DIY: Convert a Photograph Into a Painting — Plus a $700 Giveaway Prize!

June 24, 2013


This post is sponsored by Fresh Paint — the canvas for your big ideas.

fresh paint logo

Photos and text by Lindsey Johnson.

One thing I’ve always wished I could do is paint. I’ve done my share of finger painting and watercolors, but never anything more than that. Why? I suppose it’s because I’ve been a little intimidated by blank canvases, myriad tubes and jars of paints, and rows of brushes I don’t know how to use. I haven’t really known where to start!

Because painting is a talent I’ve always admired in others and something I’ve wanted to try, I was super curious when I heard about the Fresh Paint app from Microsoft. I tend to be more comfortable with a camera than a paintbrush in my hand, but this app is helping me get my paint on! Fresh Paint is a free app that is optimized for Windows 8 and RT and allows you to confront that blank canvas with confidence — or even turn an existing photograph into a painting. Exciting, right?

But mostly, I found it’s really fun to use!

fresh-paint-app-ocean-painting ocean

I’ve had a wonderful time familiarizing myself with Fresh Paint and creating my own works of art. Here are some of my attempts — promise not to laugh!

fresh-paint-app-yellow fresh-paint-app-sand-ocean-sky-painting ocean beach sky

Ladies and Gentlemen, can I just tell you? Fresh Paint is really amazing! It’s as close as you can get to actual painting in a digital application. You can use your fingers, a special stylus/brush, or a mouse. And creating this way allows endless freedom to make all the mistakes and far-out attempts you’d like — because you can blank the canvas at any time!

Honestly, my kids have been just as enamored with Fresh Paint as I have. And total bonus: I love that my kids can paint all they want without the mess. : )


Let me take you through the super simple process of creating a painting using Fresh Paint — and you could win the tablet featured in this post!


This is the start menu. You just tap on Fresh Paint to open it up.


The first screen you see is this. You can swipe across the screen and check out some coloring packs you can add on — they do cost a few dollars. But there’s plenty you can do without the add ons if you just want to experiment.


To start a new painting, touch the yellow square and it will take you right into a new, blank canvas.


This is what the screen will look like.  It’s all ready for you to start painting!


On the right side is the color palette.


There are some colors ready to go, or you can tap on the color wheel to create a custom color.


On the left side you find the different tools and mediums — everything from an eraser, dropper and blur tool to a pencil and pastels to different brushes with adjustable widths. So many options to choose from!


Tapping the Surface icon in the upper left hand corner will bring up a new screen which allows you to select various textured canvases and papers. You can also decide between different color backgrounds as well as an option for selecting a photo background.


On the bottom right hand corner are other options for creating a blank canvas, taking a new photo with the camera, selecting a saved image, and Save As to save your creation. I’ll get to the part about using a photo in just a minute because that is my favorite part of this app.


The color palette is fantastic. You can either choose a color that’s already on the palette, or create your own by mixing two or more colors together, or using the customize tool as I mentioned above.


As you mix colors together, the empty wells fill with the new color you’re creating.


Also, you’ll notice the brushes all fill up with the color(s) you choose.


In this picture you can see how the wide brush strokes look with the combination of yellow and blue paints.


By touching the brush to the water pot on the right side of the palette, the brush is “washed” clean.


The palette can also be washed clean by touching the bubbly palette icon just above the color wheel.

Little Red Riding Hood |

Okay, now that we’re familiar with the basics of Fresh Paint, I’m going to show you how to turn a photograph into a painting. For this I’m using a photo of darling Betty Blair from the Red Riding Hood episode of Olive Us.


I’ll open up a new canvas and decide which textured background I’d like — paper or canvas. Then I tap on the photo icon at the bottom of the screen and it allows me to choose a picture from my photo library.

fresh-paint-app-upload-image fresh-paint-app-rotate-photo fresh-paint-app-betty-red-riding-hood

Once I’ve chosen the picture, it opens up in the app. I can rotate it or leave it as is and it’s all ready for me to use. To remove the dotted lines, I just tap outside of the picture and it goes away and I’m ready to get painting!


Now here’s the really cool part: the picture turns to “wet” paint in the app. This means you can choose the size and style of brush you want and create brush strokes using the colors, lines, and shapes from the photograph.

fresh-paint-app-betty-closeup fresh-paint-app-betty-closeup-paint

This picture of Betty has some pretty fine details in it which makes it a little tricky, but I knew it would look fantastic as a little painting and I was up for the challenge. The app allows you to zoom in pretty close (using two fingers and spreading them over the screen) to add in detailed brush strokes.


Just by touching my stylus to the screen, you can see how the surface of the picture turns to wet paint. Because the paint is still “wet” I can make brush strokes in any direction and the paint follows — just like real paint.


In this stroke, I went a little too far. No worries — there’s an undo for that!


If you want to completely erase something, even from the photo background itself, that’s where you’d use the eraser tool. I love this feature! As I was getting acquainted with Fresh Paint, I used Undo quite a bit. : )


It’s easy to toggle between the paint screen and the tool screen. You just swipe from the left corner and down and the tools will appear. To get back to the paint screen and your project, just touch the screen again. If it’s your first time using the app, it might take a little getting used to.


It’s kind of difficult to see, but this is my painting about half finished. The left side has been painted and the right side still looks like a photograph.


You also have another option when turning a photograph into a painting.

Say you had a photograph you wanted to use as a template of sorts and create your own painting on top of it. You wouldn’t want to use the “wet” paint feature for that. Instead use the “dry” paint feature by tapping on the fan on the lower right corner or in the Surface screen. I found drying the paint between steps to be a good thing so I didn’t mess up any areas that I felt were perfect.


The dropper tool is another great function. If you are familiar with Photoshop, then you are probably already familiar with this tool. Let’s say you wanted to pick a paint color from the photograph or to match an area you’d already painted and were coming back to. Swipe to open the Tool screen and then tap on the dropper. Tap on the picture to close it and the tool will appear on your picture. You can drag it with your finger or the stylus to move it to the area and the specific color you want. If there are a lot of colors showing up in one area, you might want to zoom in first.

fresh-paint-app-betty-painting betty

After zooming in and paying special attention to every detail, I turned the entire photograph into a lovely little painting of Betty. Easy as can be! I think it will make a fun gift for the Blair family when they move to their new home.


Here’s a side by side “before” and “after” so you can compare. What do you think? Would you be up for trying something like this? Very doable, right? Keep reading for a chance to win!




Now it’s your turn. One reader will win a Windows 8 ASUS Vivo Tab RT with a keyboard — that’s a $600 value! Plus, the prize includes a digital Sensu paintbrush, valued at $50, and one 12×18 canvas from That’s quite a prize!

To enter, visit Fresh Paint and leave a comment below — I’d love to hear what you’d like to create with this awesome app. The winner will be announced on Friday. Good luck!


Quiana is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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1 Heather June 24, 2013 at 8:44 am

I’ve always wanted to oil paint…this would be a good option for me and my budget!

2 Marianne June 24, 2013 at 8:46 am

WOW! That is wonderful!

3 samantha June 24, 2013 at 8:55 am

it looks great, especially for the kids. Wish it worked with my apple products without needing windows but oh well. Hopefully i win and it won’t be a problem! lol

4 Noelle G. June 24, 2013 at 8:57 am

What a wonderful giveaway!!!

5 Jenni Bailey June 24, 2013 at 9:02 am

What an awesome giveaway! I have a ton of pictures from our family vacation to my hometown in Vermont last year that I would love to convert to colorful paintings. That would be just lovely!

6 Meggan June 24, 2013 at 9:06 am

Paintings of all my kids…that would be a wonderful addition to our home!

7 Alicia June 24, 2013 at 9:07 am

What a fun idea! I took a photoshop class this past winter and one of our assignments was to use photoshop to make a photograph look like a painting. It was a lot of fun and cool to compare the two once I was finished.

8 Lynn June 24, 2013 at 9:09 am

This looks terrific! I have always wanted to paint – something to add to my quilting – and this looks like such fun!

9 Erin J. June 24, 2013 at 9:11 am

Wow, this looks like a fun way to spend a rainy weekend.

10 Nicola de Vries June 24, 2013 at 9:19 am

This looks amazing- I have three talented artistic kids but we only have Mac computers- the web site only mentioned the Windows platform- do you know if they are planning a Mac version?
Perhaps if I win I can use the tablet and no problems!!!:)
Thanks, Nicky x

11 Lindsey Johnson June 25, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Nicola, I haven’t seen a Mac version and I’m not sure if there’s one in the works or not. Sorry! But I hope they do because it really is a cool app.

12 Julia June 24, 2013 at 9:31 am

My family would adore this.

13 Lori June 24, 2013 at 9:52 am

That’s way cool! This would be a great thing to engage in with the kids this summer!

14 Dale June 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

So cool! I’ve always wanted to paint– this would be a great start!

15 Beck June 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

Wow, love this app and would do a family portrait.

16 Sarah June 24, 2013 at 10:09 am

With five beautiful children and living in the mountains, my possibilities for inspiration are endless! Thanks for the tutorial on a super cool app!

17 Ellen June 24, 2013 at 10:13 am

Love how it avoids the mess – especially for the younger set! Also prevents me from worrying about opening tubes of paint that won’t last between now and the next time I actually get around to painting again. So cool! Thanks for sharing.

18 wolfie June 24, 2013 at 10:16 am

Love this, a painting of our 1 year old twins for our living room!

19 Angela June 24, 2013 at 10:22 am

I used to love painting but stopped when I had kids because it was so time consuming, but this Fresh Paint looks like it’s do-able!!!

20 k June 24, 2013 at 10:24 am

That is the COOLEST app ever!

21 Deirdre June 24, 2013 at 10:25 am

I took a photography class in high school and during one lesson we painted over our developed black and white photos with ink. I’d love to use the feature that you described to take some of my black and white photos and enhance them. Thanks for the chance to win.

22 Christina June 24, 2013 at 10:26 am

Beautiful. There is a seven year old artist in this house who would adore this!

23 Ginger J. June 24, 2013 at 10:31 am

So cool! Can’t wait to try this!

24 Jessica Anne June 24, 2013 at 10:38 am

I have a picture of my puppy that I know would look great as a painting!

25 Cindy G June 24, 2013 at 10:44 am

Great giveaway!!! I would do a picture of my Grandsons!

26 shadygrove June 24, 2013 at 10:45 am

I would paint portraits! This looks so fun, what a great giveaway!

27 Amy Thompson June 24, 2013 at 10:48 am

I love the idea of letting my kids loose with something like this; it looks amazing!

28 Moora Baroody June 24, 2013 at 10:52 am

What a fun app! I’d love to create paintings from my children’s photos.

29 Olivia June 24, 2013 at 10:52 am

The phtotos Grimm our Adirondacks vacation would look gorgeous as paintings. I’m always seeing scenes I would like to paint, but I don’t have the skills. This would be perfect for me.

30 Mary June 24, 2013 at 10:54 am

WWVVGD! What would Vincent Van Gogh do!

31 tara June 24, 2013 at 10:56 am

we tried playing with fresh paint at the local microsoft store and it was sooooo satisfying.

32 Marita June 24, 2013 at 11:03 am

I would love to play around with that!

33 Kim June 24, 2013 at 11:04 am

I’d love to convert the one picture I have of all my kids smiling converted into a painting. Thanks for the giveaway!

34 Heather June 24, 2013 at 11:13 am

This looks like so much fun!

35 Kimberly June 24, 2013 at 11:16 am

That is so cool!

36 Sascha June 24, 2013 at 11:24 am

WOW, i’d never heard of this app! I imagine that it would be a great creative outlet and having 3 kids, it would be great for them with no mess!! I’d love to see what my kids would create!

37 Bonnie Walton June 24, 2013 at 11:25 am

I love the look of these “photo/paintings.” I would love to use it to make a piece of art for our home out of a recent family photo (back before I was bald…). It would be such a treasured piece!

38 Sherra June 24, 2013 at 11:27 am

I would “paint” a picture I took on a recent trip to Big Sur!

39 Charlotte Thomson June 24, 2013 at 11:27 am

My grandfather passed away 2 years ago and loved to paint… this reminds me so much of him! What a great app and giveaway!

40 Mariann June 24, 2013 at 11:32 am

I have tons of photographs I want to get up on my walls, but too many photographs overwhelm a household. Turning special memories into paintings sounds like the perfect solution!

41 Alex June 24, 2013 at 11:35 am

It would be so fun to try to create paintings of my family!

42 piia June 24, 2013 at 11:47 am

This is amazing. We have so many pictures from our family vacations to sweden. I would love to turn them into paintings.

43 Mandi June 24, 2013 at 11:52 am

Painting has always seemed so messy and expensive. This app takes out the mess and the cost of canvas, paints, and brushes. I would love to learn to paint on this app!

44 Mika June 24, 2013 at 11:54 am

This looks like so much fun! My kids recently got creative with watercolors on the wall – fun fact, watercolor stains pretty well. This would be a significantly less messy option!

45 jessie hansen June 24, 2013 at 11:57 am

My kids beg me to paint all the time but it’s such a mess. This would be a fun alternative, eh?

46 shannon stolfo June 24, 2013 at 12:10 pm

What a fun app…maybe i can now remove all the kids’ “grooming apps” and introduce them to something more open and creative..thanks!!

47 Selina June 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm

What an inspiring app. It’s always fun to try a new creative tool. I’d love to practice painting with this!

48 Miet June 24, 2013 at 12:25 pm

That is so cool! I have been looking for a nice art app for my daughter. This will do!

49 Cammie June 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I love it! What a great learning tool and fun entertainment!

50 Gillian Helm June 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm

i’ve always admired painters… now i can at least pretend to be one, too! nice giveaway!

51 Jill Jones June 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm

can’t wait to win! ;)

52 Megan June 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I love that this takes away some of the intimidation of painting!

53 Leana June 24, 2013 at 12:54 pm

This is so great. And of course I’d turn it right over to my 9 yo to create some amazing artwork. She draws really sweet owls that would be a perfect Fresh Paint project.

54 Cathi June 24, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Such a cool idea!

55 Erin June 24, 2013 at 12:59 pm

That is really, really neat. I would paint a landscape and print it for my bedroom. And/or “give” my daughter painting “lessons” with it–for when I don’t want to go the messy-real-paints route.

56 Ris June 24, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Oooh looks like the possibilities are almost endless!

57 Tiffanie June 24, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Betty looks so sweet.
I would paint a landscape for an escape.

58 Annie D June 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm

So fun! I’d love to try it out on some of my travel photos!

59 Sandie June 24, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Wow! Thanks for hosting a great giveaway! I’d love to use Freshpaint to paint some photos from my travels and perhaps use it as a template before painting the real thing! Possibilities are endless!

60 claire el June 24, 2013 at 1:30 pm

So awesome! I’ve been looking for the perfect art app!

61 Donna McMorris June 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

We have a budding artist that would canvas our walls if she had this app!

62 Elizabeth Sorenson June 24, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I love this app and the Windows 8. So economical for the accountant in me. I would love to paint landscapes but had no clue where to start and what to buy. This app would make it a snap!

63 sara June 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Wow, this is one cool giveaway! I would love to paint the beach for my kids and hang it in their toy room!

64 Jenn S June 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm

i would love to make some paintings of my son!

65 Megan June 24, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I would love to “paint” some of the landscapes from my summer abroad in college. Europe is such a beautiful place!

66 Cindy J June 24, 2013 at 2:07 pm

What a fun AP! Going to download it right now. :)

67 Dianna June 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Wow, this is an amazing tool and I would love to play with it!

68 bdaiss June 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Oh how fun! I too am always a bit overwhelmed by a blank canvas. But I’d love to make my own little Degas out of a few of my daughters ballet photos! Thanks for the chance!

69 Crystal June 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I love to take it to the beach and paint the ocean!

70 Jenny June 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I’d love to try recreating some of my family’s old black and white photos in color.

71 Kate Turner June 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm

This is amazing! I would want to do something cool with one of the hundreds of photos I took during my study abroad in Great Britain. Thanks!

72 Danielle Blake June 24, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Neat giveaway!

73 Melissa June 24, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I’m not an artist, but would love to give this app a try!

74 Leah Claire June 24, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I love that this app combines something that feels more like a traditional painting tool (the paintbrush stylus) with the screen. And it seems like it would be way less intimidating to try out the process of painting, knowing that you won’t be wasting paint or canvas if it’s a complete wreck. Very cool! Thanks for sharing.

75 kristi June 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Wow, this is cool! Like you, I admire folks who have a talent for painting, so this would be a fun way for me to experiment. And this would be a run-away hit with my kids!

76 Sarah June 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Oh wow! I need a new computer very much, and this would really be great for me because we have space issues in our house. I’m 5 months pregnant with my second child and looking for really brilliant gift ideas for this holiday season because I deliver in November and want to have shopping complete before then! I’d make beautiful picture gifts with Fresh Paint for my whole family! All my fingers crossed here. :)

77 D'Aundra Wallace June 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm

It’s really amazing what can be done digitally these days. This is so neat! If the option is available to easily print these works of art, I would definitely use them for making custom greeting cards and/or event invitations for family and friends. Of course it’d be equally fun to utilize for wall art and gifts.

78 susan June 24, 2013 at 2:52 pm

This sounds amazing and would be a wonderful way to remember our summer memories!

79 Janay June 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Would love one! Wonderful :)

80 Georgia Kershner June 24, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Very cool!

81 Celia June 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Count me as someone who would love to paint and who has no idea where to start! A painting app also seems like a good (non-messy) option for those of us with toddlers!

82 Becky Fried June 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I’d like to give this to my mom who’s going to be illustrating children’s books that my husband writes. This would be awesome for that!

83 Niki June 24, 2013 at 3:54 pm

This would be a great way to experiment mess-free with keen toddlers!

84 Paige W June 24, 2013 at 4:03 pm

What a cool idea for an app! What will they come up with next?! :)

85 annie@mostlovelythings June 24, 2013 at 4:11 pm

This is amazing…i guess it was just a matter of time, but wow, so amazing. I love that last image side by side. Very very cool!

86 Jill June 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Awesome ap!

87 kim roper June 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm

That’s pretty cool. I like how it even looks like you can see the texture of the “canvas” peaking through sometimes. Looks surprisingly like a painting. As a photographer, it would be fun to experiment turning some still lives/portraits/landscapes/family pictures into paintings. Great giveaway!

88 Tian June 24, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I would like to paint flowers, lots of flowers

89 Tara June 24, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Great tutorial.

90 Lynne P. June 24, 2013 at 5:11 pm

oooh..this is so cool! i would love to win!

91 Morgan June 24, 2013 at 5:21 pm

This is such a wonderful concept and I can’t wait to try it! Great idea for kids too. It would be fun to add a gallery wall with these.

92 Julie June 24, 2013 at 5:30 pm

What a great way to experiment with painting without the fear of messing up a canvas! I love it! And love that special stylus paintbrush. Super cool. Fingers crossed!!

93 Amanda G June 24, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Looks like so much fun!

94 TENN June 24, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Looks like fun for all ages.

95 Adriana June 24, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Oh my God, I will try to paint the Sistine Chapel with Fresh Paint! :)

96 Tracy Davis June 24, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Wow! I love this app!

97 jodi June 24, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Looks like so much fun. I would love to play!

98 Andrea June 24, 2013 at 5:59 pm

What a neat app! I have always been so intimidated to paint, so this would be perfect for me!

99 Callie June 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm

This is such a fun idea! I have never been very competent with painting but with this app it looks so easy. I’d love to convert a family portrait to a painting and have some lovely scenery shots from our family farm that would look amazing in paint! Such a brilliant prize! Thank you for the opportunity to enter :)

100 Jessie June 24, 2013 at 6:24 pm


101 susan Reynolds June 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm

i love it! I still am saving my ducats to find a portrait artist to paint a photo of my daughter but how cool is this plus my 6 yr old would love it. thanks love cool apps!

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