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by: Murray Allman

There are several mediums that can be used to color black
and white photographic prints, for example, retouching pencils,
dry-dyes, acrylics, oil paints, etc. Photographic oils are
different to artist's oils. The pigment of photographic oils is
ground finer to make the colors more transparent so the details in
the photograph will show through the color.

Most people prefer to sepia tone their prints before they
apply the oil colors to them. In a print where flesh tone are
the dominant color, more realistic flesh tones are easier to
obtain. Whether to sepia tone the print or not is usually
determined by the subject and the color of the subject or by
personal taste.

Even though photographic oils can be applied to any
surface, it is very difficult to apply them to a glossy
surface. The ideal surface is a matte surface. The surface of
prints can be prepared for the oils using one of the photographic
lacquer sprays. The retouching lacquer may be too coarse, but one
of the matte lacquers can be used. You might try different ones
until you find the one that suits you the best. It is best to
work on a print without the spray because Marlene cannot be used
to remove color on a print that has been sprayed. P.M.S.
(Prepared Medium Solution) or Extender can be used for cleaning
and removing color from sprayed prints.

Use wads of cotton for applying colors to large areas and
Q-tips and skewers made from toothpicks for smaller areas. When
using wads of cotton, twist the cotton so that it is a tight ball
or rope. Doing it this way will help the cotton hold together
better. Skewers to be used on small details can be made from
toothpicks. Moisten the end of the toothpick. Place the cotton
on the end of the toothpick and rotate until the cotton becomes a
tight wad.

Always use the best grade of long fiber cotton or some
of the new synthetic fiber cotton will work. You will want to
use the fiber that holds together the best.

Squeeze a small amount of color from the tube onto your
palette. A piece of glass on a white piece of paper works quite
well as a palette. (The oil paints are easier to clean from the
glass.) Pick up the selected color on the wad of cotton or skewer
and wipe off the excess on to a piece of paper or the palette.
Apply the oil paint to the surface of the print with a circular
motion. A very small amount of color should be sufficient, but
use enough so the color will go on to the surface completely and
smoothly. Smooth out the color with a light touch using a clean
wad of cotton.

The P.M.S. (Prepared Medium Solution) can be applied to
the print whenever the colors adhere to the surface of the print
too strongly. The P.M.S. is used primarily to prepare the
surface for the photo oil pencils, otherwise it should not be
used for the oil colors. After applying the P.M.S. to a piece of
cotton, blot the cotton on a piece of paper or paper towel.
After applying it to the surface, wipe the surface nearly dry.

You will notice that the less pressure that you use, the
more color will remain on the surface and the more pressure that
you use more of the details of the print will show.

To lighten a color, mix with a little Extender (or
substitute P.M.S.). Always blot the cotton onto which you have
applied the P.M.S. on a piece of paper or paper towel.

Even though the color that is being applied runs over in
to an adjacent uncolored area, the unwanted color will be removed
when the color of that area is applied. Colors can be applied to
areas without regard to the details. the details can be colored
later. The only exception is when yellow is applied over blue.
The yellow on blue makes green.

White areas can be cleared out with Marlene.

Each area should be rubbed down to the degree that you
want for the final rendition before going on to the next area.

The entire print can be cleaned off with Marlene, wiped
dry and you can color it again if you are dissatisfied with your
initial results.


The photo oil pencils are used for small areas and
details. The surface is cleaned and prepared by using P.M.S.
The P.M.S. supplies the oily base necessary for the oils.

If you find the pencil color is not adhering to the
surface of the print because it is too slick, then the
retouchable photo lacquer can be applied to the surface.

Apply the pencil color while the P.M.S. is damp. Apply
in strokes changing the pressure for the desired shade. Use the
side of the pencil for applying to most areas and the pencil
point for smaller details. Rub down with a wad of cotton. The
pencils can be sharpened in an ordinary pencil sharpener, but
for the best point, rub the tip of the pencil on sand paper.

The pencil colors can be mixed by applying one over
another and then rubbing them down together.

For the best flesh color combine a little cheek color
with flesh color. For black complexions, add Verona brown to
flesh and rub them down together.


On most prints work from the center or top or left side,
leaving room on the print where you can rest your hand. You
might lay a piece of paper or a paper towel on the print on which
you can rest your hand.

Rub the flesh color on the face without regard to lips,
teeth or eyes. (The eyes can be cleaned out later with Marlene.)

The same color that you use on the face can be used for
the arms, neck hands and other parts that are showing. Smooth
out the color with a clean wad of cotton. Change to clean cotton
frequently for a neater job. Add Verona brown with flesh and/or
red for the shadows. The highlights of the flesh tones can be
cleared out with Marlene. If the flesh color appears too yellow,
mix a small amount of cheek or lipstick red with the flesh
color. Add Verona brown to flesh for darker complexions. Use
cheek color to the cheeks over the flesh color and blend into
surrounding areas with dry cotton.

The color should now be cleaned out of the eyes.
Extender or Marlene can be used to do this. The correct color
can be added to the iris of the eyes with skewers made with

Neutral tint can be used in the corner of the eye and to
the pupil and cheek.

Use ivory black pencil for the pupil of the eye.

You can use the same color as the shadow color of the
hair for the eyelashes and eyebrows.

On uncolored areas, apply P.M.S. or Extender before using
the pencils.

Use cheek color for children's lips, flesh #3 for men's
lips and lipstick red for women's lips.

Clean the teeth with Marlene.

Use carmine on the dark areas of the mouth if it is
opened and use cheek color on the gums if they show.

The color of the hair should be smooth and thinned out.
Keep the hairline around the face soft. Highlight color can be
added to the strands of hair.

Add the appropriate darker tones to the shadow areas of
the clothing. Thin out the highlight colors.


Be sure to complete the application of all flesh color up
to the edge of the clothing before stopping work.

The color for the lips, shading or any color that is
applied over another should be applied before the original color
is dry.

Before interrupting your work all colors that have
overlapped the lines onto another area that will be another color
should be cleaned off of the print.

Areas that are to be white or a very light color should
be cleaned out with Marlene shortly after the color has overrun
from an adjacent area. Colors do not take well over colors that
have dried.

The procedures pertaining to interrupting your work apply
to landscapes also.


When doing landscapes, start with the sky. Never mind if
the blue runs over into the trees, etc. (Remember though that if
you apply yellow over the blue it will show green.) As you get
closer to the horizon, lighten the color of the sky by applying
more pressure or rubbing a little more.

Clean out the clouds or make artificial clouds using
P.M.S. or Extender. Use gray or violet on the shadow side of the
clouds. Cadmium yellow can be used on the highlights of the

Distant objects will usually have a bluish or violet
cast. Hills and Mountains in the distant should be colored with
gray or violet mixed with neutral tint. Middle distance hills
can use a little raw sienna to lighter spots and a little Verona
brown to darker parts.

Tree trunks and branches can be colored with sepia or
Verona brown. On tree leaves against sky, tree green can be
applied without removing sky color from the trees. Use burnt
sienna on the shadows of trees and bushes. On leaves struck
by a low angle sun, hit with cadmium yellow.

Oxide green is good to use to color grass. On sunlit
grass use cadmium yellow or raw sienna and on shadows on grass
use tree green.

Rub down well sepia or raw sienna for roads.

On water under a blue sky use sky blue with a little
Viridian and Extender. Objects reflected in water use neutral
tint with their color to subdue color.

Rocks can be several different colors. Try pale gray,
brown, violet, yellow or other possibilities.

Both the regular and extra strong photographic oils can
be used for the most natural-looking colors. The extra strong
oils will give you a little deeper color saturation.

When the oils are dry, the print can be sprayed if you
© 2008 - Bruce Gibson maintains
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