Photoshop Blog

January 19, 2012 /Photoshop /

Hidden Gems in Photoshop CS5: Painting with Adobe Camera Raw

There’s no shortage of Hidden Gems or inventive ways to use existing features in Photoshop CS5. Bryan O’Neil Hughes, senior product manager for Photoshop, puts every feature to the test and through these challenges, finds clever ways to accomplish new things. Whether he’s lining up a row of colorful rubber ducks in his backyard to push the limits of depth of field or standing out in a windy field shooting barbed wire moving in the wind to outwit the HDR algorithm – he is constantly experimenting to look beyond the obvious or question the power of the features themselves.

While he’s quick to claim this is no replacement for fine art, he provides this week’s tip as a helpful hint for adding a creative effect to an image.

How did you discover you can paint with Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)?

Bryan:  I’ve always been a fan of using Clarity to a negative value in order to quickly soften skin and reduce blemishes. I figured that “mis-using” the new noise reduction in Camera Raw 6 would yield more power and control – and it did!  

Are you seeing a lot of people applying effects like this?

Bryan:  Overpainting (using CS5’s new Mixer Brush) has been a very popular way to take low resolution images off of a mobile device and enlarge them, as the paint disguises artifacts. What I liked about doing this in ACR is that the whole thing is uniform, can be easily shared or saved and is FAST; I just drag a few sliders. This is by no means a replacement for real painting, but as I mention in the video, I’m not a real painter!

Any tips for the types of images that are best for this effect? Or the slider to start off with?

Bryan:  This effect works best on images with a lot of color…landscapes, things like that.  I’ve found that initially over-processing in camera raw (which is to say exaggerating saturation and contrast) helps.  The process works equally well on JPEG and raw files, just max the noise reduction and finesse with the detail slider.

All is not lost with low resolution images. Try it for yourself with an image from your mobile device and see if you can create a mini-masterpiece.

For more tricks in Photoshop CS5, subscribe to our YouTube channel and watch the videos in our Hidden Gems playlist.


Join the discussion

  • By Bojan Živković - 10:16 PM on January 19, 2012  

    Cool tip, I never thought about ACR as painting tool and paintings.

    • By Living Paradox - 2:51 PM on February 16, 2012  

      I prefer Corel Photoshop.

  • By Dan Martinez - 7:25 AM on January 20, 2012  

    This is just what I have been looking for, I just didn’t know it. Had a picture I took with my Camera phone last fall that needed some processing work (it was shot directly into the setting sun). This technique provided the best result yet. See it here:


  • By Jason - 9:29 PM on January 20, 2012  

    Great technique.. and it actually worked some wonders on my iPhone pictures.

  • By Living Paradox @thesae - 8:22 AM on February 19, 2012  

    These are very helpful tips for working with the Adobe Photoshop, but I don’t have that program. I have Corel Paint Shop Pro, which, however useful it may be, really can’t compare to the flexibility and resourcefulness of the Adobe version.