Proposal of a variety of processes of three-color photography


“Louis Ducos du Hauron is reported to have become interested in the reproduction of colors by photography in 1859, when he was twentyone years old (Potonniée, 1939). In 1862 he submitted to a friend of his family, M. Lelut, a paper embodying his theory of color reproduction

In it du Hauron suggested that it would be possible to obtain a color picture by obtaining separate photographic records of the “red, yellow, and blue” portions of a subject, by coloring these in their proper tints, and by superimposing the results. This paper, entitled “Méthode de reconstitution photographique des couleurs,” is the earliest known description of a subtractive color process. Except for a few individuals, however, little was known about the paper until 1869, and it was not published in complete form until 1897 (Ducos du Hauron, 1897). A description of an actual method that du Hauron had developed for obtaining color photographs was published in a newspaper, Le Gers (Ducos du Hauron, 1869a), and reported on by him to the Societe Francaise de Photographie (Ducos du Hauron, 1869b). According to this procedure, three negatives were first made of the “orange, violet, and green” components of the light from the subject. The separations of the colors would be made physically by using filters of colored media, or by using photographic compounds sensitive only to certain parts of the spectrum. Relief-image positives were then made from the negatives, using bichromated gelatin containing a dye or pigment. The gelatin used with each negative was approximately complementary in color to that of the filter used in making the exposure, the colors being described as blue, yellow, and red. The three positives were superimposed in register to make up the final picture.

Du Hauron also stated that color reproductions could be obtained in other ways, such as successive impressions of “red, yellow, and blue” printing inks; projections of colored positives which blend on the screen; and by plates carrying a screen of “green, violet, and orange” lines which serve as filters and reconstruct the true colors of the original scene (Potonniée, 1939). Hence, in 1869 he recognized the differing color requirements of additive and subtractive mixtures. He forecast, in fact, almost all the color processes which have since been invented.”


Ducos du Hauron, Louis (1869a): “Les Couleurs en Photographie: Solution du Probleme.” Le Gers (Mar. 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, April 1, 6).

Ducos du Hauron, Louis (1869b): “A New Heliochromic Process.” In:, 13, pp. 319-320/p>

Ducos du Hauron, Alcide (1897): La Triplace Photographique des Couleurs et l’Imprimerie. Paris: Gauthier-Villars et Fils. 488 pp.

Potonniée, Georges (1939): “Louis Ducos du Hauron: His Life and Work.” (Translated by Edward Epstean.) The Photo-Engravers Bulletin, 28, pp. 18-29, 35-46.

(Evans, Ralph Merrill; Hanson, W.T., Jr.; Brewer, W. Lyle (1953): Principles of Color Photography. New York: Wiley.)

  • Coote (1993)
  • Du Hauron 1877

Original Technical Papers and Primary Sources

Du Hauron, Louis Ducos (1859): Méthode de reconstitution photographique des couleurs. [Unpublished paper.]

Du Hauron, Louis Ducos (1869): Les couleurs en photographie. Solution du problème. Paris. Reprinted in: Sobieszek, Robert (ed.) (1979): Two Pioneers of Color Photography. Cros and Du Hauron. New York: Arno Press.

Du Hauron, Alcide Ducos (1897): La triplace photographique des couleurs et l’imprimerie. Paris: Gauthier-Villars et Fils. 488 pp.

Secondary Sources

Evans, Ralph Merrill; Hanson, W.T., Jr.; Brewer, W. Lyle (1953): Principles of Color Photography. New York: Wiley 1953, p. 273. View Quote

Lavedrine, Bertrand (1998): History and Technology of Colour Photographic Processes. 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. 117-119, on p. 117. View Quote

Potonniée, Georges (1939): “Louis Ducos du Hauron. His Life and Work.” (Translated by Edward Epstean.) In: The Photo-Engravers Bulletin, 28, pp. 18-29, 35-46.