September 30, 2011

DIY Fri: "Paint By Number" Using Photoshop

Everyone remembers paint by numbers right? Well, it feels like this style of art is making a comeback lately in the design world. I know that I'm super excited about seeing this nostalgic painting style popping up across my favorite design blogs. I thought I'd join in the frenzy by posting a tutorial on how to make a picture  into a paint by number using Photoshop software. I chose to do a picture of these Top Pot doughnuts my boyfriend bought a while ago! Mmm!

Before we get started I want to suggest using a very simple photo. This works best, and is the easiest to start off with. As you gain more experience with this method you can continue to try pictures with more depth ad objects. Also, a picture with minimal colors is easier as well. 

Open your Photoshop software. Go to the top left corner and click File: Open (or Ctrl+O ) and select the picture you want to turn into a paint by number.

Now you want to adjust the brightness and contrast of the photo. On the top selection bar click Image: Adjustments: Shadows/highlights, as seen above.

The Shadows/Highlight box will pop up and you can adjust it from there. I usually just go with the selection that pops up, but you can mess around with this. When you like what you see in the preview, click ok. Also, under the image: adjustments menu there are other options you can use to adjust your photo to you liking. Examples: Brightness/Contrast, Exposure, etc.

Your photo is now adjusted to what you chose in the previous step. In the selection toolbar to your left, click the marquee tool (or selection tool) and make sure it is rectangle. Select the entire picture end to end, with this tool. You can see in the photo above the chopped up line around the entire photo.Copy  (ctrl+c) and then paste (ctrl+v). This will give you a duplicate layer.

You can now see two layers in the Layers selection menu to your right. You can rename it if you like by clicking on it.

Make sure that your new layer that you just copied and paste is selected. This should always be the top most layer because this is what you are turning into the paint by number.  In the top menu bar click Filter: Filter Gallery. This will open up the filter gallery for you. *Side Note: before this step, make sure that the two selection colors on the selection tool bar to your left has white on the bottom and black on top. You can see mine has black on the bottom by accident. 

In the Filter Gallery chose the tab that says "Sketch" and then choose the filter option "Photocopy".  Adjust the detail and darkness until it forms the best outline of your image. My Detail slider is on 4 and my Darkness slider is on 50. Click OK. *Tip: the bottom left corner of the filter gallery box gives you the option to zoom out to view the entire picture. 

 Now you have just turned your top layer into the "sketch" filter you saw in the preview before. You want to make this top layer invisible by clicking the eye in the box next to the layer. My example above shows this in the Layers selection menu to the right. Then, in the left Tool Selection box, click on the dropper  tool. Drag the mouse over your image and click it on the first color you want to start with. I started with the pink doughnut in the top left. You can see that the top color changed to the pink I selected.

Make the top layer visible again by re-clicking that small box next to the top layer, to make the eye reappear. Zoom into your photo (Ctrl+; zoom out is Ctrl-). Choose the paintbrush tool that is under the dropper tool you just used. Select your brush size up at the top. I suggest using a smaller solid brush to outline with (like a 13 or 19) and then maybe a larger brush to fill in.

I also would suggest changing the opacity of the top layer you are working on every now and then to see if you are outlining/filling in correctly. Also, you can just make it invisible and then visible again.

 Once your are done with one color, move on to the next. Make sure you are covering up the outlines, and filling in the entire shape. This is very time consuming, but so is paint by number! The end result is super cool and it's worth it! When everything is colored in you can merge the layers, or flatten the image, and save as a .jpg.


  1. Wow! That's looks so cool. I don't have photoshop but I see more and more people using it and I wonder how much longer I can avoid it...

  2. Emma, I'm obsessed with Photoshop! I have been trying to use it more for creative things than just editing photos lately. You should get it.. there's a lighter version that's not as expensive.



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