This database was created and is curated by Barbara Flueckiger, professor at the Institute of Cinema Studies, University of Zurich. Please see more information about the project here. Support the further development of Timeline of Historical Film Colors via Stripe.
Timeline of Historical Film Colors by Barbara Flueckiger is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Access detailed information on over 230 individual film color processes via the classification system on this page or display the Timeline of Historical Film Colors in chronological order.
Tinting was one of the earliest and most widespread techniques to apply colors to film. Each individual black-and-white film positive had to be submerged in dye baths.
Toning, like tinting, was one of the earliest film color techniques. It required a complex chemical procedure to replace the silver with colored compounds or dyes for each individual exhibition print.
Before the introduction of film, hand coloring had long been applied to lantern slides. Colors were applied with tiny brushes to each individual frame of the film.
Stencils were cut out from a positive print to color selected areas of the film frames by the use of brushes or velvet strips.
Two or three images were exposed through colored filters in succession. In projection, the black and white images were filtered again accordingly. The processes required double or triple frame rates.
Two or three images were captured simultaneously through multiple lenses or beam-splitter prisms. The images were either dyed or projected through colored filters.
Regular or irregular patterns of colored stripes or dots in red, blue and green provide a color sensation by additive mixture. Many of the screen processes were introduced in still photography before their redevelopment for film applications.
Printing processes add one to three layers of colors onto the emulsion of a film, most famously in the Technicolor dye-transfer process. The principle had been introduced in photography before the advent of motion pictures.
For many two color and a few three color processes emulsion was applied to both sides of the film and colored independently. The technique was widespread in the early days of subtractive color films from the mid-1910s to the mid-1940s. Often the negatives were bi-packs, two strips of black-and-white film sensitized for different spectra.
In chromogenic monopacks the color-forming substances are either present in several layers in the emulsion or added during film developing later. The basic principle was discovered in 1911 by Rudolf Fischer. Unfortunately the dyes used in these processes proved to be unstable, thus leading to color-fading of the films.
In chromolytic multilayer films the dyes in the emulsion are destroyed at the locus of exposure of the silver halide. The colors are very brilliant and stable. The most famous chromolytic process was Gasparcolor.