How to make photos into paint-by-number drawings

Updated April 17, 2017

One of the best memories of childhood is sitting down with a box of crayons or paints to colour in a brand new set of paint-by-number drawings. This classic children's activity never seems to get old. But there is a way to make it even more exciting for your children. You can use Photoshop to create paint-by-number drawings based on your own family photos.

Select the photos that you want to use to make the paint-by-number drawings. Choose fairly simple photos with a limited number of colours. Then load them onto your computer, either by loading them directly by connecting your digital camera to the computer via the USB port, or by scanning them in using a scanner set to the highest possible resolution.

Open Photoshop. Select "File" and click "Open." In the dialogue box that opens, browse to one of the photos you want to use and open it. Select "Image" from the menu and click "Image Size." In the dialogue box, change the size to whatever you want the final print size for the page to be. Click "OK."

Select "Filter," then "Artistic" and click "Cutout." In the dialogue box that opens, change the "Number of Levels" to the number of colours you want for your drawing. You will want to have enough colours so that in the preview on the left the colours follow the shapes of the people, animals or objects in the photo. Click "OK."

Click on "Select" in the menu and select "Color Range." In the dialogue box that opens, set the "Fuzziness" to 0. Now click on one of the colours in the scene and click "OK." Go to the "Layers" panel and select the "New Layer" button. With the new layer selected, right-click in the canvas and select "Make Work Path." Now click on the "Path" tab, right-click on the path listed and select "Stroke Path." The selected colour now has been outlined. Repeat this step for each of the colours until they are all outlined.

Select the "Text" tool and use it to meticulously fill in each of the spaces with the appropriate colour number. When you are done, select the background layer. Then click on the "New Layer" button. Then change the "Foreground" colour in the toolbar to white and use the "Paint Bucket" to fill the layer with colour. Save and print your paint-by-number drawing.

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About the Author

Daniel Ketchum holds a Bachelor of Arts from East Carolina University where he also attended graduate school. Later, he taught history and humanities. Ketchum is experienced in 2D and 3D graphic programs, including Photoshop, Poser and Hexagon and primarily writes on these topics. He is a contributor to sites like Renderosity and Animotions.