Paint Effects with Paint Shop Pro                     

 Want to try your hand at some paint effects without using any plugins, in Paint Shop Pro 7?  Here's a couple techniques for turning photos into digital paintings.

Wedding Cake House, Kennebunk, Maine

Don't worry about using technically "great" photos - sometimes, the worse the original, the cooler the end result!  (The photo above suffers from some terrible lighting conditions!)  You will need, for this tutorial, Jasc's Paint Shop Pro 7.04, and a digital image or two.  If you don't have any of your own, you can find lots of suitable ones at

Open a photo of your choice image in PSP.  For the purposes of this tutorial, it's best to use an image with dimensions no larger than 800x600, but if you'd like to work on a larger image, be prepared for longer rendering times at a few stages of development.  You might also consider working on a smaller size version of your image, to test it out, and then do a larger size for printing later.  (If you need to resize your image, go to Image/Resize. Make sure that "maintain aspect ratio" is checked, click the radio button for "pixel size"  and then set the size of one dimension you would like to resize to.  For instance, if you want your photo to be 600 pixels wide, set the width dimension at 600, and PSP will automatically resize the height dimension in the proper aspect ratio.)

Paint Shop Pro 7.04's Resize Dialog 



Now that we have our photo sized as we would like, let's see if we can turn it into a digital painting!

Your image will need to be in 24 bit colour, so should it not be, (and if it's a GIF image originally, it won't be!) go to Colors/Increase Color Depth/16 Million Colors.  If your photo is too dark, too light, needs some contrast enhancement or colour adjustment, you might want to make a quick trip to Camp Ratty before you get into some serious digital painting - you might improve your photo so much you won't want to hide it behind special effects!  

Once you are happy with the base image, go to Effects/Enhance Photo/JPEG Artifact Removal.  Okay, we aren't really going to use this tool to remove artifacts, we are going to use it to smooth out the blocky areas of colour.  Set the Strength radio button to "maximum" and the Restore crispness slider all the way to "0."

JPEG Artifact Removal Dialog 

Click OK to apply the effect.  Now click on Effects/Noise/Edge Preserving Smooth.  This tool removes noise from the interior of sections of colour, while keeping edges sharp.  We are going to crank this one all the way up to a setting of 25-30!

Edge Preserving Smooth Effect


We could stop right here and have a pretty respectable water-colour effect for our image but let's see what else we can do!

Watercolour Effect


Go to Layers/Duplicate.  This will add a new layer to your image, that is exactly the same as the original layer.  Do this twice more, resulting in a total of 4 layers in the Layer Palette. If you don't see the Layer Palette on your workspace, go to View/Toolbars/ and make sure the Layer Palette box is checked.

View Toolbars dialog


You should see the Layer Palette with 4 layers. I have renamed the layers for the purposes of this tutorial.  It's not necessary for you to do so, unless you are compulsive like me!  ;-)))  Your layers will probably be named Background, Copy of Background, Copy of Copy of Background and Copy of Copy of Copy of Background.  (And that's not a joke, either!)

PSP 7.04's Layer Palette

Turn off the top two layers by clicking on the little eye-glass symbol to the right of the layer title.  (There are red X's through mine, because I have turned them off already.)  Activate the second layer, the one directly above the Background layer, by clicking on it's layer title.  The layer title bar will change colour like mine did in the image above.)

 With this layer active, go to Effects/Artistic Effects/Topography.  This effect will produce the "paint build up" look of an oil painting, in combination with a couple other effects, and Layer Blend modes.  You can use the default setting of Width 20, Density 8 (if you've used the filter before and would like to reset it to it's default setting, click on the Reset button Reset button .)

Topography Dialog

The Width value controls the size of each "paint layer" applied by the effect.  Larger values make the "paint layers" larger.  If your image has lots of small detail and you want to show more of that, keep the width value lower.  The Density setting controls the number of "paint layers."   If you'd like to decrease the textural effect, increase the Density setting.

Topography Effect, Screen Layer Blend mode

Click OK to apply the effect.  Set the Layer Blend mode to Screen by clicking on the arrow to the right of the word "Normal" in the layer title bar for the Topography layer.   This will blend the pixels of the second layer with the pixels in the Background layer, resulting in lighter areas in the image.

Activate the third layer (the one directly above the layer we just worked on) by clicking on it's layer title bar.  Go to Effects/Artistic Effects/Brush Strokes.   This effect will add the little brush strokes one would expect to see in an oil painting.  Again, you can use the default settings here, or you can adjust them to your liking.  If the photo has lots of fine detail, like my image, you might want to decrease the Length setting, and the Bristles setting.  There are a number of Presets to try, too, which can be accessed by clicking on the arrow to the right of the word "Custom" in the dialog.


Brush Strokes Dialog

Click OK to apply.  Set the Layer Blend mode for this layer to Luminance.  You can also adjust the opacity of this layer if you like, lowering it to let more of the Topography effect from the layer below show through.

Layer Palette showing Blend modes and lowered opacity

Click on the top layer title bar to activate it.  Now we'll go to Effects/Artistic Effects/Black Pencil.  We'll use this effect to add some definition to our paint.  You probably won't want to use the default setting here... try lowering the Detail setting to about 70, and the opacity to 50.

Black Pencil dialog

Click OK to apply and set this Layer Blend mode to Overlay.  Voila!  Oil painting from photo!

If you'd like your finished image to be slightly darker and more vivid, set your final layer blend mode to Multiply or Darken.  If you'd like it lighter, try the Screen blend mode, but lower the opacity on the layer.

Save your image as a .psp format file to preserve the layers, and then Export it as a .JPG for display.  If you'd like to display your image like a properly matted and framed painting, set your background colour in your Color Palette to the matte colour you would like (I'm using white.)

Color Palette with Foreground and Background colors


 You can now go to Image/Add Borders.  Check the Symmetric box to apply borders of equal width on all sides of your image.  If you'd like to use a bottom-weighted border as a professional framer might do, uncheck Symmetric and make the bottom width slightly larger than the others.

Add Borders dialog

Now you can add a frame.  Go to Image/Picture Frame and choose one of Paint Shop Pro's built-in frames (or you can add your own.)  If none of PSP's native frames appeal to you, Joe Cilinceon has a very nice selection of realistic wood and metal frames which you can use in the PSP Frame tool.  You can download those frames at Nightingail's site .

All done!



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