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When colour meant paint it yourself.

A photographic colour outfit from Boots C1950's

At a recent auction, I bid on and won an auction lot which included old cameras and assorted junk.  I like these sort of lots so long as it doesn’t cost too much. You never know what’s going to be included in the junk, especially if you bid online.

One of the surprises in the lot was  a ‘Photographic Colour Outfit’ supplied by Boots, a large chain of chemists here in the UK. Way back when they were also suppliers of developing and printing facilities and all things photographic for the amateur photographer.

The idea was to take a finished black and white print and add colour to it by painting it yourself with a mixture of this range of 9 colours.

I’m sure you will have seen some of these hand coloured prints in your own family albums. Some looking like garish cartoons and others more delicately worked with a fine hand.

We forget just how recent it was that colour arrived, at least here in the UK.

Since publishing this article John Meehan pointed me towards a very interesting site where a former colourist talks about her astonishing work doing just this. You can see the video here.

Oct 2016


  1. These kits were also used to spot the dust marks out of colour prints, the photographer James Wedge did a book called Painted Ladies which inspired me to “borrow” the tinting technique for a while, I would selectively tone usually the denim clothing from model shoots and female portraits.

    Much easier to do now in Photoshop.


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