Turn a Photograph into a Painting with Photoshop's Art History Brush

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Painterly Photo with Photoshop's Art History Brush

Painterly Photo with Photoshop's Art History Brush
Painterly Photo with Photoshop's Art History Brush. Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

In this tutorial, I will use Photoshop to turn a photograph into the appearance of a painting. To get the best possible composition, I'll use the Crop tool with its Rule of Thirds, and remove certain objects using the Patch tool. I'll use the Art History Brush tool, and add some Filters. In the History panel, I'll make a Snapshot of the changes, which is a temporary copy of my work. After creating a couple of images and making a snapshot of each, I'll save the one I like best, making it my finished work of art.

I'll be using Photoshop CS6, but you should be able to follow along in an earlier version. To follow along, right click on the below Practice File to upload it into your computer, then open it in Photoshop.

Editor's Note:

If you are using Photoshop CC 2015, nothing has really changed. One thing you might consider doing when you open the image is to convert it to a Smart Object which preserves the original image.

Download Practice File

02
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Crop Image

Crop Image
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

To create the best possible composition I will keep in mind the Rule of Thirds, which is to imagine two vertical and two horizontal lines that divide the image into nine equal parts and provide intersections to position important elements on. What's nice is that the Crop tool in the newer versions of Photoshop has this built in. With the Crop tool selected in the Tools panel, simply choose the Rule of Thirds in the Overlay Options pop down in Options bar, To help make the flower within the image the focus, I will have it sit one third down and two thirds in, where the lines intersect. You'll have to imagine these lines if using an version of Photoshop that doesn't offer the Rule of Thirds.

The Crop tool in Photoshop CS6 automatically centers around the center of your crop area. To make the crop area smaller, click and drag from the corner of the selection, or shift-drag to maintain the proportions of the rectangle when resizing. Click and drag within the crop area to move the image, or click outside the crop area to rotate the image. If you're working in an older version, you'll need to move the Crop tool and adjust it, instead of moving the image.

After resizing the crop area and moving the image to where it looks nice, I will double-click on the area to crop the image.

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Make a Selection

Make a Selection
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

Artist's don't have to stick to what is actual; they can change whatever they want in order to suit their interpretation of a subject or to alter a composition to their liking. This is what is known as having anartistic license . Because I want the flower to be the focal point, I will remove the small lilly pad that I feel competes with the flower for attention.

I will select the Polygon Lasso tool from the Tools panel. If you don't see this tool, click and hold on the small arrow next to the Lasso tool to reveal it. With this tool I'll click around the small lily pad to select it.

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Use the Patch Tool

Use the Patch Tool
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

I will select the Zoom tool from the Tools panel, then click a few times on the small lily pad for a closer view of it. I will then select the Patch tool. If you don't see the Patch tool within the Tools panel, click and hold on the small arrow next to the Spot Healing Brush tool to reveal it there. The Patch tool is used to replace pixels in a selected area with some other pixels. You can use the Patch tool, or if working in Photoshop CS6 you can use the Patch tool with the Content Aware setting selected in the Options bar, which tells Photoshop the area of pixels that you want to sample; that you want to have in place of your selected area.

After selecting the Patch tool, I will click and drag the selected area to an area that I want to sample. To deselect, I'll click outside the selected area.

With the zoom tool, I will zoom out by holding down the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) as I click a few times on the image. I'll then look to see if there is anything else that I would like to change. I might again use the Patch tool in a few small areas, then when the composition is to my liking I will choose File > Save.

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Set Options

Set Options
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

I will choose Window > History, to open the History panel. The History panel shows any changes that have been made. These recorded changes are called states.

In the Tools panel, I will select the Art History Brush. In the Options bar, I will click on the small arrow that opens the Brush Preset picker and set the Brush size to 10. I'll also set the Opacity to 100%, the Style to Tight Medium, and the Area to 500 px.

Later, I will apply some filters. Before then, I will use the Art History Brush tool. Using this tool first will make the image appear more painterly or Impressionistic.

06
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Use Art History Brush

Use Art History Brush
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

I will paint with the Art History Brush tool, going over the entire image. This will eliminate any evidence of it being a photograph, but more will need to be done to give it the appearance of a painting.

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Change Brush Size

Change Brush Size
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

I will change the brush size to 8 in the options bar, or use the left square bracket key to decrease the brush size. Pressing the left bracket makes it smaller, and the right bracket makes it bigger.

I will paint over most of the image, leaving a few areas as they are. I'll do the same with a size 6 brush, then a size 4. The smaller brush sizes are able to restore more of the lost detail.

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Restore Detail

Restore Detail
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

Artists sometimes add detail to a focal point, to enhance it even more, and to the foreground, to increases the illusion of depth. I will restore some of the lost detail to the flower and foreground by going over these areas with some very small brush sizes.

I'll change the brush size to 3, and use the Art History Brush tool sparingly and mostly in the foreground. I don't want to overdue it, otherwise I will loose too much of the texture. And, having texture in the foreground also adds to the illusion of depth. I'll then use the Zoom tool to zoom in, change the brush size to 1, and use it on the flower.

09
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Palette Knife Filter

Palette Knife Filter
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

To open the Filter Gallery, I will choose Filter > Filter Gallery. I'll then click on the small arrow next to the Artistic folder and click on the Palette Knife filter.

You can adjust the sliders until the image looks the way that you want it to look. Know that you can also highlight a value field to type in a setting. I'll make the Stroke Size 3, the Stroke Detail 2, and the Softness 6, then click OK.

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Oil Paint Filter

Oil Paint Filter
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

The image is looking more and more like a painting. To take it even further, I will add another filter. I'll choose Filter > Oil Paint. As before, you can adjust the settings. I'll make the Brush Stylization 0.1, the Cleanliness 5.45, the Scale 0.45, and the Bristle Detail 2.25. I'll make the Angular direction of the Lighting 169.2, and the Shine 1.75, then click OK.

If working in an earlier version of Photoshop, you might not have the Oil Paint filter, but you can experiment with other filters and their settings. Maybe try the Paint Daubs filter in the Artistic folder, which offers various brush sizes and brush types, or the Sprayed Strokes filter in the Brush Strokes folder, which repaints the image with a nice texture and angled strokes.

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Adjust Brightness and Contrast

Adjust Brightness and Contrast
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

In the Adjustments panel, I will click the Brightness/Contrast icon, then move the Brightness slider to 25, and the Contrast slider to -15.

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Make a Snapshot

Make a Snapshot
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

A snapshot is a temporary copy of the image at any state. In the History panel I will click on the Camera icon to make a Snapshot.

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Compare Images

Compare Images
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

In the History panel, I can click between the original practice file and the snapshot to compare the before and after. You can also jump to any state created during the current working session to have the image revert to how it looked when that change was applied. You can even work from a state, which I will do next.

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Change Options

Change Options
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

I want to select a state to work from, in order to make another version of the image. In the History panel, I'll choose the state just above the one showing the first use of the Art History Brush tool. In my case, this is the state named Deselect.

I will select the Art History Brush tool from the Tools panel, then in the options bar I'll change the brush size to 10 px and the Style to Loose Medium. Each style can give the image a different look, so I encourage you to at some point experiment with the various styles.

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Use Art History Brush

Use Art History Brush
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

As before, I'll go over the entire image with the Art History Brush tool. After, I'll reduce the brush size to 8, then 6, 4, 2 and 1, going over the image with each to gradually rebuild it.

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Make Another Snapshot

Make Another Snapshot
Screen shots © Sandra Trainor. Photo © Bruce King, for About Graphic Software tutorial use only.

I like how this looks without the need of any filters, so I will click on the camera icon within the Art History panel, then click between the two snapshots for a comparison.

When you close and reopen a document, all states and snapshots are cleared from the History panel. But, Snapshots can be saved as a file prior to closing a document. To do so, I'll select the Snapshot that I like best, choose File > Save As, rename the file, and click Save. This saved file will be my finished work of Art.

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