Filter Gallery

Turning Photos into Vibrant Paintings

The Oil Paint filter is a wonderful new addition to Photoshop CS6 but it isn t a silver bullet. You can get the best results turning photos into vibrant paintings by using Oil Paint as part of a larger workflow involving HDR Toning, the Filter Gallery, optionally the History Brush, and a few adjustment layers.

STEP ONE: Open Ferry.jpg. This is a photo of a ferry near where I live on Cortes Island, British Columbia. One of the reasons I love paintings is they can sometimes be closer to how we see things with our mind s eye rather than how things literally appear in the real world. Prior to using the Oil Paint filter, we ll create an exaggerated version of reality with HDR Toning and a couple of filters in the Filter Gallery.

STEP TWO: Choose lmage>Adjustments>HDR Toning. Open the Preset drop-down menu and select More Saturated. This helps bring out some of the color that s present but not too vibrant here in the Pacific Northwest. In locales with brighter sunlight, you might try using the Photorealistic preset which usually also works well for portraits. Of course, you can manually adjust any of the sliders in the HDR Toning dialog as you see fit, but I m trying to keep it simple. Click OK.

Step Two

 Filter Gallery

STEP THREE: Choose Fiiter>FiIter Gallery. Expand the Brush Strokes folder and select Accented Edges in order to trade some of the intricate detail in the photo for some simpler bands of color having strong edges. Expand the Distort folder and select Diffuse Glow to wash out the highlights and take the photo one step further from the literal and one step closer to a painterly reality. Select a Graininess of 0, a Glow Amount of 6, and a Clear Amount of 20. Click OK.

STEP FOUR: Choose Filter>Oil Paint. Drag the Shine slider up to the middle of its range and then experiment with each one of the Oil Paint sliders. In the end, I settled upon a Stylization of 2.8, a Cleanliness of 7, a Scale of 7.87, a Bristle Detail of 10, and an Angular Direction of 145.8, but the choices you make will likely be different in every virtual painting you make according to whatever looks good to you. Drag Shine down to zero and see all the shiny brushstrokes disappear. To have just a hint of reflective paint, I increased Shine to 0.2. Click OK.

step five: The logo on the side of the ferry has become illegible after the processing we have done. If you have detail like this that you want to restore (such as eyes in a portrait, for example), you can use the History Brush to bring it back. Select the History Brush tool (Y) and then tone down how faithfully you want to bring this detail back in by reducing its Opacity to 15% in the Options Bar. Reduce the brush size with the Left Bracket ([) key, or increase it with the Right Bracket (]), so it s about the size of the logo (60 pixels in this case), and then drag across the logo to make it readable in the painting.

step six: The painting is too saturated for my taste. We are awash in color from using the More Saturated preset in HDR Toning but we ll compensate for this with an adjustment layer. In the Properties panel, soak up some of that color by dragging the Saturation slider left to a value of-15.

 Filter Gallery

step seven: The painting could use more punch, which can be easily attained by boosting contrast. Choose Layer>New

Adjustment Layer>Brightness/Contrast and click OK. In the Properties panel, drag the Contrast slider right to a value of 45.

STEP EIGHT: The blues in the painting are a bit overpowering. To lighten the mood, choose Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Selective Color and click OK. Select Blues from the Colors dropdown menu, and drag the Black slider left to-50 to lighten up the sky especially.

step nine: To see how far you ve come, choose lmage> Duplicate. Accept the default name Ferry copy in the Duplicate Image dialog and click OK. Choose Window>Arrange>Float All in Windows and select the original Ferry.jpg document window and drag it next to the copy. Open the History panel and click the thumbnail at the top to go back to the initial history state. Now you can compare before and after images onscreen. You have come a long way and produced an alternate version of reality with a virtual painting.

Every photo is different, as are each person s aesthetic sensibilities, but you ll be able to turn photos into vibrant virtual paintings using variations on this workflow.

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