Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Papers & Printing for Hand-Coloring Inkjet Prints

©2010 Dianne Poinski

I wrote an earlier post on Hand-coloring Inkjet Prints with PanPastels, but I don't believe I have talked very much about printing and the paper I use to create the black and white image I begin with. It's a crucial part of the process, so I thought I would share some of the information I give as part of my hand-coloring workshop.

When getting ready to print your black and white photograph for hand-coloring, your choice of paper is the first step. The most important characteristic is that it have a matte surface. This allows the color to be absorbed into the paper. I recommend experimenting with many different papers when starting out. I only color on 100% cotton rag art paper in both smooth and textured surfaces. These papers are a little expensive, so in the beginning you may want to practice on some of the less expensive matte papers found in most office supply stores. You can experiment with these to start, but I don't recommend them for final projects.

My favorite paper is Museo Portfolio Rag which has a smooth surface and seems to be less fragile than the other papers I have tried. Other papers I have used include:

Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper – slight texture, good beginning paper but you need to handle it carefully.

Hahnemuhle Photo Rag – Another smooth paper that I like to use.

Innova Cold Press - rough texture.

There are many affordable inkjet printers on the market. The type of ink used in the printer is important. The pigment inks available now are considered to be archival and tests have shown that under normal conditions, there should be no noticeable change in the quality of an image for up to, and sometimes exceeding 100 years. My printer uses the Epson UltraChrome K3 Inks. In addition to using the right paper and ink, when making a print to hand-color I also tend to make my prints a little lighter and with less contrast. It's almost impossible to get color in very dark or very light areas and your choice of colors can be used to add the desired contrast.

Most of the art papers are very fragile and great care should be used when handling them. For extra protection I recommend a spray such as Premier Art Print Shield be used on the black and white print before hand-coloring. This greatly enhances the life of digital photos by making the surface water and UV-resistant.

Once you have chosen your image and have had your archival print made and sprayed; you are ready to start hand-coloring.


  1. This is really useful information Dianne - thank you for your generosity in sharing it - I am going to do a bit of research into the papers you mention for my own printing

  2. Thanks! Let me know how this works out for you.

  3. I assume that you must be using an Epson printer with the Epson UltraChrome K3 Inks. Which model of printer do you have?
    I have a Canon photosmart all in one printer, as well as an old HP deskjet 930C inkjet printer. The HP will handle thicker papers. I want to practice with what I have at the moment before investing in new equipement. Any thoughts or advise? Thank you.

  4. Therese - I have the Epson 3800, but as long as you have a printer that will handle the thicker papers you should be ok. I agree - you should experiment with what you have and you can also practice on thinner papers as well if you want to use the Canon printer. For basic practice you can even try the Canon Photo Matte paper to start. Hope this helps!