Recently, I was visiting my Public Library's
Book Sale Fundraiser. As a "Friend of the Library", I get in to see the
used books for sale before the general public. Because of it, I was able
to see some really neat books which may have otherwise been sold before
I got there.

One book in particular caught my eye. It was a very
large book showcasing images of Medieval Brasses - ornamental memorial
metal-works from a range of years from the 14th to 17th centuries in
Europe. All of the images were two-tone black and white, and immediately
made me think of a coloring book.

I was also trying to think of a
fun way to keep my five-year-old daughter and I entertained for an
evening. She has a large box of art supplies, including markers and
colored pencils. So, I snapped a digital photo of one of the images,
manipulated it, and printed out coloring sheets on my home computer

In this Instructable, I'll show you how create a coloring book with a bit of historical flair to entertain children and adults alike!

Picture of Tools and Materials

For this project, you will need:

  • A source of high-contrast images, such as in an old book
  • Digital camera or smart-phone, iPad, or other device with camera built it
  • Personal computer with basic image manipulation software (Photoshop, Paint, GIMP, etc.)
  • Computer printer, ideally a black and white laser printer. (If you don't have one at home, how about at work?)
  • Printer paper
  • Colored pencils, Crayons, or your favorite colors to fill in the pages!

Chances are that you already have all these materials, so this project won't even cost you anything out of pocket!

Step 2: Take a Photo of Your Image

Picture of Take a Photo of Your Image

To start with, you need to take a photo of the image that will become your coloring book page.

this example, the book was very large. I laid it on the floor so that I
could position my camera directly over it and center the image. Make
sure the image fills the screen and is in focus. Set your camera to the
highest resolution and image quality.

While a full manual camera
is nice to have, many of the cameras built into smart-phones and many
other devices are now of very good quality and will work just fine for
this project. You may want to use a tripod. If not, make sure to hold
the camera steady. After you take the photo, zoom all the way in on it
to make sure you can't see any blur introduced by camera movement.

important thing to keep in mind is that you want the light on the image
to be very even. You also don't want the camera to cast a shadow on the
image. There are several ways to do this.
For example:

  • Take the photo outdoors on an overcast day. The heavy clouds diffuse the daylight, making even light across the image.
  • Use artificial light, but BOUNCE it off a light-colored object, such as a piece of white tagboard
  • Use
    artificial light, and place one light on either side of the
    book/magazine/photo for even lighting, but without the camera making a

In the one photo, I set the book on my kitchen floor while bright daylight was bouncing off my light-colored kitchen island. Don't worry about white-balance or the image having a tint to it. We'll be eliminating the color information to create a black-and-white image in the following steps.

Step 3: Import/Export

Picture of Import/Export

Picture of Import/Export

Bring your image into your computer.

may mean plugging in your digital camera to the computer with a USB
cable, or it may mean e-mailing yourself from a smart device. In my
case, I'm using my iPhone and a Macintosh computer.

I connect the
phone to the computer, then import the image into the "Photos"
application. Since that's NOT the program I will do the image
manipulation in, I need to then export it. Just remember to keep the
image in its original size and format. Typically, that means using a
feature like "Export Unmodified Original".

Save the file to an appropriate place, then open it in your favorite raster image manipulation software.

Step 4: Image Manipulation

Picture of Image Manipulation

In this step, we actually turn our photograph into a coloring book image.
In this case, I happen to be using Photoshop, but most image editing software will have similar features.

your original image in the software. It will be whatever resolution,
format, and orientation it was when you took the photo.

Depending on how you took it, you may first need to rotate the image.
If the image is just SLIGHTLY crooked, I find that rotating it just half of a degree often straightens it out.

just your image, and crop out anything else - the edge of a page, the
book binding, and background, etc. I usually leave just a small border.

images that I was working with were predominantly dark. For a coloring
book, you want mostly white space with only thin black lines to mark the
areas to be colored in. In a two-tone image that is mostly dark, it can
be inverted to create a predominantly LIGHT image.

You want the image to be as high-contrast as possible. Most programs have at least a simple BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST slider. Use the controls to increase the contrast so that the light portion is as light as possible, and the dark is as dark as possible. Some programs also offer "Levels", "Curves", or "Exposure". These are different ways to manipulate contrast, and offer good control over the midpoint, so that you can maintain the detail of the image. I like to use "Levels", because it's simple and has good mid-point control. You will want to experiment with what gives you the best contrast on your image.

Discard the color information. This makes your image grayscale. Note that at this point, it's not a true black and white image. It should look fairly black and white, but if you look closely, you will notice that some parts actually are various grays. We will make a true black and white image in one of the next steps.

Step 5: Resize

Picture of Resize

The image will need to fit onto a standard
size piece of paper. The largest regular paper that my home printer can
handle is 8.5 x 11 inches.

Resize the
image so that it will fit on that size paper, plus a margin. On most of
the images I was working with, the height was the limiting factor. So, I
resized the image to 10 inches tall (to allow a half inch margin both
above and below it.) The width will scale proportionally to the height.
The software may state the size of the image in Pixels or in a
measurement, such as Inches. If Resolution is listed (in pixels per
inch, for example) make sure that it remains HIGH resolution. I used 600
DPI (dots per inch, or pixels per inch) to maintain a detailed, sharp

Next, place
the image into a new document that is the entire size of the paper, or
transform the "Canvas" to the size of the paper. The background should
be plain, transparent, or white. Again, in this case, we want it to be
8.5 inches wide by 11 inches tall.