a touch of white to highlights of the eyes and a tiny dot of red to the inside corner of eyes and nostrils

Blend background, hair, and face carefully to the edges using cotton swabs.

Add Neutral Tint to the shadows.

Blend down highlights or add a tiny touch of Yellow.

Let Dry


The Marshall palette offers a beautiful selection of natural colors. You do not need an art background to get lovely results. Work from the top down or inside to the outside edges in order to avoid smearing the paints. You can easily do one section at a time, then return to work the other sections at a later date.

Drying Your Photograph

Let the photo dry in a covered box (to avoid dust) for about a week. Humid areas require more drying time. If you find the drying time unacceptable then try Marshalls Drying Medium to quicken the drying time.


Always matt your photos before framing them. The photo should never touch the glass directly. If left unframed, store in a glassine envelope.