Before & After: 3 Examples of Tinting a Photo

tinting a photo

Before & After: 3 Examples of Tinting a Photo

Photo restoration is its own kind of magic. Repairing a photo torn in pieces or a portrait devoured by silverfish is always a satisfying transformation. Some of our favorite restorations include adding a little color to black and white or browntone photos. Tinting a photo can make a monochromatic image come to life.

Sometimes a photo just needs a touch of something extra. Tinting means adding a hint of color to an image to suggest additional colors in a pleasing way. Different from adding full color, this method allows your brain to complete the photo when you look at it. It’s kind of like reading a book as opposed to watching an adaptation on television; reading allows you to picture a scene based on words, whereas the movie depicts everything without suggestion.

Tinting a photo also reminds us of hand-colored photography, a traditional method where photographers hired artists to add color to their images using oils, pastels, paints, and other mediums. This gave their photography a realistic feel and drew comparisons to paintings. It’s expensive and labor intensive to create authentic hand-colored photographs today, but as you’ll see below, you can still achieve that look with your own images. Take a look at these before and afters:

tinting a photoThis image was well loved. There is obvious surface damage and crazing. This can happen when a photo is exposed to shifting humidity and other environmental elements. Mary Lou made this photo pop by making the dress and background varying shades of gray. The restoration has a tremendous amount of dimension when compared to the original. It’s stunning!

tinting a photoLook at this cute couple. The original photo has a little surface damage and staining. In the restoration, we made the background a neutral browntone and only added color to the couple. The smaller details stand out a little more than they did in black and white. It’s easier to appreciate his rings and bracelet as well as her purse and gloves. Very stylish.

tinting a photoDo you see the white spots on the right and bottom on the original photo? This is surface damage that removed part of the emulsion. It’s missing information. Mary Lou recreated the chair and background along with a hint of color to complete the image.

If you’re interesting in adding color, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Bring in reference photos (when applicable). If you have a color photo of the person/people being restored, bring it with you when you make your consultation appointment. It helps to have a reference photo to use as a guide when adding color to get the skin tone, hair color, etc. correct. Some clients bring in photos of family members who look like the person/people being restored if they do not have a color photo for reference.
  2. Know your colors. Skin, hair, eyes, clothes – these are the details we need before adding any color. Some clients give us the hair and eye color of the person in question and leave the rest up to us. Other clients bring in the clothes worn in the image to try and get as close of a match as possible. 
  3. Keep an open mind. Tinting a photo is different from color photography. It is an artistic interpretation meant to enhance an image. The underlying tone – whether it is black and white or brown – will influence the color of the tint. Look at the last example. His hat is red. However, the browntone prevents it from being a bright red color. There may be varying shades of the colors you choose.
  4. Look at a proof. We offer a proof for review before creating a final print. This allows our clients to collaborate and give feedback during the restoration process.


Tinting a photo can make a huge difference to a restoration. It is a little extra touch that can make an image extra special.

Interested in learning more about tinting? Check out our articles, “Photo Magic: Tinting or Colorizing a Photo” and “Transforming a Snapshot into a Family Heirloom.”