Learn About Negative (+Coloring Page Printable)

posted in: Learning | 3

bphotoart-learn-about-negativeWorking my way through the Photography ABCs has been fun!  We’re at letter N this week, so I thought we’d talk about negative.  There are a number of different meanings for the word negative as relates to photography.  It can be the actual film negative, or a description of how the image is negative rather than positive (dark tones are light, light tones are dark), or can even refer to negative space (a design term referring to empty space in an image).

Dictionary.com didn’t really reference the photographic and design terms at all, despite having more than 30 entries about “negative” — here are two:

adj. expressing or containing negation or denial;

noun. a negative statement, answer, word, gesture, etc.

So I turned to the online version of my favorite childhood book set – The Britannica Encyclopedia.  Here’s the definition I found there:

Negative,  photographic image that reproduces the bright portions of the photographed subject as dark and the dark parts as light areas. Negatives are usually formed on a transparent material, such as plastic or glass. Exposure of sensitized paper through the negative, done either by placing the negative and paper in close contact or by projecting the negative image onto the paper, reverses these tones and produces a positive photographic print.

Much more helpful!

Now, to put that in layman’s terms.  Negative is a “backwards” image, with the dark tones being light and the light tones being dark.  Everything is reversed.  You may also be familiar with the term “inverted” — all the tones are inverted, or inverse from real life.  Before digital, the film we put into cameras, once exposed, was developed and called “negatives” — because the tiny images on the film were “backwards” or opposite of how they look in real life. Here’s what a negative might look like (see below).  Can you tell what these images are?

film-negative
Images used with permission, from Pixabay.com

And the same strip of developed film, if it were printed in positive.

film-positive
Images used with permission, from Pixabay.com

Pretty cool, huh?  Would you have guessed that the inverse of yellow is blue, or the inverse of magenta is cyan?  This is bringing me back to the days of color theory in college.  …Don’t worry, I won’t get all technical here.

I have two ideas for activities related to today’s term, negative:

  1. negative matching / color guess game
  2. negative coloring activity

Okay, let’s get on with the activities.  You can modify them based on the age and ability of your child, as usual. Or, if you come up with another idea, go for it! Just make sure to share in the comments so others can benefit from your genius!

Negative Matching / Color Guess game

This one is pretty simple.  I’m going to share some images here… that have already been paired — positive and negative versions of the same image.  The goal for younger children?  Matching the two versions.  Their job is to pair the positive photo of a daisy with the negative rendition.

Want something more complex?  Look at any of these images, and try to guess what the colors would be in the inverse image.  Would the white daisy be black?  You can check your answers by looking at the negative version of the image.

Here are the positive versions (all used with permission, courtesy of Pixabay.com):

And here are the negative versions (again, all used with permission, courtesy of Pixabay.com):

Pretty neat, huh?

Negative Coloring Activity

Take a coloring page,and instead of coloring it according to real life, try coloring it as you might see a negative.  I’ve converted a few of the images above into coloring sheets for you, so you have something with a guide image.  If you have older children, it might be fun to have them try drawing freehand and then coloring in their own creations.

You can download a PDF file with all four coloring pages here: Negative Coloring Pages PDF

Digital “Negative” – Inverse Image Experiment

You can turn a picture into a negative with different software already on your computer (for more details, read this article: How do I make a negative of a picture?).  Basically, you can open the image in a program and invert the colors, like I’ll do below with Microsoft Paint.

Open the image.  Press crtl-A to select all, and then right-click and select “Invert color,” like I’ve shown below.  This will let you show your kids any image in “negative” form!

photo-filmstrip-invert-color

I’ve also done the work for you, with this lovely series of images on a filmstrip by Gerd Altmann (Image from Pixabay.com. Used with permission).  You can click on either image below to view it in a larger format.

Well, that about covers it for this week’s activities.  Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter O. You might also enjoy revisiting our previous activity where we learned about macro.


The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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3 Responses

  1. I never would have guessed the negative color of yellow is blue. Very interesting, thanks for sharing with Small Victories Sunday linkup. Pinned to our linkup board. Thanks for hosting with us!

  2. […] N is for Negative – Learn About Negative (plus coloring page printable) […]

  3. […] I bet you can come up with some other ways to learn about overexposure.  Let me know your creative ideas in the comments below!  You might also be interested in my post where we learned about exposure (both over and underexposure). Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter P. You might also enjoy revisiting our previous activity where we learned about negatives. […]

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