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Creating Artistic Photographs

This chapter covers how to age a photo, change color to black and white, make a photo look like an oil painting or a watercolor, and more tips. (From the book, Paint Shop Pro 8, by Jennifer Fulton, Sams, 2004, ISBN: 0672323893.)

Author Info:
By: Sams Publishing
Rating: 4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars4 stars / 17
September 21, 2004
  1. · Creating Artistic Photographs
  2. · Change a Color Photograph to Black and White
  3. · Colorize a Photograph
  4. · Make a Photograph Look Like an Oil Painting
  5. · Turn a Photograph into a Watercolor
  6. · Make a Photograph Look Like It Was Drawn
  7. · Make a Photograph Look Like Ansel Adams Shot It

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Creating Artistic Photographs - Make a Photograph Look Like an Oil Painting
(Page 4 of 7 )

Before You Begin

  • Adjust Saturation Automatically
  • Remove Specks and Spots
  • About Sharpness
  • Smooth an Image Without Losing Crisp Edges or Texture

See Also

  • Turn a Photograph into a Watercolor

I've learned quite a bit about oil painting since I married a painter who is the son of a professional artist. I've made a few real oil paintings myself; my husband, a few more. His mother, Maria DeLaJuen, a few thousand more. What distinguishes oil from acrylic are the variations in its textures and the fact that colors blend with one another on the canvas. By comparison, acrylic brushstrokes are more uniform in texture and more solid in color.

Paint Shop Pro does a fairly good job of simulating the technical characteristics of oil painting, but you can't expect it to emulate the style and creative expression of a professional artist. To see just how good a job it does, I created a unique test: On my office wall is an original 2001 DeLaJuen oil painting called Bird Dance. On my computer is the real digital photograph upon which Bird Dance was based; for the painting, my mother-in-law Maria printed the photo and taped it to her easel for reference. Could I make PSP simulate even a few of Maria's techniques, and somehow make the original photograph resemble an oil painting? The result was surprisingly good, albeit not as good as a real oil painting.

  1. Apply the Edge Preserving Smooth Filter

    Blur the original photograph (while preserving object outlines) by selecting Adjust, Add/Remove Noise, Edge Preserving Smooth. Set Amount of smoothing to a fairly high value for a still life, such as 30. For a portrait, use a lower number such as 15. Click OK.

  2. Apply the Salt and Pepper Filter

    Get rid of speckles in the image so that the painting effect won't emphasize them: Select Adjust, Add/Remove Noise, Salt and Pepper Filter. Set Speck size (pixels) to 3 and Sensitivity to specks to 4. Click OK.

    Note - My mother-in-law taught me that the best oil paintings avoid unsaturated pigments like the plague. She has never mixed black with any paint to "gray it down." To create the grayish colors found in the photo, she took two pure, saturated colors from opposite sides of the color wheel, mixed them with white as needed, and dabbed the two colors close to each other throughout the area. Your eye blends these two colors, creating a grayish tone. So in step 4, you'll ensure pure colors in your image by oversaturating them.

  3. Clarify Lights and Darks

    To broaden the range of tones in the image, select Adjust, Brightness and Contrast, Clarify. Set Strength of effect to 5 (the strongest) and click OK.

  4. Oversaturate the Colors

    Select Adjust, Hue and Saturation, Automatic Saturation Enhancement. Select More colorful and Strong, and click OK. With the colors in the image more saturated, the Brush Strokes filter will have more to work with in step 5.

  5. Apply the Brush Strokes Filter

    Select Effects, Art Media Effects, Brush Strokes. Select a preset from the Presets list, and then adjust the settings slightly to fit the image. I typically start with Small thin oil and make modifications to fit the image.

    The Softness setting applies a Gaussian blur that controls how much colors bleed into one another. This blurring creates the illusion of paint being mixed on the canvas (an oil and not acrylic technique), especially when the Bristles option is set to a low value.

    Tip - The Small thin oil preset assumes a more liquid texture, as if the brush were loaded with copal medium. For some scenes, this preset option looks too much like a photo shot through a shower window. The Sloppy oil preset is interesting and well textured, although the direction of the brush strokes is random, and the texture of the strokes resembles more acrylic than oil. The Oil and Oil painting presets are, quite simply, unconvincing.

    To simulate brushstrokes, adjust the Bristles value as desired. A low value such as 30 is similar to what a painter might expect from a camel-hair brush; a higher value such as 150 resembles a thinner, sable brush. At its highest settings (from 200 to 256), the effect ceases to resemble a brush at all, and takes on the character of a palette knife held flat against the canvas. The Width setting adjusts the relative size of this brush tip, and Opacity affects the illusion of how much paint is on the brush. Higher Opacity settings create bolder texture ridges along each brushstroke's edge.

    The Length setting affects not only the length of each brushstroke, but also their direction. At low values, brushstrokes tend to be uniform and almost cubic; at higher values, they follow the contours of objects. Density is a subtle setting that affects the "rigor" in which strokes are made; higher values generate bolder strokes.

    As Width and Density increase, PSP generates larger "collision zones" where the brushstrokes run over one another. These zones create pockmarks that are tinted independently of the rest of the canvas, using the Lighting color. Try a lukewarm neutral color such as {RGB: 125, 126, 67} (murky yellow), and an Angle that's almost directly overhead, such as 348. When you've found settings you like, click OK.

    Tips - If you simply can't get the brush strokes thin or small enough for the effect you desire, click Cancel, then resize your image (Image, Resize). I doubled the size of the photo for this example so that I could make the brush strokes small enough to match those in the actual painting.

    For even more spectacular results, try repeating the Brush Strokes filter using slightly different settings. Although the results might be less distinguishable, one side effect of applying the filter a second time is that primary and secondary colored strokes emerge, mimicking a tried-and-true pointillist technique.

  6. View the Result

    I tried twice to change the photo of two sparrows splashing in a shallow bird bath into one that resembled Maria's Bird Dance painting. For the first attempt with the Brush Strokes filter, I set Softness to 7 and Opacity to 54 to keep the motion blur on the sparrows' wings. To simulate a sable brush, I set Bristles to 160 and Width to 5. To re- create the pointillist technique she used, I set Length to 8 and Density to 15. The results included some beautiful effects along the rocks, especially where the whites appear to have been dabbled on at the last—I could almost hear Maria reminding me to add my "chalkies" last. There's still some motion blur in the wings, and the spray flying off the male sparrow on the left uses strokes that follow the spray's direction. However, when viewed from a distance or at very small size, the product of these settings looks perhaps too photorealistic.

    The second attempt looks more like a painting. Not like Maria's painting, mind you, but like somebody's. To simulate a bigger, camel-hair brush, I reduced Bristles to 76, then increased Width to 8 and Opacity to 73. The bigger brush results in smaller looking strokes by proportion. To retain the dabbled effect, I set Density to 10. The brushstrokes did lose their sense of direction, and there's no longer a feeling that any one area of color was painted with any more or less vigor or texture than any other area. But the larger collision zones between brushstrokes do convey a painted look, and reduce if not eliminate any photorealism.

    What's missing from both tests—especially in comparison to the real DeLaJuen painting—is any sense of character. The first test retained some of the smaller water rings embedded in the larger ones; Maria's painting dramatized them. You can feel the direction of the wind in Maria's work, especially by how smooth the upper-left corner's water rings are by comparison to the more turbulent lower-right corner. Of course, a computer can't play with its work like an artist can with hers. Seen from a great distance, the real Bird Dance painting reveals an embedded prismatic rainbow; PSP would never have "thought" to embed a secret image. Not that I truly expected PSP to exhibit its own artistic character, but I was intrigued—if not just a little shocked—to discover that it could simulate one or two painter's techniques. View these images in the Color Gallery in this book.

Tip - You can select areas of the image before applying the Brush Strokes filter. In this way, you can mix painting styles across the image, better simulating an actual artist's technique. Remember to soften the transitions between regions. Remember that using a small brush creates the illusion of closeness, while a larger brush creates distance; you can accidentally disturb the illusion of depth if you make poor choices.


Figure 16.4

This chapter is from Paint Shop Pro 8, by Jennifer Fulton, (Sams, 2004, ISBN: 0672323893). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today.

Buy this book now.

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