How to Create a Colored Floor Plan – Photoshop for Architects

Colored floor plan using photoshop

Hey there!

This post is all about how to create a colored floor plan using Adobe Photoshop.

I’ll make sure to highlight the important items that are necessary to create a clean and presentable document. As I’m sure you’re aware, in architecture things go through a lot of iterations. A lot. So we want to make sure that what we create can be easily modified later on. The trick is to use your layers correctly. 

Feel free to watch the video, or go below for step-by-step instructions.

1. Open Document

Open up Photoshop and create a new document with the size you need. See image below for the settings I used for this particular video. I’d recommend using 150 – 300 for the resolution. I’d also pay attention to the ‘Background Contents’ and make sure it’s white. If it’s transparent, that’s when you get the checkerboard pattern and it just makes it really hard to see what you’re doing.

Image showing settings for creating a new document in Photoshop

After that is created, you should have a blank white page with the background layer locked.

To bring in the PDF you want to color, go to the document in your File Explorer and drag and drop it into the Photoshop File (psd) we just created.

If the PDF is multiple pages, it will bring up thumbnails of all the pages. Select the one you’d like to import and hit ‘OK’.

It will bring it in without modifying the scale at all, which is a good thing! Then hit the check mark in the toolbar and we’re onto the next step!

2. Manage Your Floor Plan Layer

You probably have two layers in your document right now. One labeled ‘Background’ with a little lock next to it, and another layer above that with the name of the file we just imported. You can rename that to whatever you’d like.

This step is important – change the blending mode of the floor plan layer to ‘Multiply’

To do this, click on your floor plan layer, and above the layers is a dropdown menu that should say ‘Normal’ – change that to ‘Multiply’.

This ensures that any white pixels you have in your floor plan layer become transparent. That’s important to ensure that the color from any layers below this one will show up. If you don’t do this you’ll create colors and it won’t look like anything is happening. 

Check out the GIF below for instructions.
Gif showing how to change blending mode of layer in Photoshop

3. Create Layers for Each Space / Room

Create a new layer for each type of space that you would like to color. For example, you might want public, office, support, and corridor.

To do that, click on the plus sign in the bottom right side of Photoshop (the circled button in the below picture).

Then, double click on the name of the layer and name it to whatever you’d like.

Make sure that your linework or floor plan layer remains on top. You can simply click and drag your layers to get them where they are needed.

It should look something like the example below.

Image showing layers in Photoshop

4. Setup Paint Tool

Click on the layer you want to start coloring. It’s important to make sure you are on the correct layer before coloring, otherwise you’ll have a mess of a file that you’ll never be able to modify later on – or at least not very easily.

So let’s say that I want to start painting some offices. Click on that layer and make sure it’s highlighted.

Go over to your paint bucket tool on the left side of your toolbar. It may be hidden under the gradient tool.

See the GIF below to see how to change to the paint bucket tool.

Gif showing how to get to paint bucket tool in Photoshop

Now, let’s choose your color. Again, on the left toolbar you’ll see two overlapping boxes, most likely white and black. Click on the top one and you can choose any color you’d like. You can choose an intense color if you’d like, we’ll tone it down later on.

Ok, there’s a couple other things we need to pay attention to. On the top of the tool bar there are a few check boxes for ‘Anti-alias’, ‘Contiguous’, and ‘All Layers’. These are important! There are a couple different ways to do this. So first, I’ll explain what these options do.

  • Anti-Alias – it helps smooth the edges of your boxes.
  • Contiguous – similar pixels that are touching.
  • All Layers – if checked, can read all the layers in your document to create boundaries.

5. Start Painting

Now that we know what these do, here’s how we can use them.

1. If you want to simply click and paint and let the paint fill in the borders created by your floor plan, here’s what you do:

Anti-Alias – Checked
Contiguous – Checked
All Layers – Checked

Just keep in mind that this will take into account all boundaries created by doors, walls, tags, text, etc. So you might have to click a lot if you have a lot of these. See the GIF below for how that works. (the color picker screen looks a little weird, but you get the gist)

Painting with contiguous and all layers in photoshop

2. If you want to paint a whole area with your own boundaries:

Anti-Alias – Checked
Contiguous – Checked
All Layers – Unchecked

For this way, you’ll have to draw a box around where you want the painting contained, but it will paint everything in that box, regardless of any linework you have.

You can either select your shapes using the Rectangular Marquee tool (shown in the GIF) or you can use the Polygonal Lasso tool (right below the Rectangular Marquee tool), which will allow you to pick individual points – which is helpful for odd shapes.

Note: You should be as precise as you can with your selection, but you have a little bit of forgiveness with the thickness of your line. This is a big reason why the linework layer is your top layer – it will cover up any little errors you have with your selections.

Gif showing how to paint with contiguous checkbox in Photoshop

6. Editing Opacity of Layer

Maybe the color you chose is a little too bright. That’s Ok. We can easily tone that color down to be a little more pastel-like.

On you your layer menu, simply click on the layer, click the 100% next to ‘Opacity’ and put in a lower value such as 20% or 30%. This will help tone down the brightness and give you color that is a little more subtle.

Gif showing how to change layer opacity in Photoshop

7. Deleting Paint Areas

If you need to delete any portion of your painted areas you can easily do that.

Select the layer that contains the color you want to delete and then use either the Rectangular Marquee or Polygonal Lasso tools to make your selection and hit delete.

If you have the wrong layer selected you’ll be deleting either nothing or the linework, so make sure you have the correct layer selected before you hit delete!

8. Modifying Color

You can also easily change the color of a layer that you’ve already painted.

  • Select the layer you want to modify
  • Select Paint Bucket Tool
  • Make sure Anti-Alias is checked and both Contiguous and All Layers are unchecked
  • Select the color you want to change it to
  • Click on any part of that colored portion and it will change the entire layer to that color


9. Save as PDF

Last step is to save this document as a PDF. You should always keep the original Photoshop File because things will probably change and you’ll need to go back and edit this file.

Once you’re done you can go to File – Save As and choose Photoshop PDF. Type in the File Name you want and then you can hit OK to any popups you might get.


And you’re done!

That took a little work to get through everything, but now you’ll have a document that you can easily modify down the road.

Congrats – you just learned how to create a colored floor plan using Photoshop! If you have any questions or need something explained further, let me know in the comments!



Thanks for following along! Check out my youtube channel for other How-To Videos for Architects.

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1 thought on “How to Create a Colored Floor Plan – Photoshop for Architects”

  1. Pingback: How to Create a Colored Site Plan | PHOTOSHOP for Architects | The Archi-Tech Guy

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