Playing with Fresh Paint

I was thrilled when Microsoft reached out to me about trying out a new app called Fresh Paint they developed for their Windows 8 touch screen device. Fresh Paint was first introduced in MoMa’s Material’s Lab, and was met with high acclaim. I was also totally blown away by the realistic look of the painting…

I was thrilled when Microsoft reached out to me about trying out a new app called Fresh Paint they developed for their Windows 8 touch screen device. Fresh Paint was first introduced in MoMa’s Material’s Lab, and was met with high acclaim. I was also totally blown away by the realistic look of the painting application.

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To practice I referenced this painting and tried my first go-round. Here’s the base:

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And here’s the finished version:

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And my second try, with apples:

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The dimension of the strokes looks a lot like real oil paint, right? Like any more involved app, it takes some time to figure out how everything works, but after three or four paintings, I felt like I had a pretty good handle on how to use all the functions. I like “real” painting a lot, but it is so much work to pull out all my oils and make a huge mess and then there’s the clean up with all those chemicals, not to mention waiting around for a week for the paint to dry. I love that with Fresh Paint, I could make a painting in like 20 minutes while I’m lounging on the sofa. Such a relaxer!

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So once I felt like I had the hang of painting with the app and the brush stylus, I tried Fresh Paint’s cool feature where you can import any image and the colors become wet paint, so you can manipulate the image and make it look painted. It’s like advanced doodling – no creativity or brain work required! So, so awesome.

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Since Mother’s Day is around the corner, I decided I wanted to use the app to make something special for my Mom (and she already saw the painting, so I’m not blowing any surprises here.) :) I’ve talked about my Grandma Johnson before, who immigrated from Sweden when she was 19. This photo has always been my favorite of her. It was taken just before they left their home to move to the US.

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Grandma Johnson lived to be more than 100 years old. She was independent, headstrong, lovely, intelligent, creative, and loving. We all think of her as the matriarch of our huge family. One of the first and most memorable things we’ve done since moving to New York was to go to Ellis Island when my parents were in town visiting. We were able to check the scans of the ships’ logs to see Grandma’s and her parents’ signatures. It was really amazing.

I thought it would be fun to see if I could use Fresh Paint to paint on top of the old photo scan and recreate a loose, more abstract and painterly version of the photo in color. To do this, you import the photo in the same way as the “wet paint” method, but this time I layered paint color on top of the black and white image, just using the photo as a sort of template. I liked getting to guess what color her clothes would have been, and it was fun to add color to the room through the rug, wallpaper and furniture.

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I think the thing that makes the Fresh Paint app so realistic is the seemingly infinite color possibilities. Every shade you could ever dream up is right at your finger tips.

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The brush stylus makes the process feel so real. I was able to smooth out her face and add in more detail in the room.

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And here’s the finished painting. I love that it’s not a perfect replica of the photo. This actually looks a lot more like Grandma did as an older adult, which makes me really happy. This is more like how I remember her.

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I had two of the finished images printed on heavy cardstock at my local printers for $2 each (talk about affordable art!). I’m giving a framed one to my mom for Mother’s Day, and the other I framed in one of my favorite antique frames and hung in my girls’ room.

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My girls know all about Grandma Johnson and how special she was to me, and I love that they get to see her photo every day in their room.

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I can’t wait to keep practicing with the Fresh Paint app! I’ve already got a whole folder of images on my desktop that I’m so excited to paint over and print out. :)

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This post was sponsored by Microsoft’s Fresh Paint app, available exclusively on Windows 8. All opinions are my own. 

Join the Conversation

34 thoughts on “Playing with Fresh Paint

  1. THAT. IS. INCREDIBLE. I love painting but staring at a blank canvas can be so intimidating. The import feature of this application is just what a hesitant painter like me needs: a place to start with freedom to customize and make the artwork our own. Just brilliant!

    Of course Jenny, your skill in painting is impressive. I love what you've done with your family photograph. Such a great gift for Mother's day!

  2. This is THE BEST sponsored post I have ever seen on the Internet…. Fantastic job! This painting looks great, so realistic, and so sweetly sentimental. You have created what is surely to be a treasured family heirloom. Great work, Jenny!

  3. This is a really cool idea. I am not a painter or an artist so I don't think I would be very good with this, but how cool to be able to take photos and turn them into paintings so easily. However I don't want people to stop actually painting either! (

  4. wow – so cool! I love to paint too and agree about the oils + mess + dry time = unlikely to enjoy whenever I want. This would be a great way to have some fun without as much "work" I feel guilty asking this, but….I'm pretty engrained with all things apple. Does anyone know of or recommend a similar iPad app?

  5. This is amazing! Looks just like painting.
    It's kinda sad that through apps like these, we might lose the skill of painting, and talented painters will no longer stand out as anyone can "do it". But ah well! Still looks cool! x

  6. That's so great. I love to paint, but end up doing a lot of creative art stuff in photoshop combining images of paint, photos, sketches, etc. I joke that the fact that I live in a small NYC apartment and don't have a studio space dictates my creative medium. As much as I love it, it does take awhile to get all the supplies out and then I have to clean up – or leave things sprawled out on the dining table. I wish this app was also for the ipad!

    Thanks for sharing. And what a lovely end result you had – a perfect gift.

  7. Wow. That is so fantastic! I've always wanted to be an artist but I am not…even I think I might be able to make something cool with that!

  8. I am a painter and have followed your blog with all of your impressive creative projects, but I must say, this is my favorite! What an amazing gift to your Mom and your girls…and though this app makes the "painting" process easier, your skilled eye made this "painting" a true work of art! Happy Mothers' Day:-)

  9. love this jenny!
    May I ask where that white spindled wooden bookcase is from in the photos?? keep up the great work!!

  10. What an inspiration! My mind boggles at the projects I'd love to try-starting with some favorite vintage photos as you did! So lovely!

  11. I love what you did with this medium. Really, I love everything you do as a designer; you're very talented.

    However, as a working painter, this application makes me anxious and a little bit sad.

  12. I love your picture so much that I just spent an hour trying to find a similar app for ipad's. Oh, I get market share, and competition and all…but microsoft, create an ipad version, pretty please! Apple users will buy this app!

  13. Such a great picture of your grandmother! Coolest technique ever.

    And… so fun to see my mandarins painting referenced! I was reading along thinking it looked familiar. Thanks for the nod! :)

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