Pathécolor / Pathéchrome / stencil coloring


Stencil coloring required the manual cutting, frame by frame, of the area which was to be tinted onto another identical print, one for each color. Usually the number of colors applied ranged from 3 to 6. The process was highly improved by the introduction of a cutting machine. Thus the cutter could follow the outlines of the image areas on a magnified image from a guide print projected onto a ground glass. A pantograph reduced the enlargement back to frame size. The machine performed the cutting on the stencil print with a needle. When cut-out manually, the gelatin had to be removed from the stenciled print to form a transparent strip. In the machine cutting process the stencil was cut into a blank film directly. For every color the stencil print was fed in register with the positive print into a printing machine where the acid dye was applied by a continuous velvet band.

Several hundred women performed the exacting task at the Pathé workshop in Vincennes. Similar techniques were applied by Gaumont, Oskar Meßter and the Cinemacoloris process invented by Segundo de Chomón.

Stencil colored films can be identified by the sharp outlines that define the colored areas. Color hues were most often soft pastels. The stencil colored images have a painterly quality.

  • L'Amour d'esclave (1907)
  • Mannoni_PatheFilmCouleurs.jpg
  • Coe_Pathecolor_Stencil_Process.jpg
  • L'Amour d'esclave (1907)
  • L’Exode (1910)
  • L’Exode (1910)
  • Le Pied de mouton (1907)
  • Willeman_golden_beetle_Pathecolor.jpg
  • Willeman_UnknownFilm_1919_PatheColor.jpg
  • Mannoni_pathecolorPathe2.jpg
  • Pochoir Pathé
  • Eggert (1932)
  • Koshofer_Pathecolor_3.jpg
  • Koshofer_Pathecolor.jpg
  • Koshofer_Pathecolor_2.jpg
  • Koshofer_Pathecolor_UltimiGiorniPompei_1926.jpg
  • Koshofer_Pathecolor_4.jpg
  • Turconi Collection
  • Pathé Manual (1926)
  • Pathé Manual (1926)
  • Pathé Manual (1926)
  • Pathé Manual (1926)
  • Pathé Manual (1926)
  • Pathé Manual (1926)
  • Pathé Manual (1926)
  • Pathé Manual (1926)

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Original Technical Papers and Primary Sources

Hulfish, David Sherill (1909): Pictures in Color. In: David Sherill Hulfish (ed.): The Motion Picture. Its Making and Its Theater. Chicago: Electricity Magazine Corporation, pp. 41–44, on p. 44. View Quote

Kelley, William Van Doren (1931): The Handschiegl and Pathéchrome Color Process. In: Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, 18,2, 1931, pp. 230-234, on pp. 233-234. View Quote

Löbel, Léopold (1922): Le coloris. In: La technique cinématographique. Projection et fabrication des Films. Paris: Dunod, pp. 312-333.

Ruot, M. and Didiée, L. (1925): The Pathé Kinematograph Colour Process. In: The Photographic Journal, new series, 65,3, March 1925, pp. 121-126. View Quote

Secondary Sources

Abel, Richard (1996): Pathé’s “Heavenly Billboards”. In: Monica Dall’Asta, Guglielmo Pescatore and Leonardo Quaresima (eds.): Il colore nel cinema muto. Bologna: Clueb, pp. 56–76, on p. 56 View Quote, on pp. 57–61 View Quote, on pp. 63–64 View Quote, on p. 65 View Quote and on pp. 66–67. View Quote

Anonymous (1911): Toning and Tinting as an Adjunct to the Picture. In: Moving Picture World 8, 18.3.1911, p. 574. View Quote

Borde, Raymond (1988): Die Filmarchive und der Farbfilm. Eine Einführung. In: Gert Koshofer: Color. Die Farben des Films. Berlin: Wissenschaftsverl. Volker Spiess, pp. 7–10, on p. 7. (in German) View Quote

Brown, Simon (2012): Technical Appendix. In: Sarah Street: Colour Films in Britain. The Negotiation of Innovation 1900-55. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 259-287, on pp. 277-278. View Quote

Cherchi Usai, Paolo (1996): The Color of Nitrate. Some Factual Observations on Tinting and Toning Manuals for Silent Films. In: Abel, Richard (Hrsg): Silent Film. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, pp. 21-30, on pp. 24-25. View Quote

Dana, Jorge; Kolaitis, Niki (2009): Colour by Stencil. Germaine Berger and Pathécolor. In: Film History, 21,2, pp. 180-183. View Quote

Enticknap, Leo (2005): Moving Image Technology. From Zoetrope to Digital. London: Wallflower Press, pp. 76-77.

Everett, Wendy (2007): Mapping Colour. An Introduction to the Theories and Practices of Colour. In: Wendy Everett (ed.): Questions of Colour in Cinema. From Paintbrush to Pixel. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 7–38, on p. 18. 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. 123-124 View Quote, p. 125 View Quote and p. 127. View Quote

Goergen, Jeanpaul (2010): Bunte Bilder aus dem Farbenbottich. Tonung und Virage in dokumentarischen Filmen der 1910er und 1920er Jahre. In: Filmblatt, pp. 3–52, on p. 42 View Quote and on p. 44. (in German) View Quote

Hanssen, Eirik Frisvold (2006): Early Discourses on Colour and Cinema. Origins, Functions, Meanings. (= Diss. University of Stockholm, Stockholm Cinema Studies, No. 2), pp. 65-68.

Hanssen, Eirik Frisvold (2009): Symptoms of Desire. Colour, Costume, and Commodities in Fashion Newsreels of the 1910s and 1920s. In: Film History, 21,2, 2009, pp. 107-121.

Lameris, Bregtje (2003): Pathécolor. ‘Perfect in Their Rendition of the Colours of Nature’ In: Living Pictures. The Journal of the Popular and Projected Images Before 1914, 2,2, 2003, pp. 46-58. View Quote

Maulbecker, Maximilian (1919): Der farbige Film. In: Film-Kurier, 25.7.1919. (in German) View Quote

Minguet Batllori, Joan M. (2009): Segundo de Chomón and the Fascination for Colour. In: Film History, 21,1, pp. 94-103. View Quote

Misek, Richard (2010): Chromatic Cinema. A History of Screen Color. John Wiley & Sons, on p. 15 View Quote and on p. 16. View Quote

Nowotny, Robert A. (1983): The Way of all Flesh Tones. A History of Color Motion Picture Processes, 1895-1929. New York: Garland Pub, pp. 11-13. View Quote

O’Brien, Charles (2007): Film Colour and National Cinema Before WWI. Pathécolor in the United States and Great Britain. In: Frank Kessler and Nanna Verhoeff (eds.): Networks of Entertainment. Early Film Distribution 1895-1915. Eastleigh: John Libbey, pp. 30-37. View Quote

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. 15-16. View Quote

Ryan, Roderick T. (1977): A History of Motion Picture Color Technology. London: Focal Press, pp. 22-23. View Quote

Salmon, Stéphanie (2009): Tinting and Toning at Pathé. The Jacques Mayer Notebook. In: Film History.21,2, 2009, pp. 177-179.

Stokes, Melvyn (2009): Colour in American Cinema. From The Great Train Robbery to Bonnie and Clyde. In: Raphaëlle Costa de Beauregard (ed.): Cinéma et couleur. Paris: M. Houdiard, pp. 184–192, on p. 185. View Quote

Talbot, Frederick A. (1912): Moving Pictures. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, pp. 288-289. View Quote

Yumibe, Joshua (2012): Moving Colors. Early Film, Mass Culture, Modernism. New Brunswick et al.: Rutgers University Press, pp. 4-6  View Quote and 78-97. View Quote