Coloring Pages From Your Digital Photos
By Charlie Kerekes, 10/20/2005

Add a little more fun to your kids' coloring pages—create your own from digital photos. Imagine printing out a set of coloring pages from a recent visit to grandma or that memorable family vacation. It is easier than you might think.

In this article I will walk you through a couple of methods of creating coloring pages from photos. The first method uses lines and looks more like coloring pages that your kids are accustomed to seeing. The second method converts the photos into a light black and white sketch that can be colored over.

Tools required
Assuming that you already have the digital photos you wish to convert, the only other tool you need is photo editing software capable of performing the steps described below. I provide step-by-step instructions for Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 and 3.0, and a tip for users of the Kodak EasyShare software. If you have another photo editing software, you may be able to follow the steps and apply them to your specific software.

Selecting the photos
Both methods described in this article rely on the computer being able to recognize the edges of objects in your photo. For best results, select photos with clearly defined edges and high contrast between the primary subject and the background.

Busy images with a lot of texture or lines generally do not produce a good coloring page. I have selected this image as an example for this article:

Creating the coloring page: Lines method
Typical coloring pages are created with thick lines with just enough detail for the child to see the shapes. In this section we will imitate this style by having the software find the edges of objects in the photo.

Tip for Kodak EasyShare software users
If you have a recent version of Kodak EasyShare, you can quickly create a coloring page by following these steps: Double-click on an image to view it, click Edit Picture, click Fun Effects, click Coloring Book. Unfortunately, this feature does not offer any adjustments so it may or may not work well on a specific image. But, it's so easy that you might as well try.

Steps for Photoshop Elements 4.0 and 3.0:

1.Open the image to be converted.
2.Adjust the levels and contrast with the automatic feature to help the software find the edges easier. Command: Enhance Auto Levels, then Enhance Auto Contrast
3.Sharpen the edges. Command: Enhance>Auto Sharpen
4.Convert to black and white by removing all color. Command: Enhance Adjust Color Remove Color
5.Find edges of objects in the image. Command: Filter Stylize Find Edges
6.At this point the image contains lines and shading. Next we adjust the brightness and contrast to remove as much shading as possible while leaving the lines intact. Command: Enhance Adjust Lighting Brightness/Contrast

Start by adjusting the Brightness to +50 and the Contrast also to +50. Adjust these settings further until you have achieved the desired results and then click OK.

In the example below, I have set the Brightness to +20 and the Contrast to +82.

7.Save the finished coloring page image with a separate file name so you do not overwrite the original. Command: File Save As
8.Print the coloring page so it fills a letter-sized page. Command: File Print, set Print Size to Fit on Page, if your image is wide, click Page Setup and select Landscape, and finally Print.

Creating the coloring page: Sketch method
In this section we create a black and white sketch. The object is to keep the shading light enough so it can be colored on, but dark enough to show sufficient detail.

Steps for Photoshop Elements:

1.Open the image to be converted.
2.Adjust the levels and contrast with the automatic feature to help the software find the edges easier. Command: Enhance Auto Levels, then Enhance Auto Contrast
3.Sharpen the edges. Command: Enhance>Auto Sharpen
4.Convert to black and white by removing all color. Command: Enhance Adjust Color Remove Color
5.Duplicate the image into a new layer. Command: Layer Duplicate Layer, in the "As" box type "Layer 1" and click OK.

Notice that in the Layers palette on the right edge of your screen you now have two identical images, with "Layer 1" selected.

6.Invert the Layer 1 image to create a negative. Command: Filter Adjustments Invert
7.Set the Layer 1 adjustment mode to "Color Dodge". Command: While Layer 1 is selected in the layer palette, click on the dropdown box in the top left corner of the layer palette and choose Color Dodge.

At this point the main image on your screen has disappeared all the way or almost all the way.

8.Blur the image in Layer 1 to create the sketch. Command: Filter Blur Gaussian Blur and adjust the Radius until you have a satisfactory sketch.
9.Save the finished coloring page image with a separate file name so you do not overwrite the original. Command: File Save As
10.Print the coloring page so it fills a letter-sized page. Command: File Print, set Print Size to Fit on Page, if your image is wide, click Page Setup and select Landscape, and finally Print.

Try creating coloring pages using both the lines and sketch methods to see which one produces the best results for each image.