2007 SLP Curriculum Guide #16 Photo Painting
Curriculum Guide Index

In Guide #12 one technique presented was use of the Retouch Tool Saturation Up/Down where I desaturated the photograph. In this guide we will be exploring two ways to paint on a photograph which is an artistic technique for presenting photographs. Very simply one uses a black and white photograph and paints it or paints part of it.


If you have a black and white photograph all you need to do is use it. You might first want to enhance it (brighten and sharpen it) use whatever technique you choose.

There are three ways to make a colored photograph a black and white photograph, either by desaturating it using the Saturation Up/Down, Using the Smart Photo Fix, or using Greyscale. Any one of these ways will produce the same end result of a black and white photograph.

  1. Saturation Up/Down Retouch Tool.
    • On a colored photograph (remember to duplicate the original) set the retouch tool to desaturate and leave all values at their maximum. Then with a large sized brush just paint over the photograph until it becomes desaturated or a greyscale photograph.
  2. Smart Photo Fix
    • After enhancing the photograph reset the Photo Fix values to Default and then set the Desaturate switch all the way to the left to create the greyscale photograph.
  3. GreyScale
    • Use Image || Greyscale which first sets the photograph size to a 256 colored file. Then use Image || Increase Color Depth to RGB 8bits/channel or 64k colors.


The two different ways we will explore are using the Retouch tool Change to Target and the technique of erasing the part of the photograph we want painted to reveal the color of that part. Each way has its own advantages and either way can be quite effective in how a photograph might be presented.
  1. Change To Target
    • Choose the Color wanted for a part of the photograph. (In Illustration #1 I wanted the back curtain green, and the paints on my brother blue and his sweater a blue with a red strip.)
    • Use a brush size just a tad smaller than the area to be painted.
    • Set Hardness to around 50 and experiment with Opacity. Opacity at 100% creates a very sharp color while lower opacity values particularly around 50% will allow more of the gradation of color following the grey color gradations to be displayed in the colored area.
    • It often is best to check the Continuous box so that you have a continuous color. Otherwise repeated painting over the area may darken that area more than wanted.
    • Then paint the area(s) wanted.

    A technique that one also can use, is to first duplicate the black and white photograph twice and just paint the top layer. Then, one can also lower the opacity of that layer to reduce the colors (not the black/white parts). This technique can also help to balance the color results.

  2. Erasing an Area
    • First, take a colored photograph and make it 'GreyScale' and then increase its color depth back to 8 bits (65k) colors.
    • Then duplicate the original colored photograph, copy the greyscale and paste it as a new layer on the original photograph (Ctrl + L)
    • Set values for the eraser particularly Opacity to less than 100%. One can also set Hardness somewhat. (I usually set opacity to around 50%. Often I first draw a selection around the area I want to erase and then set my brush size to larger than that area and just click once. I can click a second time if I want more of the lower colored layer to show.)
    • Erase the area and the color from the lower layer will be revealed.


    Painting photographs is a lot of fun and can be a very neat way to present a photo. In my last illustration, I took a picture of my wife with her amorillus flowers and wanted to highlight the flowers. In the first photograph I used the same photo I used in a previous guide and colored some of the areas.

    The primary difference between the two approaches is that erasing an area reveals the colors of the original photograph, though one can reduce their intensity by setting opacity to a low value. The second approach of Change to Target allows one to select their own colors for painting again tending to keep opacity low to get the gradation of the area when colored.

    Experiment and have fun.


  1. When completing a tutorial or series of tutorials, and having placed them upon your web page, post in the SLP Forum your completed work using this layout:
    • Name or Screen Name.
    • Web Site URL.
    • Version of PSP using.
    • List of Tutorials completed.
  2. Post your Work:
    • List what you did, feature, options used, values.
    • Indicate steps taken and results.
    • Indicate things you found interesting, worthwhile and any other comments.
  3. Comment on any particular techniques you used or discovered, any particular results you found perhaps by accident and any ideas you have for creating a particular result.
  4. Post any questions and comments in the SLP Forum.

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