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:
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".
- Duplicate Background Layer and call this the Basic Shape Layer
- 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
- Next Go to FILTER - ARTISTIC - WATERCOLOR. Our setting will be:
Brush Detail: 8
Closeup of photo after using watercolor filter
- Next, go to FILTER - NOISE - MEDIAN and set it to 2
Closeup After Applying Median Filter
It is now time to add back some of the detail.
- 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%.
Closeup After Applying Detail Layer
- 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.
- Duplicate the "Combined Layer" and call it "Curves Layer"
- Go to IMAGE-ADJUSTMENTS -CURVES (Shortcut CTRL M)
- 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
- Here's a closeup of the Curves adjustment
Add a Little Oomph with Brightness/Contrast
- Duplicate the Curves Layer and call it Contrast Layer
- 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.
- Here's a closeup after applying BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST
Depending on your photograph, your image might be done at this point. However, I felt my image needed a little more sharpening.
- Duplicate the "Contrast Layer"
- 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.
- SMART SHARPEN Dialog Box
- Closeup after applying "Smart Sharpen"
- Duplicate the Smart Sharpen layer
- Go to FILTER - SHARPEN - UNSHARP MASK and use a setting of 25
- Closeup after applying "Unsharp Mask"
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)
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".