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Hand coloring


Coloring of individual frames by the use of very fine brushes. The process was previously applied to lantern slides. Any water based translucent dye was suited for the process, most often the colors were acid dyes.

The process was very time-consuming and tedious. Therefore it was mostly abandoned when stencil coloring was introduced.

In contrast to stencilled films, hand-colored ones often have soft outlines and the application of color varies from frame to frame.

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Original Technical Papers and Primary Sources

Brock, Gustav, F. O. (1931): Hand-Coloring of Motion Picture Film. In: JSMPE, Vol. 16, June 1931, pp. 751-755.

Secondary Sources

Cherchi Usai, Paolo (1996): The Color of Nitrate. Some Factual Observations on Tinting and Toning Manuals for Silent Films. In: Abel, Richard (ed.): Silent Film. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, pp.21-30, on p. 23. View Quote

Cherchi Usai, Paolo (2000): Silent Cinema. London: BFI, pp. 21-22. View Quote

Fossati, Giovanna (1998): When Cinema Was Coloured. In: Luciano Berriatúa et al.: Tutti i colori del mondo. Il colore nei mass media tra 1900 e 1930. = All the colours of the world. Reggio Emilia: Edizioni Diabasis, pp. 121-132, on pp. 122-123 View Quote and p. 127 View Quote.

Hertogs, Daan; De Klerk, Nico (1996): Disorderly Order. Colours in Silent Film. The 1995 Amsterdam Workshop. Amsterdam: Stichding Nederlands Filmmuseum, on p. 12. View Quote

Ledig, Elfriede / Ullmann, Gerhard (1988): Rot wie Feuer, Leidenschaft, Genie, Wahnsinn. Zu einigen Aspekten der Farbe im Stummfilm. In: Der Stummfilm. Konstruktion und Rekonstruktion. Hrsg. v. Elfriede Ledig. München: Schaudig, Bauer, Ledig, pp. 89-116. (in German)

Mazzanti, Nicola (2009): Colours, audiences, and (dis)continuity in the ‘cinema of the second period’ In: Film History. Vol. 21, No. 1, 2009, pp. 67-93.

Nowotny, Robert A. (1983): The Way of All Flesh Tones. A History of Color Motion Picture Processes, 1895-1929. New York: Garland Pub, pp. 10-14. View Quote

Oliveira, Joao S. de (2002): Black-and-White in Colour. In: Roger Smither (ed.): This Film is Dangerous. A Celebration of Nitrate Film. Brussels: FIAF, pp. 117-122, on p. 118.

Pinel, Vincent (1992): La forêt des techniques. In: Michel Ciment (ed.): Ciné mémoire. Colloque international d’information (7-9 octobre 1991). Paris: Femis, pp. 17-24, on p. 18. (in French) View Quote

Read, Paul (2009): ‘Unnatural Colours’. An Introduction to Colouring Techniques in Silent Era Movies. In: Film History, 21.1, pp. 9-46, on pp. 13-14. View Quote

Read, Paul; Meyer, Mark-Paul (2000): Restoration of Motion Picture Film. Oxford, p. 181.

Yumibe, Joshua (2007): Silent Cinema Colour Aesthetics. In: Everett, Wendy (ed.): Questions of Colour in Cinema. From Paintbrush to Pixel. Peter Lang: Oxford, pp. 43-44. View Quote

Yumibe, Joshua (2012): Moving Colors. Early Film, Mass Culture, Modernism. New Brunswick et al.: Rutgers University Press, pp. 3-4. View Quote


Hertogs, Daan; De Klerk, Nico (1996): Disorderly Order. Colours in Silent Film. The 1995 Amsterdam Workshop. Amsterdam: Stichding Nederlands Filmmuseum, on pp. 6-7 View Quote, on pp. 12-14 View Quote, on pp. 18-19 View Quote, on pp. 23-25 View Quote, on pp. 71-76 View Quote and on pp. 87-88. View Quote

Read, Paul; Meyer, Mark-Paul (2000): The Duplication of Early Coloured Films. In: Restoration of Motion Picture Film. Oxford, pp. 191-193. View Quote

Contemporary reception

Brock, Gustav (1930): Artist Explains Hand Color Role. Pioneer in Work Sees This Method as Indispensable to Treatment of Fire Sequences. In: Motion Picture News, Vol. 41, No. 9, 1930, p. 62. View Quote

Coustet, Ernest (1921): Le cinéma. Paris: Librairie Hachette, on pp. 162-163. (in French) View Quote

Fossati, Giovanna (1998): When Cinema Was Coloured. In: Luciano Berriatúa et al.: Tutti i colori del mondo. Il colore nei mass media tra 1900 e 1930. = All the colours of the world. Reggio Emilia: Edizioni Diabasis, pp. 121-132, on pp. 126-131. View Quote