Reference Photo Enhancement

I found a wonderful photo by Paul Sawford on Paint My Photo ( that offers copyrighted photos that are free for artists to use.

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I loved it, but the detail was hidden in the dark picture. This is what I did in PhotoShop:

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First, I adjusted the Brightness/Contrast, but not too much so I didn’t lose the rich details in the white areas.

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Next, I adjusted the Vibrance to bring out a little more color.

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Finally, I adjusted the Color Balance to bring out the colors I love, especially teal or light blue. And a little yellow to warm it up.

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And this is the final picture in colored pencil on suede mat board. I picked up lots of detail and color that I couldn’t see in the original. I used the reference photo as a jumping off point, not as something to duplicate, so my final picture is more a representation of colors and shapes I want to emphasize. Here it is:

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I don’t think I could have produced as good a painting without the help of PhotoShop, and that’s why I use it.


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