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crayon portrait

A crayon portrait — also called a crayon enlargement or a pastel portrait — is a monochrome print that has been retouched with pencil or colored. This type of photograph is an enlargement from a smaller negative and appears after the invention of the first solar enlarging cameras in the 1850s.

Photographic prints for crayon portraits were made from low-contrast negatives with good detail. The negative’s flaws became more visible when enlarged, but some imperfections could be corrected before printing. Specific techniques were used to soften the overall effect, including printing through a diffusing cloth or applying a sheet of frosted glass associated with a layer of glycerin to the negative. The final print had to be somewhat blurry to be colored properly.

Printing-out processes — salted paper or albumen — were generally used in the early years. However, the greater sensitivity developing-out processes was more adapted to the dim light of the enlarger, and the thicker papers they used held up better during the process of retouching.

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