Monday, August 17, 2009

Hand-Coloring Inkjet Prints

I have been getting a lot of requests for tips on my technique of hand-coloring inkjet prints with pastels, so I thought I would just share a little bit here.

Here are the tools and pastels that I use. When I first started experimenting I would make a powder out of pastel sticks and then apply that. The powder allowed for the detail of the photograph to come through the color. I was very happy when I discovered Pan Pastels which has eliminated the job of having to make the powder. The applicators and art sponges also come from Pan Pastel.

Use a piece of matte foam core or a paper towel to wipe off excess pastel before applying it to the print. I also recommend using a daylight balanced light when hand-coloring. If this is not possible, take your print to a window or outside every once in awhile to check on your color.

I also suggest that when hand-coloring an image for the first time, make an 8 x 10 practice print and try different colors and make notes that you can go back and refer to when you begin your “official” print.

Begin in the middle of the print. Start with the darker areas and carefully apply color. Use a very light touch. It is easier to add more color than to take it away.

You want to think of this as a layering process. Apply the pastels with the applicator and then use the sponge to gently spread the color more evenly. Use a rubber kneaded eraser to gently lift and blend color. Apply your base colors first, usually the darker colors. Use the tones of the black and white print as a guide. After that, come back and add lighter color as highlights.

Start studying nature. Look at all the colors in a leaf. It’s not just green. It has greens, yellows, blues and peaches. Use this knowledge to improve your coloring skills.

I know this only a small amount of information but I wanted to share it anyway. The most important thing is to have fun. Hand-coloring is a personal expression and there is really no right or wrong way to do it. Just enjoy!


  1. I also agree that you cannot do it wrong. It truly is an extension of the artist and their feelings that flow through the pastels, in this and all other forms of art.

  2. Thanks! It's true that I think people get hung up on trying to do everything perfect. We all need to have more fun!

  3. "Found" your web and blog and love your work. The Paris prints have me wanting to book a flight next week.

    When you think you have a print where you want it - then what?
    How do you, or do you, fix the pastels so they don't rub off?

    I am thinking of the gloss surface of the photograph and wondering how the pastels "sit" on that surface.

  4. Thanks Deborah!
    When I finish with a print I spray it with a pastel fixative.

    You can really only color on matte paper. You are correct - pastels will just "sit" on glossy paper and not absorb into the paper.

    Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

    Thanks again!

  5. Dianne, just wondering what set of the pans you are working with. I love the softness you are getting here and long for the full set...however...they are fairly pricey so I just want to make sure I am intereseted b/4 I spend all that money. I have a few that I bought to try out, but only 3. Pam

  6. Pam,

    I did not buy a "set" I just have quite a few different colors. I don't recommend the tint, but since you are not the first person to ask me what colors I am using, I will be sending out an email with that list. Please add your name to my mailing list, or email me with your email address and I would be happy to send you that information.


  7. Diane, went to look for the e-book you mentioned on the last post.
    Says it not found.
    Do you still publish that e-book?
    Your hand tinting is great.
    Thx Joe

  8. I am sorry Joe, I thought I removed all the links to the book, but missed that one. The e-book is being updated. If you send me an email with some questions, I will try to answer them.