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What are Hand Painted Postcards – Types of Postcards

What are Hand Painted Postcards
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What are Hand Painted Postcards, they come from an earlier time period when artists would Draw and color individual Postcards?  They were unique,  one of a kind.  Each one is done with the skills of their maker drawn on a Postcard for others to enjoy.  These are not to be confused with Hand Colored or Hand Tinted Postcards.  We will explore all these in the following.

A Hand Painted  Postcard, refers to an individual piece of artwork that has been drawn and painted on a piece of material, most common material was Paper but also done on Wood and Leather.  When similar cards were made since they were all done individually, each one would have minute differences.  Artists from Britan, Scotland, France, the United States, Japan, and China, Germany produced them.  The ones From China and Japan being the most common.

Authentic Hand Drawn Postcards

  • These Postcards are called by different names – referring to the same type of Postcard

    • Vintage hand-painted postcards

    • Antique hand-painted postcards

    • German hand-painted postcards

    • Japanese hand-painted postcards

    • Chinese hand Painted Postcards

    • Hand-painted photo postcards

    • Hand-painted postcard art


  • Individual items – – Each one was done single, as an artist would do a miniature portrait.  Great Skill and Patience was required to be able to capture scenes and images.  many of these are landscape, flowers, Trees, Ocean scenes and Mountains.

  • Often done on standard postcards blanks, some with imprinted postage. – You can find many that have the postal service they used imprinted on the address sides of the postcards.  The opposite sides were Blank which allowed the artist to draw or paint the scene or objects he desired.

  • Some on blank cardboard on both sides, strong durable card stock, others were done on thin wafer size wood and some on Leather.

  • It did not take long for Business people to realize that they were missing a business opportunity, so some of the printed side before the card would be drawn, would place advertizement. Some blank one side and advertizing the other

  • The uniqueness of individual pieces – even when picturing the same scene slightly different.  added then and now to their rarity – some were Hand Painted Easter Cards, Some were Haaqnd Painted Christmas Cards.

  • Paul Müller-Kaempff (  1861- 1940 )

    • Germain by Birth

    • He was also an accomplished  lithographer

    • On a Hike in 1889, he discovered a secluded fishing village named  Ahrenshoop

    • He Moved there and began a Painting School of St Lucas in 1894

    • Müller-Kaempff was a successful landscape artist. He produced watercolors, pastels, and drawings as well as furniture designs and a multitude of postcards

Hand Colored Art from Paul Kaempff
Hand Colored Art from Paul Kaempff
Paul Kaempff artist of Hand Painted Postcards
Paul Kaempff artist of Hand Painted Postcards


  • Another type of hand Painted postcards were made differently –  series made to order used stencils – water-based colors – 1911 –  These have been also called opaque white cards

  • German collector Kurt Droege has collected many examples of Hand Painted Postcards

  • Antique Vintage hand-painted Postcards many were done in Japan, many times by women

  • Akasha Art Company Fine Art Company  Yokrama Japan produced many Hand Painted Picture Postcards

  • French artist did many hand-painted postcards also

Hand Colored Postcards

  • many of these are made from regularly printed postcards, many time image is black and white or lightly printed.   Originally black and white  – that then was colored by hand with, inks, colors, airbrush

  • Hand Colored / Tinted Postcards are not unique.  Many of the were produced in mass and then colored with the various process.  This was at a time that technology was not available to mass-produce them

  • Postcards were done by applying hand coloring materials, inks, colors to produce the postcards.  At the time labor was cheap, many needed work.  much of the labor was done by women.

  • Much of the Hand coloring and tinted was done with used water-based paints.  The water-based colors did not damage the card, whereas sometimes, oil paint could damage the card and as it an aged crack.

  • There were various tools and methods that workers applied to the coloring.  Methods – Brushes – fingers – cotton swabs – airbrushes – See Video at end of Article considered low skill work – a lot done by women

  • Large numbers of workers were used to Production line set up, with each station applying different color – expert at end of the line to finish and touch up with all colors –

  • hand coloring was a financial decision when more economical ways developed doing by hand faded

  • Hand Colored On Back address side of postcards was at times also done

  • Common practice around 1902

  • Hand Coloring has faded from popularity by the 1930s with the coming of more technology

  • Collo type prints – hight image detail was perfect for the adding of color to the images.

  • List of some of the publishers and artist – that Hand Produced Hand Colored Postcards

    • Ships and Lantern  A F Blodgett  Lavallette New Jersey

    • J Koehler New York

    • In 1892 Robert Koehler returned to New York City to work as a portrait artist

Artist Robert Koehler Hand Coloring Postcards

      • Marikina Shiba Tokyo

      • Metropolitan news company Boston Massachusetts ( and Germany)

      • Robson Brothers – stationers Maryland

      • G H Lewis West Sand Lake New York

      • C H Hughes

      • Lewis Services Incorporated  Panama City Panama

      • WB Clark Company Tremont Street Boston Mass

      • Collo type prints – hight image detail

History of Hand Painted Postcards

  • History of Antique Hand Painted Postcards in the pre-1900 era

    • The  first, hand-colored daguerreotypes are attributed to Swiss painter and printmaker Johann Baptist Isenring, ( 1796 – 1860)

    • Johann Baptist Isenring, ( 1796 – 1860)

      • Johann was born in Switzerland in 1796

      • He began his training as  carpenter’s apprentice

      • As he got Older Johann enrolled in the Munich Academy to study painting in Germany

      • Later in his life, he moved back to Munich, where opened a portrait studio specializing in color daguerreotype portraits in the summer of 1841.

      • That was short-lived and he began to follow his passion and then began life as an itinerant wandering photographer in 1842

    • Hand coloring was applied to  monochrome photos were very popular at the time so the pictures were perfect being black and white, providing the need to add coloring to give them a natural appearance

    • Another process was applying color powder to the images and applying heat to have it activate and adhere to the postcards

  • Japanese hand Coloring pre-printed postcards, black and white photos – we can find many of these fine postcards that are collected today

    • Hand Coloring was first First introduced in Europe,  Especially Germany,  but quickly gained acceptance and popularity in Japan

    • It began a serious business in Japan during the 1860s

    • On the Island of Japan First introduced by Charles Parker and William Parke Andrew

Charles Parker ( 1845 –

  • He was an  English photographer, Charles Parker   According to the Japan Herald of May 30, 1864, William Parke Andrew, a British artist, formed a partnership with Parker known as Messrs C. Parker and Company.

    • first to consistently employ hand-coloring in the country where the photographer Felice Beato ( 1832 – 1909 )

      • One of the First Photographers taking photos of Asia.

      • He was also a War Photographer – Indian Rebellion of 1857 – Second Opium War

      • he is especially noted for his images of landscapes of Asia and Mederteraanian.

One of First Photographers to Asia and Med
One of First Photographers to Asia and Med


    • The skills of Japanese watercolorists and woodblock printmakers were successfully applied to European photography,

Yokoyama Matsusaburō ( 1838 – 18 84 ) 

  • He was one of the early photographers in Japan to use hand-coloring was Yokoyama Matsusaburō

  • Yokoyama was not only a photographer but also an artist, lithographer, and teacher.

  • At age 15 he was an apprentice to a kimono dealer

  • Years later he developed an interest in Painting and became an assistant to the Russian painter Lehman

  • Yokoyama was the first Japanese photographer to seriously pursue stereographic photography

  • He was sick with tuberculosis  when he was older and is especially noted for his Landscapes and Portraits

    • the firm of Stillfried & Andersen, which acquired Beato’s studio in 1877

Yokoyama Matsusaburo Early Japanese artist and photographer
Yokoyama Matsusaburo Early Japanese artist and photographer


  • History of Antique Hand Painted Postcards post-1900

    • Hand-colouring remained the easiest and most effective method to produce full-color photographic images until the mid-20th century when American Kodak introduced Kodachrome color film.

    • the golden age of hand-colored photography in the western hemisphere occurred between 1900 and 1940

    • By the 1950s, the availability of color film all but stopped the production of hand-colored photographs

How to make Hand Painted  Postcards the Materials and techniques needed

  • Hand-painted Postcards made from   Wood

    •  During that time in history, a lot of slang developed to described wood postcards, nicknames and also as a sales aid,   oak-a – Postcards made of Oak

    • Slang terms for Wooden Postcards made from Walnut – You walnut regret it – Postcards made from Walnut

    • Catchy name for – Butternut delay – Postcards made from Butternut Wood

    • Wooden Postcards made in the state of Florida – Bowman Studios – made them from Cypress wood.

    • In Wisconsin a Canadian line of Postcards popped up named B.B. Quality Line in Wisconsin made Paul Bunyon Themed Postcards

Hand Painted Wooden Postcards
Hand Painted Wooden Postcards


  • How are Hand Painted Postcards made from Leather

    • Leather Postcards First made their appearance  in 1903 – they did not last long because of the difficulty in processing them through the mail system

    • The U.S. post office  officially banned leather postcards in 1907 because they jammed postage-canceling machines

    • The Hand Painted and burned etched Postcards Continued to be made until 1910 then production stopped

    • Leather PostcardsContinued to be sold until 1915

    • Hand-Painted Leather Postcards Usually Made of Deer Hyde

    • Another method of putting text and images on the leather was called pyrography – Burning message in the deer hyde

      • One of the tools used for pyrography was called a poker – it was called pokerwork  – also called “Writing with Fire”

      • Vegetable Tanned Hydes are used because of toxic fumes from the burning

    • The printing with Ink used for messages or images was used on leather – hand applied also

    • A Fad was sewing leather postcards together to make pillows


  • What is Wood Paper Pulp used for making Postcards

    •  First Paper Made from wood pulp was made in the 1800s

    • Using wood pulp makes the material stock cheaper to produce

    • It came about at the same time we had the invention pf paper machines

    • The wood fiber sources required for pulping are “45% sawmill residue, 21% logs, and chips, that go into making wood pulp that is used for paper

  • The first papermill Opened in Roxboro Pennsylvania 1690

    • One of the Early Papermaking Machines was patented by John Gamble in England in 1803.  It could produce a continuous 30 feet sheet long.

    • Rag pulp Paper – Called Rag Paper – made from cotton – has great properties that make it more resistant to deterioration.

    • High-quality cotton fiber paper is known to last hundreds of years without appreciable fading, discoloration, or deterioration

    • Cotton paper is graded  by the amount of cotton it contains 25%, 50%, 75%

    • cotton is still used in specialty papers today because of its better characteristics

    • Wood Pulp Paper


  • WoodBlock Printing ( Japan and Europe )

    • Originated in China – found back to 220 AD

    • Printed first on textiles – later expanded to Paper

    • Woodblock is cut out as a relief pattern

Relief for wood block printing
Relief for woodblock printing

To Understand Woodblock Printing Process watch This tutorial.

Colored Wood Block Printing Process

What tools are Needed for Traditional Wood Block Printing

      •  Xylography – the Art of Carving Wood

      • Traditional Wood Chisels – Art of Carving wood

      • Hangatou – Knife with a bevel on it – also called a Gouge Carving Knife

      • Ko Dogu – Small Sculpting Carving Tools

      • Hanga Sagyodai – Bench Hook

      • Bull-Nose Chisel

      • Kizuchi – Wood Mallet

      • Inking Brushes – Japanese Inking Brushes were traditionally made from Coarse Horsehair

        • Hanga Bake – Printmaking Brush

        • Surikomi – Printing and Stenciling Brush

        • Maru Bake – rounded corner brush

        • Mizu Bake – watercolor Brush

        • Magari Mizu Brush – Bent Brush

        • Dosa Brush – Sizing Brush

        • Dragon Skin – Is used to soften the tips of the horsehair bristles

      • Konaunmo Powdered Mica – Has been used for centuries by Japanese Printmakers for centuries  – gives a shimmering appearance when sprinkled over wet oil, or water-based print.

      • Hosho Paper – Hand made in Japan – Yamagooshi Family – Making it for over 300 Years

      • Sekita

      • Nori  – Brush Rice Paste – works as a dispersing agent when spread over a block gives the ink body and uniformity

      • Transparent watercolors

      • Abarrin – to burnish – transfers pigment onto the print

      • Need approx 17 colors

What type of Ink is used in Japanese Wood Block Printing

  • What are the Water Colors that are used in WoodBlock Printing?  watercolors – Holbein Paste Pigments,  Akua Liquid Pigment, Bokuju – Black Ink, Red Sumi

  • What types of Oil Base Colors are used in Wood Block Printing  – Akua Intaglio, Caligo Safe Wash Relief Ink, Gamblin Relief InkGamblin Textile Ink Outlaw Black Relief Ink

Tutorials on The Traditional Arts of Japanese Wood Block Printing


How to you Preserve Hand Painted Postcards Preservation


    • For Best Conditions and longevity  need to be kept in a Controlled environment – Like Museums

    • Always wise to keep them in a moisture-free environment – cause oils to crack – Think of the longevity of the Mummy’s from Egypt

    • When you have dampness and dark this is a breeding place for molds to begin.  They will destroy an  Old Hand Painted Postcard.

    • Insect love to eat paper, since it is made from natural materials, wool, wood,  cotton, fabrics – to a bug its thanksgiving day meal.

    • Even though we want to display our Hand Painted Postcards for the very best preservation it is the best Store away from direct sunlight –  It causes images to darken

These Two artists/ Photographers were the first to introduce the craft as a commercial business to Japan

  • Charles Parker – first to introduce to japan

  • William Parke Andrew

Hand coloring Tinting a photograph
Hand coloring Tinting a photograph


How much do Hand Painted Postcards Cost – We check current eBay Pricing and it went from  $ 1,999 – $ 1.50

Ebay’s Selection Hand Painted Postcards – 2,099 postcards