Desmet colour method


Up until the advent of sound on film in the late 1920s it was common to tint and tone film to enhance the viewer’s experience. Night scenes would be tinted or toned blue, romance was often highlighted with red or pink, interiors were yellow. Greens and orange were also common.

Modern film restorations of tinted and toned film often use the Desmet colour method to replicate the tinted and toned effect. The technique was developed by Nöel Desmet from the Royal Film Archive of Belgium. The technique involves printing a black-and-white negative on to colour print stock. The coloured tints and tones are replicated by exposing the print stock using a combination of red, green and blue filters on a continuous contact printer.


In some cases the colour is replicated by what is known as pre-flashing the raw stock with no negative between the light source and the colour print stock. Other colours are replicated by varying the colour filtration with the black-and-white negative in contact with the colour print stock.