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Creating simple portraits from photographs on MS Paint

Updated on June 5, 2012

A step by step visual guide


Open a new MS Paint document and Copy and Paste the photograph you want to edit into it. (Choosing a good quality photograph with reduced contrast will make the process easier).


Select the Curve Tool and the most contrasting colour to your photo from the pre-set colour swatches bar. (I tend to favour yellow).Begin to outline the larger features of the face. As it’s very easy to make mistakes it saves time to use the Ctrl + Z shortcut instead of the undo button at the top of the screen. (The shortcut for redo is Ctrl + Y).


Once you’ve completed this step the result should look something like this. Make sure your lines are neat and not too complex. Save this as a standard PNG file.


The next step is to save another version of your file as a “16 color bitmap”. This will greatly simplify your image and it will look very messy but will make “cleaning up the image” a much quicker process.


Next using the fill tool, replace large areas of colour with white. When only a small amount of distributed pixels are left, use the colour picker tool and assign it to the right click button. Then, using the fill tool again toggle between white and colour until all the messy pixels are gone. Finish by filling in your outline with black. The finished result will look something like this.


Next, save the file again but this time as a 256 Color (this will retain the clarity of your black outline and also allow you to add various tones of colour. Open the initial photograph in a separate MS Paint file and colour pick the various sections (such as hair, skin, eyes etc.) then input the RBG colour codes into the edit colours section.

Finally add the various tones and details. Using the colour picker and then the edit colour tool create some darker tones from your different areas. Then, using the curve tool and referencing the original photograph draw in shadows and fill them in. This may take a few attempts to get right.


Your finished product should look something like this:

Here are some other examples of what you can achieve with this tecknique:

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