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Turn Photograph
Into Painting
Using Photoshop

This tutorial is to show you how to turn your photograph into an image that looks like a painting. An artist approaches a painting by first painting in the basic shapes and then adding details. This is what we will be doing.

I took this photograph of a New York Water Taxi while I was on the Staten Island ferry. Here is the photograph we will be working with:

Photograph to Painting Tutorial Original Photograph

Closeup of Original Photograph
Photograph to Painting Tutorial Closeup of Original Photograph

Basic Shape Layer

The following steps will turn your photograph into basic shapes. Since I always use the same settings for this stage, we will do the next three steps on the same layer, one after the other, which we will call the "Basic Shape Layer".
  1. Duplicate Background Layer and call this the Basic Shape Layer

    Photograph to Painting Tutorial Create Basic Shapes Layer

  2. With the Basic Shape layer selected (it will be dark blue) go to FILTER - BLUR - MOTION BLUR and set Distance to 6 and press OK.

    Closeup of Motion Blur
    Photograph to Painting Tutorial Closeup of Motion Blue

  3. Next Go to FILTER - ARTISTIC - WATERCOLOR. Our setting will be:
    Brush Detail: 8
    Shadow: 0
    Texture: 1

    Closeup of photo after using watercolor filter
    Photograph to Painting Tutorial Closeup of Watercolor filter

  4. Next, go to FILTER - NOISE - MEDIAN and set it to 2

    Closeup After Applying Median Filter
    Photograph to Painting Tutorial Closeup of Median filter

Adding Details

It is now time to add back some of the detail.

  1. Duplicate the Background Layer and call it Detail layer. We will now move it to the top and set the Opacity Slider to between 65% and 75% and Fill Slider to between 65% and 75%. This will depend on the photograph you are working with and how much detail you want to restore. In this tutorial, I will be using 75%.
    Photograph to Painting Tutorial Make Details Layer Photograph to Painting Tutorial Move Details layer

    Closeup After Applying Detail Layer
    Photograph to Painting Tutorial Applying Details Layer

  2. Combine all the layers by pressing SHIFT-CTRL-ALT E

Improving the Color

We are going to use the Curves command to improve the color of this image.
  1. Duplicate the "Combined Layer" and call it "Curves Layer"
  2. Go to IMAGE-ADJUSTMENTS -CURVES (Shortcut CTRL M)
  3. Below you will see the adjustment curve I have used on this image. Since each photo is different, experiment a little on how far off the straight diagonal line you want your points should go while watching your image change. When you are satisfied with your image press OK

    Photograph to Painting Tutorial Applying Curves Palette

  4. Here's a closeup of the Curves adjustment

    Photograph to Painting Tutorial Closeup of Applying Curves

Add a Little Oomph with Brightness/Contrast

  1. Duplicate the Curves Layer and call it Contrast Layer
  2. Go to IMAGE - ADJUSTMENTS - BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST

    I am using Brightness -8 CONTRAST 10. I chose Brightness -8 so that the highlights wouldn't blow out. Contrast also sharpens the image a little.

  3. Here's a closeup after applying BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST

    Photo to Painting Tutorial Closeup Apply Contrast

Extra Sharpening

Depending on your photograph, your image might be done at this point. However, I felt my image needed a little more sharpening.

  1. Duplicate the "Contrast Layer"
  2. Go to FILTER - SHARPEN - SMART SHARPEN. I used Amount 75 for this image. I made sure the "Preview Image" box had a large enough closeup of the image so that I could see the effect of the sharpening amount. Depending on your photo, you might want to try 50 or 100.
  3. SMART SHARPEN Dialog Box

    Photo to Painting Tutorial Smart Sharpen Dialog Box

  4. Closeup after applying "Smart Sharpen"

    Photograph to Painting Tutorial Closeup after Smart Sharpen

  5. Duplicate the Smart Sharpen layer
  6. Go to FILTER - SHARPEN - UNSHARP MASK and use a setting of 25
  7. Closeup after applying "Unsharp Mask"

Cleanup

This is the time to clone out any stray marks. If you used the above sharpening features, you will probably find halos where there is any dark/light edges. (See example below)

Photograph to Painting Tutorial Example of Sharpening Halo

Final Image

Photo to Painting Tutorial Final Image

A larger version of this image "New York Water Taxi" poster can be seen in my Zazzle Store, Designs by Susan, where you can see a larger image of "New York Water Taxi".

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Back Porch with Barrel mug
Back Porch with Barrel
Mug

Basket and Pot of Soup button
Basket and Pot of Soup
Button

Old-Fashioned Irons card
Old-Fashioned Irons
Card

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Yacht Against Manhatten Skyline Skateboard

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Bottle with Mortar and Pestle Magnet

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Onions Mousepad

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Old-Fashioned Irons
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Vase with Wildflowers
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Basket and Pot of Soup stamp
Basket and Pot of
Soup Postage


Please send questions or comments to: sue@designsbysusan.com

Copyright 2007-2011-2009 Susan Savad

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