Picture of How to Make a Coloring Book
Turn your family photos into fun kids' coloring books for free! This simple tutorial will teach you how to turn any photograph into black and white outlines that you can print out at home. What better way to keep your kids entertained on a rainy day or a holiday weekend?

I used a free online image editing app called Pixlr to achieve this effect, but you can do much the same thing in other software, such as Photoshop or GIMP.

Of course, you don't need to use family photos. We'll even discuss how to insert your family members into exciting action scenes or far-flung landscapes. It's your coloring book, so you can choose the story! Even better, why not let the kids decide?

I'm going to talk through this process in a lot of detail, but that's only so that a complete beginner will feel comfortable. Don't be intimidated by the number of steps; you can actually complete the project in about 5 minutes!

Step 1: Choose a photo

Picture of Choose a photo
The first thing you need to do is pick a photograph that you want to turn into a page in your coloring book. The best photos for this are ones that are in focus and have plenty of contrast between the different objects in the scene.

If you're planning to edit any of the people in your photo onto another background, it helps if the original photo is taken against a fairly plain background. For example, you could start by photographing your kids fiercely brandishing toy swords in front of a blank wall, then edit them onto a pirate ship background later!

Save whichever photos you want to use to an easy-to-find file on your computer.
nihoo23 years ago
Great Instructable...very easy to use Editor...I am going to make an entire coloring book for my kids for Xmas using this and Shutterfly...thank you thank you!!
paqrat3 years ago
This is terriffic. I cannot wait to try it out. I went ahead and downloaded the program to my computer so I can use when internet isn't available. I am curious about something. Would it be possible to have left the separate pics in color and still place the kid and treasure chest on the island?
paqrat paqrat3 years ago
Oops looks like the program I downloaded is pixl o'matic for windows. Ah well. I probably will only be using it where I can access internet anyway.

A similar program is Gimp, I just tried it with the exact same steps. (www.gimp.org)
Very cool. I have Gimp but I haven't done much with it. Good to know it will do something similar. Thanks for the information.
mtrout3 years ago
Using this process, I got a beautiful CLEAN black and white image. This was in GIMP.
mtrout3 years ago
I don't see anything equivalent to this step in Gimp.
mtrout mtrout3 years ago
And then I realized you said "background copy" not "background". Changed the pull-down Menu to "addition" and all is right with the world.On to the next step!
tvelazquez13 years ago
Hmmmm...this actually doesn't work. At least it doesn't work for me. The gray and white sliders do not go past the black slider to the left, and the black slider just slides the gray and white sliders all the way to the right in front of it. There is no way to get the clean b&w image that you are inferring is possible.
Move them as far to the left as possible - meaning move them right over next to the black slider. You can't CROSS the black slider.
Yes--exactly. You cannot cross the black slider (as you can in PhotoShop), when you push the other two against it, they all move to the left, so you never achieve the "clean b&w image" that is referred to in the article. There is a tremendous amount of gray are that should be white, which would render the finished image useless as a coloring page.

At any rate, I loved learning about this online program. I have friends who, unlike me, are not Graphic Designers, and they will be thrilled to know this is out there.
ronsart3 years ago
Sad couldn't download PFD without membership...this worked and quite happy with instructions...would only recommend to do in Photoshop more friendly...thank god you did in the blending mode part.

Thanks for posting.
dcernach3 years ago
Incredible... Very simple and useful, I'll try in Photoshop... Excellent instructable!
zurichko3 years ago
Okay, so I decided to try the advanced techniques and I LOVE IT! Here's my little girl in front of one her favorite things...a CASTLE!
color bella 1.1.jpg
drdj3 years ago
Amazing and very clear instructions (for those of us who REALLY need them). Thank you. I feel sheepish asking, but I cannot find a way to save the image. The jpeg is blank and the other options are not read-able by my computer?
OTP13 years ago

and I have learnt a great deal about the photo/sw that I have on my PC , thx again
CGlibrarian3 years ago
I haven't done much photo editing. When I print on 81/2 x 11 paper it is not centered. Is there a way of centering it? Do you just trim it? I also cropped one photo. It would be nice if I could expand it by dragging it. But I would like to set a standard size "picture frame" for all my photos. Any other comments on how to improve my skills would be appreciated. I think I'm hooked!
RyanGallmann.jpgRyan Toddler with camera 2.jpg.jpg
johnaobrien3 years ago
I have done this with photoshop elements and also with comic book for the iPad it works great. If you flip it around and print it out you an make a tshirt using an iron and a tshirt. Good job!
cmetzger3 years ago
correction -- Layers palette drop-down menu --> Blending options . . . --> General Blending --> Blend Mode change to Linear Dodge (Add)
PenfoldPlant (author)  cmetzger3 years ago
You can also change the blending mode directly using the drop-down menu within the Layers palette in Photoshop, or right-click on the layer and choose "Blending Options".
Yep. Now to figure out what is the best blur level for a long-haired black cat.
This is awesome! Love it!
asudonim3 years ago
It's really cool ... and I read the whole thing,

but I thought you were just going to say "click here" and it would be done.

This is like learning a whole new language.

The problem is that I don't have time to play with your ideas, and I know I'm not going to be able to stop myself.

You did a great job!
retired2AZ3 years ago
Thank you, thank you, thank you. How fun! When Grandma goes to visit, this is just one more thing in her fun bag! What other fun ideas do you have?
asmith243 years ago
I realize this is aimed toward parents, but I'm totally making a coloring book for my band now. This my first time using Pixlr, and it's so much easier to use than GIMP.
lcody3 years ago
awesome instructable. Makes a great stocking stuffer with dollar store crayons.
Very neat idea.Thx for sharing.
PenfoldPlant (author)  David Catriel3 years ago
Thanks, David!
rwlh19503 years ago
Two words -'bloody wonderful'
That the Christmas prezzies sorted
PenfoldPlant (author)  rwlh19503 years ago
And maybe Christmas afternoon activities sorted too? I'm glad you like it!
Wow! You did GREAT!
PenfoldPlant (author)  whisperonthewind3 years ago
Cheers, WotW!
Katagin3 years ago
This is a great idea. I'll be using it for a Christmas present for my niece and nephews!
PenfoldPlant (author)  Katagin3 years ago
Awesome! Pics or it didn't happen!
Cool little process, I take Photoshop in school and have gotten very into it, however to buy the program for in home use is a ridiculous amount of money, i had never heard of Pixlr until now but it is set up very similar to Photoshop and i defiantly plan on using it in the future. Nice instructable too, here is the one i made in a few minutes. Seems like it works better on images with more defined lines.
charlie coloring book .jpg
PenfoldPlant (author)  flamethrower10103 years ago
Nice result, ft1010!

You're right about it working better with defined lines. This process essentially highlights areas in an image that have a sharp difference between light and dark, then turns them into dark lines on a light background. For your fuzzy dog, I wonder if it would help to use a smaller amount of blur?
jcomtois3 years ago
This is a pretty decent result for a free app, especially pasting the boy into a fun custom background. There are of course a number of ways to do this outline/cartoon effect with a lot of tools. I use Paintshop Pro which is similar to Photoshop; but the nice thing here is "free app". If the tool allows you to erase you can spend some time getting rid of the noise for an even cleaner outline.
PenfoldPlant (author)  jcomtois3 years ago
You're right, of course. There are lots of ways that we could tidy up this image and fine-tune it to make the perfect coloring book, but I wanted to keep this as quick and simple as possible for a first-time user.

Also, if you're planning to make an actual booklet of, say, 20 pages of pictures, you might not want to spend time cleaning up every image. OK, I admit that I would, but I'm a lot more nit-picky than the average three-year-old.
Honus3 years ago
Perfect! This will make my four year old son very happy. :)
PenfoldPlant (author)  Honus3 years ago
Cool! If you have the time to post a picture of what you've made, that would be fantastic.