Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hand-coloring B&W photo prints - a dying art?

I don't think so!...If big art supply companies are still stocking them, I guess they ain't dead yet.

"Hobby Set — The contents of this set include fifteen ½" × 2" tubes, a ¾" × 4" (2 cm × 10 cm) tube of extender, a 1 oz bottle of P.M. Solution, and a 1 oz bottle of Marlene (for removing and cleaning), as well as cotton balls and toothpicks. Colors included with this set are Basic Flesh, Cerise, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cheek, Cobalt Violet, Lip, Neutral Tint, Oxide Green X-Strong, Sepia, Sky Blue, Titanium White, Tree Green, Verona Brown, and Viridian.

"...Basic Flesh, Cheek, Lip, Oxide Green X-Strong, Sky Blue, Tree Green..."

Hunh???.......I don't know what to do with these colors... puh-leeze give me the basic painting colors I am so used to...

I ended up buying a really basic oil color set, it's a lot more color for less money, and since the tubes and caps are larger, it seems easier to keep them well sealed for future use - those Marshall oil tubes are just too small, and hard to deal with, and they dry out way too fast.

Oil colors:
Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Ultramarine(blue), Viridian(green), Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber.
Now that's 'basic'!

I inherited a watercolor set from a photog. who was ditching all his traditional stuff
( there seems to be a lot that going around these days) -
A Marshalls "Photo Retouch Colors" set:
"Primary" - Blue, Red, & Yellow.. and a "Basic" - Black, Brown, Flesh, Blue, & Green.
Using these basic colors means that you will have to mix them to get the colors you want, many times.
So 'mix away' ! Fiber based matte surface paper is definitely the way to go - a matte surface absorbs the colors well.
The currently available Ilford matte ( which is what I used) seems to have a bit more texture than I remember from a decade ago - I just don't want the surface texture to show at all.

Another 'MUST'!!! Use a "NON-HARDENING fixer"
A hardening fixer will make coloring difficult.

The flatbed scanners I have used lately seem to all emphasize surface texture - In fact, many very nice prints I've made on 'pearl' surface papers are unusable for Hi-res scans - too much texture that no amount of Photoshop filters can get rid of.

I only use the watercolors very sparingly, on small details first, before going to oil colors.
They (watercolors) are very hard to control, they soak into the paper almost immediately, and can't be 'worked with' the way oil colors can.
After a few small watercolor details?... then on to the oil colors.
Maybe they are kinda 'retro'...?
But, hey! ..there's no software to install, wrestle with, or update!
Neither Bill Gates or Adobe gets a dime of your money!
All you need beyond the oil colors is some linseed oil, cotton balls & Q-tips.

I always give the entire image a nice 'prep' coat of linseed oil, first: I apply it liberally, then use a paper towel to wipe off the excess.. (this makes it easier to blend colors together, and 'work' with things a while) ..and then go to it. :-)
Use the cotton balls for large areas, the Q-tips for smaller ones, and after the print has dried for a day or two, you could add small detail things w/ Marshall Oil Pencils.. which I did not investigate the availability of, to tell ya the truth - I still have what I bought 20 years ago.
Another thing? - get some tracing paper to tape over the print while it is drying - any dust that settles on the print will show when you photograph or scan the print.

Obviously, if you are new to this, work on some prints that you don't care about particularly, to learn the process first.

While we/re on the the topic of other 'retro' & alternative processes:

An excellent directory/compilation is here:
(Center for Alternative Photography, in NYC)

It includes:

Bromoil Printing: Joy Goldkind, March 22 (Details)
Albumen Printing: Daniel Levin, April 4 & 5 (Details)
Alternative Process Projects: A Critique Seminar: Keliy Anderson-Staley, April 13, 20 & 27 (Details)
Intro to Wet Plate Collodion: Fundamentals of the Black Arts : Nate Gibbons, April 18 & 19 (Details)
Daguerreotype Workshop: Sean Culver, April 25 & 26 (Details)
Lost & Found: Photo, Collage, & Photocollage: Jesseca Ferguson, April 26 (Details)
Calotype: Dry-Process Paper Negatives: Alan Greene, May 2 & 3 (Details)
Cyanotype Printing: Robert Schaefer, May 9 (Details)
Platinum/Palladium Printing: Carl Weese, May 16 & 17 (Details)
Mammoth Plate Wet Plate Collodion: Eric Taubman, May 30 & 31 (Details)
Salted Paper Printing: Brenton Hamilton, June 6 & 7 (Details)
Lens Seminar: Geoffrey Berliner and Eric Taubman, June 13 (Details)
Bromoil Printing: Joy Goldkind, June 14 (Details)
Introduction to the Dry Plate Process: Terry Holsinger, TBD (Details)
Pinhole Photography: Making a Camera and Shooting: Harvey Stein, TBD (Details)

A Polaroid Update:
(Remember Polaroid 55 (PN) film? If you missed it, you missed something special & unique!)

For more on my hand-coloring exploits/techniques/tips/etc...
including several 'before(B&W) and 'after'(hand-colored) images - you be the judge, & jury..

Also included is a digital colored version of one image, with a small photoshop file you can download to see the things I came up with to color the image.

Up next?.... Hhmmm.... either some skies/clouds... or maybe a lotta darkroom.