Introduction: How to Make a Coloring Book

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

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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.

Step 2: Open Pixlr

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Now that you've taken your photo, the next step is to go to

Pixlr is a free online app that lets you edit photos without having to download any software or pay any fees. It's extremely easy to use, but also sophisticated enough to let you achieve some astonishing photo effects.

Click where it says "Open photo editor" then click on "Open image from computer" and select the photo you want to use.

Step 3: A Quick Overview of Pixlr's Layout

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You should see something that looks like this, with your own photo visible. Let's quickly look at what we've got.

On the right, you'll see a box labelled Navigator. This lets you zoom in and out of the photo and move around when you're zoomed in.

Below that is Layers. This is one of Pixlr's cleverest features. Pixlr lets you stack multiple images on top of each other, then edit them all individually, a bit like making a collage. In this collage, however, you can choose to make the different layers change size, become transparent, or even act as complex filters for the layers below them. Don't worry, we'll come back to that.

Under that is History, which just shows a list of all the recent actions you've performed in Pixlr. If you've made a mistake, you can skip back in your History to before you made it. Think of it as having multiple Undo buttons.

OK, you're now a Pixlr pro! We're all set to get editing!

Step 4: Make It Black and White

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The first change we'll make to our photo is to turn it into a black and white image. Do this by selecting Adjustment --> Desaturate.

Step 5: Duplicate the Layer

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Now we're going to make a second layer which is an identical copy of our black and white image. Right-click on Background in the Layers palette and select Duplicate layer.

You should now see a new layer called Background copy.

Step 6: Invert the New Layer

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Now we're going to turn the new layer into a negative of the original image. You can do this by selecting Adjustment --> Invert.

Step 7: Fancy Trickery

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Now it's time for some cleverness with layers. Click on the little box with two arrows in the bottom left corner of the layers palette. This should make the advanced layer settings (Opacity and Mode) visible.

At the moment, the layer called Background copy should by in Normal mode. Use the drop-down menu to change it to Add mode. Everything in your image should turn white. Don't panic! That's what we wanted.

Step 8: Blur the Top Layer

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Select Filter --> Gaussian blur...

A slider called Amount should appear. Try dragging this back and forth to see what happens. The outline of your image should become visible, starting as a thin tracing when Amount is low and turning into softer, thicker strokes as you increase it.

Adjust the slider to a medium point at which you can clearly tell what the image is, but the lines appear neither pencil-thin nor extremely soft and blurry.

Step 9: Flatten the Image

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Now we're going to squash the image back down to a single layer. Right-click on the top layer (Background copy) and select Merge down. You should now see a single layer in the palette.

Step 10: Use Levels to Adjust the Softness

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Your image probably still looks faint and a bit fuzzy, so we're going to turn all those shades of gray into crisp blacks and whites using the Levels tool.

Select Adjustment --> Levels. A graph like this should appear.

Step 11: Move the Black Slider

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The graph should look like a steep hill with three sliders underneath it. Move the black slider most of the way to the right, so it sits just at the base of the hill, before it becomes very steep. You should see your image darken dramatically.

Step 12: Move the Other Sliders

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Now drag the gray and the white sliders as far to the left as possible without moving the black slider. All of the gray tones should turn white, leaving a very clear outline in black and white. Play around with the sliders until you're happy with the outcome.

Congratulations! You've made your coloring book image!

Step 13: Save and Print

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Save your new image and print it out!

Tips on saving: Sometimes Pixlr will save an image without putting the .jpg extension at the end of it. When you save an image to your computer, quickly try opening it in another window. If you cannot open it, save it again but this time type .jpg at the end of the name.

Step 14: That Wasn't So Complicated!

Picture of That Wasn't So Complicated!

I know that was a lot of steps, but in fact all we've done is perform six very simple changes to our photo. If you look at the History box, you'll be able to see exactly what you've done.

Step 15: Advanced Lessons

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Now for some real fun! Once you're comfortable with creating coloring book images from your photos, you can start to mix and match different elements to make fantastic or ridiculous images from multiple photos. I'll talk you through an example of my own.

I thought our volunteer enjoy having a thrilling adventure story to color in, so I decided to put him on a desert island with a treasure chest. A quick Google search for beach and treasure chest revealed some useful images, which I saved and opened in Pixlr.

Step 16: Turn Your Images Into Outlines

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I performed exactly the same process as before to turn the new images into coloring book pages (see Step 14 for the list of what we did).

Step 17: Put Everything Into One Image

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I assembled all of my images into a single composite image by simply clicking on the layers I wanted in the Layers palette and then dragging them into the window containing my background beach image. This left me with a single image containing three layers: beach, treasure chest and child.

I then used Edit --> Free Transform to change the sizes and positions of each individual element.

Step 18: Trim the Images

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Next, I used the Eraser tool on each layer to trim away the unwanted rectangular borders and backgrounds from the treasure chest and the child. The Eraser will only act on whichever layer is currently selected, making it easy to alter one picture element at a time.

Step 19: Choose the Final Positions

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Last of all, I re-adjusted the positions of my adventurous model and the treasure chest before saving the image and printing it out.

Step 20: Let Your Imagination Run Wild!

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Voila! In about ten minutes, I'd made a personalized coloring page.

Try it out and let me know what your kids think!


NancyS220 (author)2017-06-02

The RBG sliders all move together. The black won't move separately from the others, so the lines don't darken.

megpie82 (author)2016-01-05

I did it! But it won't save? Does is usually take a long time to save? I've tried a few times, but it just keeps saying 'working please wait' any suggestions?

G-FORCEG (author)megpie822017-05-19

You just have to wait, this happens for me a lot as well.

kaj4 (author)2016-04-01

Everything proceeded as directed until I reached Step 9, Flatten the Image. When I right-clicked on the top layer (Background Copy), I got the following: "Settings, Global Settings, About Adobe Flash Player version......" It seems to relate to settings of Flash itself. I'm running Windows 7 and Chrome. No matter what I click on now - View, File, Adjustment, Background, Opacity, etc, the list of "Settings, Global Settings, and About Adobe Flash Player version..." displays.Each step worked perfectly until now. What can I do?

G-FORCEG (author)kaj42017-05-19

You just needed to update and install the latest adobe flash player, hope this helps ;-)

G-FORCEG made it! (author)2017-05-19

This is absolutely amazing! Thanks for introducing it to me :D

I'm using it in my Monkey Discovery Newsletter, such fun!

JohnatanShShM (author)2017-04-28

So awesome tutorial!
But i make coloring book with RonyaSoft Poster Designer, try it also, fast and cool.

HaydenP6 made it! (author)2017-04-07

I did it! It was difficult at first, but then I got the hang of it.

mrsmerwin (author)2017-03-01

we just finished trying this. The web site has been changed a bit since this was written but we were still able to follow all the steps. Great results.

mrsmerwin (author)2017-03-01

I love this. I am using it for a school project.

AlexandraC47 (author)2016-09-11

Awesome! I found this extremely easy to follow. Thank you!

tadonna (author)2016-02-22

I'm on a Mac, and got to the 'Levels' point, however the sliders will not move individually; I moved the 'black', but when I went to move the grey and white sliders, the black moves at the same time, and won't operate solo. Can you help? Thanks!

ElizabethD46 made it! (author)2016-02-15

Thank you for sharing this was amazingly easy!

GwEnNyM (author)2016-01-16

Can you create these on a cell phone? Or does it have to be done on a computer

Archeryfinn made it! (author)2015-12-19

Thanks for this. I've wanted to do this kind of thing for a while and this works great!

korthak1 (author)2015-11-20

Can anyone tell me how to print these to a full size 8.5x11? I want to bind them together in a book but they are all printing small size. Thanks!

SherieB1 (author)2015-11-01

Thank you so much! In about ten minutes I was able to turn a picture of my library building into a coloring page for an election night . I made one misstep and had to go back and follow the directions more carefully, but I did it! Thanks for taking time to help us.

calbff (author)2015-10-16

This is actually the best method, by far, that I've tried. Fantastic.

ashley.grajeda1 (author)2015-07-22

I tried it out and I love how some of my animal pictures came out

suayres (author)2015-06-30

I love all the instructables you make--they're beautiful, practical and fun. I sense that you may have children, and that many of your instructables were made with them in mind. Well done, sir!

suayres (author)2015-06-30

I love all the instructables you make--they're beautiful, practical and fun. I sense that you may have children, and that many of your instructables were made with them in mind. Well done, sir!

SherriP2 (author)2015-06-19

Marquering (author)2015-05-17

selphie (author)2015-05-11

Thank you so much for this! It worked brilliantly.

selphie (author)2015-05-11

EsmeraldaI (author)2015-04-30

this is cool

tawnja.c.gibson (author)2015-04-02

The first 16 steps went well, but I got lost on step 17. I was unable to drag one layer into the other. Can you give more detailed instructions for that step? Thanks!

julieinlasvegas (author)2015-03-10

Thank you so much for this step-by-step guide. I'm doing a project for work and you made it SO MUCH EASIER. I expected WEEKS to be spent trying to figure out how to do what I wanted to do. Instead, in 20 minutes, I had exactly what I wanted.

bsosamorrow1 (author)2015-02-24

I have two dogs. I have one cat.

clare.mcalaney (author)2014-12-17

How do you do step 7 in Photoshop? Everything else is the same, but there is no 'mode' selection as such. Thanks.

TeeJ2 (author)clare.mcalaney2014-12-20

It's called linear dodge in photoshop. So once you double click on the image Choose blend mode and select linear dodge.

clare.mcalaney (author)2014-12-17

How do you do step 7 in Photoshop? Everything else is the same, but there is no 'mode' selection as such. Thanks.

maiah (author)2014-11-29

why can't i do this thing??????? ;( :( can anybody explain this to me?

karreann.wilke (author)maiah2014-11-30

how far r u getting before u run into trouble ??

karreann.wilke (author)maiah2014-11-30

how far r u getting before u run into trouble ??

sweet_safo made it! (author)2014-06-02

At last i found the the steps to turn my daughters images into a drawing book :)

Thanks to you .. I will know make it more creative..

This is was the image i exercised on .. but i will add another images in a more creative way..

maiah (author)sweet_safo2014-11-29

how did you do it? plz help me

maiah (author)2014-11-29

why can't i do this thing??????? ;( :( can anybody explain this to me?

ewilhelm made it! (author)2014-11-12

Here's Procyon smashing a frost giant!

ewilhelm (author)ewilhelm2014-11-14

and here's Corvidae riding her bike to war with Thor and his goat-driven chariot.

annporter (author)2014-01-23

i loved this instructional steps. I couldn't done it by myself.

Annie Porter

scarborough (author)2013-03-05

Very useful tutorial! The results are not as good as what I get from using Photoshop or SketchPen, but hey, it's free, definitely worth a try

chrismaria (author)2012-12-07

thanks so much for tutorial...hope to make special nephew coloring book for Christmas :)

footteacher (author)2012-07-13

Hello and please help...on Step 5 when I ctl/click (MAC) on the Layers, I did not get a Background gave me another line that says Layer 0 copy. Can you advise? thx

pbrazle (author)2012-06-27

If you only knew how wonderful this is for an artist painting from personal photo's. Combined with transferring techniques or a light box trace this has saved me hours. Thank you so much for your post. Perfect for my watercolor class...may I refer to this post and the steps you teach in my blog and class, giving credit where credit is due of course!

zurichko (author)2011-11-19

Thanks for the idea! I'll be making small coloring books for my daughter's birthday! Here's one I made using your i'ble.

bitsy113 (author)zurichko2012-05-25

thats so cute

PenfoldPlant (author)zurichko2011-11-20

Wow! Great work! I love it when people post examples like this.
I really hope she was wearing a Halloween costume when that photo was taken. If you can actually see her bones, you might have the flash on your camera set a bit too bright...

zurichko (author)PenfoldPlant2011-11-20

They're pajamas actually, they glow in the dark too. When I saw your i'ble I knew exactly what picture to try this out with. Thanks again.

bitsy113 (author)2012-05-25

that is so cool but dont u have to have a certain program for to do that?

About This Instructable




Bio: Artist in Residence at Pier 9, currently exploring a vast array of new tools with which to injure myself.
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