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.
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This is awesome! Love it!
asudonim2 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!
retired2AZ2 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?
asmith242 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.
lcody2 years ago
awesome instructable. Makes a great stocking stuffer with dollar store crayons.
Very neat idea.Thx for sharing.
PenfoldPlant (author)  David Catriel2 years ago
Thanks, David!
rwlh19502 years ago
Two words -'bloody wonderful'
That the Christmas prezzies sorted
PenfoldPlant (author)  rwlh19502 years ago
And maybe Christmas afternoon activities sorted too? I'm glad you like it!
Wow! You did GREAT!
PenfoldPlant (author)  whisperonthewind2 years ago
Cheers, WotW!
Katagin2 years ago
This is a great idea. I'll be using it for a Christmas present for my niece and nephews!
PenfoldPlant (author)  Katagin2 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)  flamethrower10102 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?
jcomtois2 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)  jcomtois2 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.
Honus2 years ago
Perfect! This will make my four year old son very happy. :)
PenfoldPlant (author)  Honus2 years ago
Cool! If you have the time to post a picture of what you've made, that would be fantastic.
cmetzger2 years ago
in Photoshop: Layer Properties --> Blending Mode --> Linear Dodge (Add)
PenfoldPlant (author)  cmetzger2 years ago
Good point, cmetzger. Thanks for clarifying for non-Pixlr-users (non-Pixlrers?).
Jaci2 years ago
Thanks for the detailed Instructable.
PenfoldPlant (author)  Jaci2 years ago
My pleasure :-)
rickharris2 years ago
Very good, not a program I had seen up to now but will be using in the future

PenfoldPlant (author)  rickharris2 years ago
No problem, rick. I hope you find a way to use it in future Instructables!
scoochmaroo2 years ago
PenfoldPlant (author)  scoochmaroo2 years ago
Thanks, Scooch!
BigRed19732 years ago
This is so awesome!! I have been searching for this kind of program, and there you are!!! I have plans for coloring books for Christmas gifts. And I think you have layed out the steps in a clear, logical manner. I'm not tremendously computer literate, but this doesn't seem intimidating. Thanks!!!!
PenfoldPlant (author)  BigRed19732 years ago
Cheers BigRed!

It's always hard to tell how tricky something like this is to someone who isn't used to using graphic design software, but I really think that this should be easy for anyone with even basic computer skills. If you can navigate to this website, I think you should be computer literate enough to follow all the steps in this tutorial!

Let me know how you get on or if you have any trouble.
rimar20002 years ago
Very interesting and effective. But I think it is a little complicated for a person without experience in image edition.

I tried using another free image editor, PhotoFiltre.  I loaded an image, then apllied Filter + Flatten + Plaster. Then clicked 5 times -Gamma.

I attached before and after images.
PenfoldPlant (author)  rimar20002 years ago
Thanks rimar,
I haven't tried using PhotoFiltre but it looks like it could have some interesting effects. For this project, I wanted something with a minimum or gray area so that it would be suitable for coloring, so I'm not sure the Plaster effect works quite as well. I'll certainly have a play around with it, though.
mmkg792 years ago
Thanks! This is amazing!
cmetzger2 years ago
Dunno about kids, but my Mom's caregiver is gonna love it!
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