Paintshop Darkroom

The Paintshop Darkroom is an easy place to work - for sure it's far easier than it was way back when real chemicals and photographic papers were the norm.

Anyone who ever enjoyed working in a wet darkroom knows just how onerous it could be to fix an under exposed or an over exposed image - but darn - it sure was fun at the same time

Early in one's darkroom career fixing an over or under exposed image was pretty much guess work but with more experience it became much easier to make an educated guess.

Luckily, this is one of the photo challenges that's really quite easy to resolve in the Paintshop Darkroom.


Early on in my Paintshop darkroom days I typically tried to fix an exposure problem using what seemed to be the all powerful adjustment - Brightness/Contrast.  While this adjustment seems to be the answer it really doesn't work particularly well.

Now I've learned many different and effective techniques to deal with exposure problems in my Paintshop darkroom including ...
  • Levels.
  • Shadows/Highlights.
  • Blend Modes.
  • Dodging and Burning with a Soft Light Layer and a Wacom tablet.
If you look around the site you will find most of these topics have been covered in detail, however let's look at two Blend Modes that do a fabulous job fixing exposure problems in your Paintshop darkroom plus they are very easy to use, quick and really effective.

In truth - you will rarely find one technique that will resolve all of the problems that may show up in an image.  While this tutorial concentrates on two specific Blend Modes you will find that some other techniques will be needed after the initial changes are made.

Typically this will include the Soft Light dodge and burn layer after changing the Blend Modes.

The Steps

Using blend modes to fix exposure problems is a good plan when the overall shot is either under exposed or over exposed.

If only one portion of a shot is too light or too dark then there are better and more effective methods than using the blend modes - with the best being dodging and burning.

For an uniformly over or underexposed image here's the recipe ...

Under exposure (overall the picture is too dark) - change the blend mode to Screen

Over exposure (overall the picture is too light) - change the blend mode to Multiply

There are only three simple steps to follow ...
  1. Duplicate the Background Layer.

  2. Change the Blend Mode of the new layer to Multiply (if the image is too light) or Screen (if the image is too dark).

  3. Duplicate the new layer if more adjustment is needed and then modify the Opacity to taste.

Over Exposure

Starting with an over exposed image - here's one to start with ...

paintshop darkroom over exposed

Following the recipe above ...

painshop darkroom over exposure
painshop darkroom over exposure
Layers Palette
Blend Mode Changed to Multiply
Multiply Blend Mode

The change in Blend Mode certainly made a difference - perhaps a bit more than what is desired.  That is easy to remedy by lowering the opacity of the top layer and here is the result.

paintshop darkroom opacity lowered

The only area that may need some additional work is the platform that is way too light.  This is easy to remedy by dodging and burning with a soft light layer - here's the image with the platform burned in with a soft light layer and my Wacom pen.

paintshop darkroom soft light burn

Much better, don't you think?

Under Exposure

Now this shot of a BMW driver busted by two bike cops (for making an illegal turn - they didn't have to chase him down) is opposite to the previous picture - it's underexposed.

paintshop darkroom under exposure

The Screen Blend Mode will lighten an image that is under exposed (aka - too dark) and by following the recipe the overall picture is better but it can be better.

paintshop darkroom screen blend mode
paintshop darkroom one screen layer
Layers Palette
Blend Mode Changed to Screen
Screen Blend Mode

Perhaps one additional layer set to Screen Blend Mode would do the trick.

painshop darkroom over exposure
painshop darkroom over exposure
Layers Palette
Background Layer Copied Again
Screen Blend Mode Duplicate

The second duplicate of the Background Copy certainly lightens up the car and the officer writing the ticket but the background may be a bit too light now and the windshield of the BMW is just way to bright.

So - let's fix these two problems ...


I highlighted the top layer and then added a new Raster Layer and changed it's Blend Mode to Soft Light (which made no immediate difference).  This layer needs to be painted with black to darken or with white to lighten (also known as dodging and burning).

I set the foreground color to Black, set my Wacom Intuos pen to change Opacity with pressure (in the Brush Variance palette) and very lightly painted over the light parts of the background (store fronts, sidewalk, street and signs). 

Then I changed the foreground color to white and painted over the two little Christmas trees to bring out some detail.

paintshop darkroom soft light layer


The windshield is now way too bright and overpowering.  It could be fixed, to some degree with the dodge and burn technique used in the previous step but it wasn't enough.

Ideally, an earlier version of the windshield is a much better choice and this is what I decided to to.

You can use the eraser to eliminate the windshield on the Copy of Background Layer but that is so permanent - a Mask Layer is a much better choice.

paintshop darkroom final image

Summary of Under Exposure

What all of this shows is that more than one Paintshop darkroom adjustment is generally needed to get a picture where you want it to be.

paintshop darkroom final layers palette

  1. In this example a copy of the Background layer was made and the Blend Mode was changed to Screen.

  2. This wasn't quite enough so a copy of the new layer was made which seemed to lighten up the important parts of the image.  Unfortunately, the background and windshield suffered - they are now much too light.

  3. To darken up the background a Soft Light Layer was added and black was painted (with a Wacom pen) to darken up the lightest parts of the image.  The foreground color was then switched to white and the little Christmas trees were lightened up to bring out a bit of detail.

  4. The final problem was that the windshield was far too light and this was fixed with a Mask Layer (which essentially punches a hole through the top layer so an underlying layer can be seen). 

There you go - an effective method in your Paintshop Darkroom to resolve an exposure problem with your images.

Paintshop Darkroom
Page Links


The Steps

Over Exposure

Under Exposure

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