Paint Shop Darkroom

The Paint Shop 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 Paint Shop Darkroom.

Paint Shop Darkroom

Early on in my Paint shop 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 Paint Shop darkroom including ...

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 Paint Shop 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 may include a Soft Light dodge and burn layer after changing the Blend Modes.

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 Exposed Images

Here's a nice starting point - a nicely overexposed image.

Following the above recipe produces this layers palette with the top layers's Blend Mode changed to Multiply.

What the Multiply Blend Mode does in the Paint Shop Darkroom is to darken the dark parts of the image while leaving the light areas of the image unchanged.

Producing this Image.

The image is better and it can be further adjusted by darkening the foreground with a Soft Light Layer Dodge and Burn.  A Soft Light layer makes the dark areas darker when painted with black and the light areas lighter when painted with white while leaving middle grey areas unchanged.

Here's how it looks now ...

One more thing to do with this image - add a vignette with a second Soft Light Layer and a circular Black to White  Gradient.

And the Layers Palette when completed.


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.

The Background was duplicated and the Blend Mode was changed to Screen with this result ...

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.

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

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.


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.

Summary of Under Exposure

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

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

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.To darken up the background a Soft Light Layer was added and black was painted 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.

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 Paint Shop Darkroom to resolve an exposure problem with your images.

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