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 Tauna W. June 24, 2013 at 6:26 pm

So cool! I love the idea of changing photographs to paintings. Then you could have them printed on canvas and well…so simple.

2 ellie June 24, 2013 at 6:35 pm

No-mess paint sounds really good!

3 sarah r. June 24, 2013 at 6:50 pm

i would paint portraits. awesome giveaway!

4 Fer June 24, 2013 at 7:08 pm

I used to paint house portraits in watercolor…I’d like to revive that practice using this app!

5 Veronika June 24, 2013 at 7:12 pm

This is so neat! How fun to be able to do that!

6 dianne anderson June 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm

Wow, I would love to try my hand at painting using Fresh Paint. I would try a flower first.

7 Carrie Ripple June 24, 2013 at 7:26 pm

I would love to take a picture from my recent trip to Paris and make it into a painting for my lovely friend that hosted me. I think this is the perfect app to turn this into a reality.

8 Alicia O June 24, 2013 at 7:40 pm

I would love to use this to make paintings of my cats. Perhaps they would want to help. :)

9 Kathrin June 24, 2013 at 7:51 pm

That is so awesome! My daughter will love it. Thanks so much for sharing!!

10 Amy Jo Schenewark June 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Wonderful! Great give-away!

11 heather f June 24, 2013 at 8:01 pm

looks like fun! I have 2 grandsons and I’d love to make “art” for their rooms

12 Elayne June 24, 2013 at 8:05 pm

I’m intrigued.

13 Leslie June 24, 2013 at 8:06 pm

This looks amazing! I would use it to transform some family pics from our recent trip to the coast. Plus, what a treat it would be to see what my littles could create with this app! Thanks so much for the great giveaway!

14 Allison Profeta June 24, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Wow! This looks like so much fun!! I know my boys and I would have so much fun with the Fresh Paint app! I would love to take on some of my Instagram photos and turn them into paintings! For my boys, I would love to see their original creations! Definitely looks like an awesome family app!

15 Ashley in MD June 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I would love to have this! I don’t own a tablet yet, but I’d love to have one to share with my family. I can only imagine how great it would be for my toddler to play with something like this. He’d love it!

16 Jacquelyn Moses June 24, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Wow! What an awesome program! I would use this program when I’m hiding from my kids in the bathroom. I’m sure that without having to worry about drying times I could really get some good practice in – in 5 minute increments.

17 lilcg June 24, 2013 at 9:04 pm

I think my daughter would love playing around with this

18 Stella June 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Wow, that looks so cool! I am a terrible artist, but maybe this app will help me fake it… ;)

19 Becky June 24, 2013 at 9:12 pm

that is absolutely spectacular! this is probably the most versatile app i’ve yet to see. thanks for highlighting it!

20 Kathryn H June 24, 2013 at 9:17 pm

That is fabulous. My girls would especially love that.

21 Nicole in Tucson June 24, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Thank you for the opportunity to win.

22 michelle June 24, 2013 at 9:40 pm

my kids LOVE to paint. I love to see their creations, but grow weary of cleaning up the mess. We could all be happy with this!!!

23 Brittney Crabtree June 24, 2013 at 9:59 pm

I love the idea of my kids being able to play with “paint” without all the mess. I would love to create some paintings out of photos as well.

24 Tala June 24, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Oh my! I would make paintings galore!

25 Susan Dunnegan June 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm

This looks amazing! I have so many ideas for this app and the kids would probably do way more than I can even imagine!

26 Cheyenne June 24, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Neat! I would do paintings of my pets and my family. And I love Canvaspop! I ordered an Instagram print that turned out great– I would love to order prints of my Fresh Paint paintings, too.

27 Anne M. June 24, 2013 at 10:25 pm

My daughter wants to be an artist and I think she’d go nuts over this idea. And I’d go nuts over not having a mess and spending lots of $ on supplies. Brilliant and amazing!

28 janeannechovy June 24, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Oooooo. Super-cool.

29 Nicole June 24, 2013 at 10:42 pm

So fun! I would love to do a family portrait with this. As soon as our tablet returns home from it’s trip abroad with my husband, I’m adding this app. Thanks!

30 Chloe R. June 24, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Looks like fun – I’d love to try it out! It would be great for traveling as well, to capture some of the scenery in a digital sketchbook without actually bringing art supplies along.

31 Arika June 24, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I already know what photo I’d paint! So cool.

32 terry w June 24, 2013 at 11:19 pm

This looks like so much fun! So many projects come to mind!

33 annie June 24, 2013 at 11:59 pm

that’s way cool! i would love a creative outlet like this.

34 calinai June 25, 2013 at 1:07 am

all the fun of oil painting with out the smell of chemical ;)

35 ester June 25, 2013 at 2:44 am

looksvery cool! perfect for painting sights while travelling. so much more handy than dragging canvas and paint and brushes and all that :)

36 Betty Behrens June 25, 2013 at 4:47 am

Oh, wonderful! I would love to try my hand at an abstract, but maybe based on a “classic”. Thanks.

37 Erin June 25, 2013 at 5:30 am

Wow — very cool! It looks like quite a learning curve, but once you have it… think of all you can do.

38 susan June 25, 2013 at 6:03 am

Be still my beating heart. First thanks for a wonderful tutorial! I would love to win and use this tablet and app plus my 3 kids with Down syndrome, ages 25, 21 and 16 would love creating art on this amazing app. Fingers crossed.

BTW, what genius created this app?

39 Angel June 25, 2013 at 6:18 am

I love the photo to painting aspect.

40 Kristin June 25, 2013 at 6:22 am

So cool!

41 Wendy June 25, 2013 at 6:28 am

How cool. I love painting funky “outsider” art of dogs. Fresh paint would be so much fun to play with….

42 Denise June 25, 2013 at 6:35 am

This may be the only way I could create a painting that is easy on the eyes! Would love a chance to play with one; thank you for the opportunity.

43 Denise June 25, 2013 at 6:55 am

My teen daughters would love this app!

44 JC June 25, 2013 at 6:57 am

Oh my gosh this is amazing! Thank you. :)

45 Edie June 25, 2013 at 6:58 am

I would love to use it in scrapbooking. Also, my daughter loves to draw. I think she would like it. Thanks for the chance.

46 Zhaleh June 25, 2013 at 7:16 am

This is so neat. I’ve recently gotten back into painting-very poorly-and this sort of thing would really help me visualize what I want to do.

47 Marcie June 25, 2013 at 7:17 am

Wow, what an amazing opportunity! Thanks so much!

48 Quiana June 25, 2013 at 7:17 am

I’ve been seeing this app everywhere – it seems very intuitive! I’d love to do a print of my almost 3 year old daughter in time for her upcoming birthday in August.

49 Trinidad June 25, 2013 at 7:43 am

there are digital paintbrushes already?? <3
i'm a photographer and i once told a friend of mine i did not know how to draw, to what he replied "you don't?? i always thought you were awesome drawer" "no, that's why i take pictures: because i can't draw"
to be honest, i can, if i sit down, take my time (like a lot of it) and really focus, i can draw quite well, but it's SO hard. same goes with painting.
and oh so many times i'd compose a photo that would be so good in painting, so this app is pretty awesome for those of us who know our own limitations haha
great giveaway
good luck everyone!

50 Zoe - SlowMama June 25, 2013 at 7:45 am

Like you, I’d love to know how to paint, but I like to be creative and I can see this being tons of fun for both me and my little girls! Great to know about this!

51 Catie June 25, 2013 at 8:04 am

that’s the sort of app that might actually eat into my pinterest time…

52 Jill June 25, 2013 at 8:18 am

Wow, I am not very artistic, but that looks amazing!!

53 Sara June 25, 2013 at 8:23 am

That looks like fun! Getting all the oil paints or acrylics out can be rough- takes a lot of space, don’t always have time to finish. Fresh Paint looks like a super alternative!

54 Marianne June 25, 2013 at 8:29 am

Wow! Super cool. Love this.

55 Bonnie @ The Pin Junkie June 25, 2013 at 8:30 am

I would love to learn how to use this app. So many creative possibilities!

56 Alicia W June 25, 2013 at 8:38 am

I have a feeling that this app would be used by everyone in our family! What a cool idea!

57 Amanda June 25, 2013 at 9:15 am

Super cool! I was bummed to see that you needed Windows 8 or RT to run it. My computer is just a smidge too old…but maybe I’ll have to upgrade.

58 Lisa June 25, 2013 at 9:18 am

Brilliant…technology gets better and better. My son would love and I mean love this. He is a brilliant artist and I know he would love this!!! It’s truly amazing!!!

59 kat June 25, 2013 at 9:29 am

that is so cool! i, too, am intimidated by the blank canvas, but painting still calls to me. this would be a great tool to get over my fear and start covering my walls with canvases!

60 But Why Mommmy June 25, 2013 at 9:43 am

This is wonderful. My daughter is a wonderful artist and I can see her falling in love with this. Of course I’d have to fight her for it.

61 Helen June 25, 2013 at 9:59 am

Oh wow, what a great app – thanks for the wonderful give-away!

62 Rebekah June 25, 2013 at 10:00 am

That is amazing!!

63 Tonya June 25, 2013 at 10:09 am

I’ve ALWAYS wanted to dabble in art, but I’ve never known where to start! This looks so neat! Thanks for the giveaway, I really hope I win! :)

64 Tasneem June 25, 2013 at 10:39 am

This looks like such a fun app. I have been looking for something like this to play around with for a present I want to make for my sister. Thanks for sharing :)

65 Amy MacK. June 25, 2013 at 12:22 pm

This looks like a lot of fun – I’ll have to give it a go!

66 Doris June 25, 2013 at 12:24 pm

My kids will love this! Thanks for the chance!

67 Dawn June 25, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I would love to play around with oils and watercolors again like I did in school. ;)

68 Becca June 25, 2013 at 1:27 pm

What a great app! I’m like you, I wouldn’t even know where to start if I wanted to learn to paint. But this makes it so much more accessible!

69 Sara DeMay June 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm

My daughter is an aspiring artist – she would love this program!

70 Hillary H June 25, 2013 at 1:45 pm

That would be much easier than getting out all my paints and supplies and putting them all away again before naptime is over. Love it!

71 Christie June 25, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Wow! This would be an awesome gift for my daughters. They love art!! Thank you for the opportunity!! I would enjoy it too!

72 L Puckett June 25, 2013 at 2:38 pm

So very cool!

73 Belinda June 25, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Oh my gosh! This is so cool! I would love to create a portrait painting of my three boys. What other apps do you like for the Windows tablet? I hope I win!!! So fun!

74 Mechele Johnson June 25, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Oh my!!!!!!This would be so amazing to have! I would seriously probably convert every picture I could into a painting! My first one would be our old house. We had a 114 year old farmhouse that we lovingly restored to it’s original glory. It was our dream house! We then became a statistic during the economic windfall and jobs were downsized forcing us to move and sell our beloved home. I have never gotten over it really, and still long for my old cozy kitchen. I have always wanted a painting of the house to hang in our new house as a loving memory. This would be perfect!!!!!!!!!

75 CeliaT June 25, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Oh, this is so cool!! I can think of any number of things I’d like to paint, and curiously, just spent a couple of hours researching new tablets/netbooks!

76 kim June 25, 2013 at 4:57 pm

hope I win. Looks cool.

77 Josephine Tomato June 25, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Sounds like a great way to experiment with painting without the huge investment in supplies – and fun too.

78 Theresa J June 25, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I would love to paint pictures of my family

79 Darcie June 25, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I would love to paint a photo of my daughter!

80 Margaret June 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm

This sounds so fun! I would need to win, because I have no tablet on which to use Fresh Paint yet, but this would be perfect for my inner artist that doesn’t usually come out. I hope I win!

81 Sheralyn M June 25, 2013 at 5:46 pm

This would be so amazing. I have always wanted to try oil painting, this would be so fun.

82 Meg June 25, 2013 at 5:49 pm

This is so neat! Love the painting over the picture feature.

83 naomi June 25, 2013 at 6:43 pm

I’d love to create some pet portraits that aren’t as silly looking as typing “pet portraits” sounds!

84 Erinn June 25, 2013 at 7:14 pm

I would whip up a little “painting” of my son to remember this wonderful age…

85 Adrienne Conner June 25, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Would love to turn my favorite wedding photo into a watercolor for our bedroom! What a fantastic opportunity for a great product!

86 debbie June 25, 2013 at 7:27 pm

This looks like so much fun! I have some awesome vacation photos that I’d love to turn into paintings. Cool!

87 StephanieKay June 25, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Super fun!!! I have been enjoying painting more & more lately, & how neat to be able to do it digitally (especially with littles around who make it a challenge to paint sometimes.) :)

88 Denae June 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm

That is just incredible! I would love to try it.

89 cheryl June 25, 2013 at 8:28 pm

My girls would love this, and I think this Mama would have fun with it too!

90 hcarroll June 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Wow, this is really cool!

91 Emily June 25, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Very cool – thanks for the chance.

92 Heather June 25, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I cannot wait to try this, downloaded and ready to go when I have a little time to explore it. FUN!

93 Rebecca Timmons June 25, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I would love to let my daughter experiment with it…and me too.

94 Miranda June 25, 2013 at 10:44 pm

I’d love to do one of my family.

95 A. Perelini June 25, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I actually tried this! Wow, never knew I had it so thank you! Will finally be able to try out the digital techniques I’ve been reading about. Great app!!

96 aida June 25, 2013 at 10:57 pm

wow, just today I was taking a look at this amazing tablets. It’s great how you can get creative in so many ways… I wouls love to learn some painting basics with this app…

97 Valerie R June 25, 2013 at 11:04 pm

So very cool! Can’t wait to check it out! Thank you

98 Beclim June 25, 2013 at 11:09 pm

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at painting on my own time and pace. This program looks fun to work with!

99 Melanie June 26, 2013 at 12:31 am

What s great app!

100 Lindsay-Jean June 26, 2013 at 5:23 am

This is so cool! I’d love to turn a photo of my daughter into a painting!

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