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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 - Turn a Photograph into a Watercolor
(Page 5 of 7 )

Before You Begin

  • Select by Drawing Freehand
  • Save a Selection for Reuse
  • Improve a Dull, Flat Photo
  • Restore Color and Improve Detail
  • About Layers and the Layer Palette

See Also

  • Make a Photograph Look Like an Oil Painting

The secret to enabling Paint Shop Pro to generate a simulation of a watercolor from a photograph is to present it with a photograph that looks like a watercolor to begin with. A snapshot of the family hugging Donald Duck in front of Epcot Center simply isn't a candidate, nor particularly are any photos where people are the predominant subjects. Instead, you want still, wistful scenes with large areas of a single color and few details.

Different watercolor techniques apply two differing styles of compositions, so for this task, I'll show two examples. The Asian watercolor technique uses very few pigments—generally black, terre verde (green), raw umber (brown), perhaps cobalt blue—with large sections of the white paper showing through as the background. The key here is to make the image look like it was carefully produced by dragging a tapered-tip brush of paint through a patch washed with clear water. Our Asian example involves a wintry setting with two spruce trees in a white wilderness. The second example mimics a more vividly colored watercolor-and-ink technique. Here, the background is a faint wash of color, with the foreground subject using more vibrant hues, sharply defined by black ink. No, this isn't cheating; ink is often used in watercolor paintings for retaining the edges, especially because fine inks have natural oils that repel water, thus helping to keep the watercolor within its boundaries.

  1. Fill Background with White or Light Color

    On the Tools toolbar, choose the Freehand Selection tool. On the Tool Options palette, set selection type to Freehand, set Smoothing to a high value such as 20, and set Feather to a high value such as 40. In the image window, draw a meandering boundary around your image, excluding objects that don't contribute to the composition (houses, cars, nuclear power plants).

    Next, select Selections, Promote Selection to Layer. On the Layer palette, rename this new layer Composition. Cancel the selection (Selections, Select None) and choose the Background layer. With the Flood Fill tool set at a Match Mode of None, fill everything with white for the Asian technique; for the ink border technique, fill everything with a light color picked up from the background such as a very light green mixed with the Backdrop texture.

  2. Remove Unwanted Elements

    Remove any unwanted material from the Composition layer, such as half of a flower or a corner of a barn. On the Layer palette, choose the Composition layer. From the Tools toolbar, select the Airbrush tool. On the Tool Options palette, set Size to 30, Hardness to 50, and Opacity to 5. Using the foreground color you applied to the Background layer, carefully apply the airbrush to the unwanted portions.

    For the ink border technique only, isolate the subject on its own layer by changing to the Composition layer, selecting the subject. (I selected the butterfly and its flower.) Save this selection to the alpha channel so that you can use it later to apply the ink border by choosing Selections, Load/Resave Selection, Save Selection to Alpha Channel. Promote the selection to a layer by selecting Selections, Promote Selection to Layer. Name this new layer Foreground.

  3. Correct the Composition's Color

    For the Asian technique, you want your colors to be muted and desaturated. My example of the winter trees already qualifies, but if your image requires desaturation, change to the Composition layer and select Adjust, Hue and Saturation, Hue/Saturation/Lightness. set Saturation to a low negative setting, such as –67. Click OK. Lighten the background colors of the composition to ease the transition between the composition and the white (paper) background. Because my background was snow, I simply lightened it using the Curves command (Adjust, Brightness and Contrast, Curves). You can also try running the Lighten/Darken Brush tool, set to a medium Opacity, around the edges of the composition, or use the Eraser tool set to a medium Opacity.

    For the ink-border technique, you want to wash out the background colors. Cancel the selection and switch to the Composition layer. From the menu bar, select Adjust, Brightness and Contrast, Levels. Adjust the Input levels: Drag the white pointer left to about 155. Drag the gamma (the gray pointer) left to about 3.0. If necessary, under Output levels, drag the minimum level (the black pointer) to the right a few ticks to 28. Click OK.

    Note - In step 4, for the ink border technique, you separate the colors into lights and darks. This is because light colors in watercolor are generally formed by a low ratio of pigment to water, letting the paper do the job of lightening the color; while darker colors are formed with a high ratio of pigment to water.

  4. Smooth the Foreground

    For both techniques, the texture of the foreground matter must be smoothed. For the Asian technique, choose the Composition layer; for the ink border technique, choose the Foreground layer. Then select Adjust, Add/Remove Noise, Edge Preserving Smooth. Set the Amount of smoothing to 30. Click OK. Then select Adjust, Add/Remove Noise, Salt and Pepper Filter. Set Speck size (pixels) to 3 and Sensitivity to specks to 4. Click OK.

    For the ink border technique only, you must reduce the midtones in the Foreground layer. Switch to the Foreground layer. Select Adjust, Brightness and Contrast, Curves. Create a curve that eliminates the midtones, leaving mostly lights and darks. Click OK.

    Note - If there's anything you need to "fudge" in the image, do it before step 5. For example, in the Asian example, I used the Clone Brush tool to paint a hill in the distance over an outdoor sauna.

  5. Apply Brush Stroke Effect

    For the Asian technique, choose the Composition layer; for the ink border technique, choose the Foreground layer. Then select Effects, Art Media Effects, Brush Strokes. Select Watercolor from the Presets list. For the Asian technique only, make a few adjustments: Set Softness to 7, Length to 20, and Density to 4. Click OK.

    For the ink border technique only, change to the Composition layer and select Layers, Merge, Merge Down. The merged layer is now called Background. Next, select Effects, Artistic Effects, Colored Edges. Set Color to a middle gray {RGB: 128, 128, 128}, reduce the Luminance value to a value below 0, such as –17, set Blur to 25, and Intensity to 23. Click OK. The background now looks so wet that you'll be afraid to touch your monitor for fear of getting paint on you.

    The ink border technique requires one further enhancement: the ink border. Change to the Background layer and load the foreground selection from the alpha channel: Choose Selections, Load/Save Selection, Load Selection from Alpha Channel. Then choose Selections, Modify, Select Selection Borders. Enable the Outside and Anti-alias options and set Border width to 4. Click OK. Next, on the Material palette, set the foreground color to a very dark gray. Set the texture to Backdrop. Select the Flood Fill tool, and with Match Mode set at None, fill each of the ribbon-like selected regions. This gives the appearance of the thin, dark ink border separating the bolder pigments in the foreground from the gentle wash in the background.

  6. Apply Textured Paper

    To complete the watercolor effect, you want the "paper" to have a textured, nubby appearance. Select Effects, Texture Effects, Texture. Choose Old paper from the Texture list. Set Depth to 2 and click OK.

  7. View and Tweak the Result

    The Asian technique example looks good just like this; a frame might disturb the tranquility. The ink border technique example benefits from the addition of white along the edges, perhaps using one of PSP's built-in picture frames. Look for these images in the Color Gallery in this book.


Figure 16.5

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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