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The Cartoon or Painterly Effect

Contrary to what most people believe, this effect isn’t created by using a third-party plug-in but instead makes use of two filters built into Photoshop: Reduce Noise and High Pass.

It creates a wonderful textured feel and seems to add more dimension to a picture—as if it’s coming out of the screen or off the print a little. It works especially well when used on pictures with a fun element.

  1. Create a merged layer at the top of the layer stack by going to Select > All, then to Edit > Copy Merged, and then to Edit > Paste (Shift+Command/Ctrl+ Option/Alt+E). Rename the layer painterly.
  2. Create a copy of this new layer by pressing Command/Ctrl+J. Name this layer sharpness (Figure 4.11).

  3. Turn off the sharpness layer by clicking the eye icon to the left of the layer. Click the painterly layer, and go to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters and then to Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise.
  4. With the Reduce Noise properties open, set Strength to 10, set all other sliders to 0 (Figure 4.12), and click OK.

  5. Most times I apply this effect twice, but the second time I use a slightly lower strength. Go to Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise, and this time set Strength to 5 and click OK.

    Applying this effect tends to reduce the sharpness in areas like the eyes, hair, and so on. To bring some of this sharpness back but maintain the painterly effect, we can use the High Pass filter.

  6. Click the sharpness layer and click to turn the eye icon on so that the layer is visible. Then go to Filter > Other > High Pass, add a Radius of 1 pixel, and click OK. Then change the blend mode of the sharpness layer to Overlay (Figure 4.13).

    Figure 4.13

    Figure 4.13 The result of adding the cartoon/painterly effect

    A radius of just 1 pixel is enough to bring back sharpness for most pictures; very rarely would you want to use an amount of 2 pixels or beyond. Also, applying this effect using Smart Filters means that you can very easily and quickly increase or decrease the final result.

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