PI7 Paint a Fifties Postcard

I love kitschy old postcards -- the colors always seem a little too bright and a little too flat, but they're so surreal and so much fun, you can't stop looking at them. This tutorial shows you how to use the Paintbrush and the Colorize Merge method to make your own 50's style postcard. You can use this painting technique on any image to which you've applied the Effect, Special, Monochrome effect.

50's style postcard

You can use this photo of my kids in North Carolina on vacation for practice, available here, or use one of your own photos. Try to crop your photo so you have room to add text on the left or right side.

Open the photo you're going to use and choose Effect, Special, Monochrome. This will make your photo look like it's in Grayscale, but it retains its RGB qualities. That means you can paint on it in color.

Select the Paintbrush tool. If the Brush Panel doesn't open when you select the Paintbrush, click Panel in the Attributes toolbar. From the Options tab's Apply Method dropdown list, select Colorize.

colorize Apply method

For the Paint tools, Apply Method is the same as Merge method, used for fills and in the Object Properties dialog box. The Apply Method affects the way paint color blends in with underlying colors in the base image. Colorize lets you paint with different colors, while preserving detail in the base image. So if you paint with pink, it won't be a flat pink. You'll still see highlights and shadows underneath the paint.

In the Attributes toolbar, right click in the Color box and select the lavender-pink from the standard colors.

select lavender-pink color

Start painting over the girl's shirt to make it pink. You can use the default brush size initially, then you'll have to edit the brush Size and Soft edge to 5 or so in order to gain accuracy on the edges of the shirt, like the neckline and sleeve edges.

paint with smaller brush for detail areas

Select a different color for the girl's shorts. I right clicked and selected the gray-blue color from the standard colors. Edit the brush Size larger to paint in most of the shorts, then make the brush smaller to go around the edges.

paint shorts blue

Next, paint the girl's head scarf. A lot of the paint color selection is going to be very subjective. I like a limited range of bright colors for a postcard look, but you might like a more harmonious or subtle color scheme. I've selected an aqua color in the Attributes toolbar's Color box for the scarf, and I edited the paint's Transparency value to 50.

paint over head scarf

I used a default brush Size 20, Soft edge=50 to paint the skin tones at 75% Transparency, using a very pale peach color, RGB=244, 219, 208). Try not to paint on the teeth, if they're showing. If you have trouble keeping the painting off eyeballs and teeth, use Paint as Object Mode. After you leave Mode, you can erase the part of the skin tone painted object covering the eyes or teeth, then merge with the base image. Use the Zoom In feature to paint over detail and small areas like the lips and hair, or to add cheek color. Vary paint Transparency as needed.

finish painting the girl

Next I painted the boy the same way, one item at a time, varying brush Size and Transparency as needed.

paint colors on boy

Next I painted in all the greens for the trees and shrubs. I tried to vary the colors, using dark greens on the darker areas, and brighter or lime greens on the lighter areas. I painted the dirt with a 50% Transparent brown.

paint over shrubs, trees and dirt

Next, paint the water with an improbably turquoise hue. I was aiming for an artificial look that you don't see in water unless you're in the Bahamas. Then I used the Charcoal Paint tool with white paint, 75% Transparency, to add some dramatic foam where the waterfalls hit the main pool. Use brown paint to paint over the tree trunks.

paint over water, add foam

Finally, use the default settings for the Burn Retouch tool to darken some areas, creating shadows at the bottom of greenery, etc. Now you have an opportunity to tone down the bright colors if you wish by selecting Format, Hue and Saturation, and bringing the Saturation slider down a bit on the negative side, like maybe to -10. I am not going to do that because I like bright colors, but you can do that if you want to tone it down a little.

When you're done painting, the image should look something like this.

finished painting

Now to add some text, like "Greetings!" I'll leave the selection of a font, font size and color to you. I used a 50's looking font called Keiser Sousa (Balloon is another good choice for a font), white, 2D, size 40. Then from the EasyPalette's Wrap Gallery, Bend Text, I applied Bend 10. I duplicated it, made the duplicate black and sent it behind the white text to made a very bold, sharp shadow that helps the light text stand out better. Then add "From North Carolina" (or whatever) in slightly smaller text.

I hope you had fun making this painted 50's style postcard. Remember, you can use the Colorize Apply method anytime you want to paint a black and white or grayscale photo. Just convert the image to RGB True Color, then paint away.

This tutorial uploaded 1/18/01

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