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Making a Painting from a Photo

📄 Contents

  1. Setting Up Your "Painting" Brush
  2. When You Brush Upon a Star
  3. Minimum, Then Spatter
  4. Summary
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Photoshop 7 enables you easily create effects that were previously difficult or impossible without the help of outside programs. Gary Bouton explores one such effect — turning a photorealistic image into a painting.
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This trick is at the top of my bag, because it just dawned on me a week or so ago that the new Photoshop brushes could indeed be used with the Lighting Effects filter to produce painting-like compositions from photos, models, or other photorealistic endeavors. "Just like Painter does," I exclaimed to myself upon gleaning the similarity in approach between my idea and what Painter does with the Apply Surface Texture command.

We use a fanciful poster instead of a photograph in the steps to come, because until you get a real grasp on the technique here, you can make loved ones look hideous with a minimal amount of effort.

Unlike Procreation's Painter, where you can paint and try out different brushes and then apply the resulting textures on a copy of the artwork using the Clone command, Photoshop doesn't work on clones of images. Therefore, if you want different areas with unique textures that look like you have painted them with a real paintbrush, you need to compose your piece in layers.

Setting Up Your "Painting" Brush

Let's begin by unfolding this mysterious new property that Photoshop offers.

  1. Download Fat_Star.psd and open it in Photoshop.

  2. Press Ctrl(Cmd)+N to create a new document, about 200 pixels by 200 pixels. This is where you test the flow amount of different brush tips. Choose the Brush tool and set the Flow to 5%. If you changed the painting Mode in the last exercise, set it back to Normal. Choose the Chalk 60-pixel "novelty" brush that's shown in Figure 1 (near the end of the default brushes list).

    Figure 1Figure 1— These are more or less the things you need before trying to make this silly astrology poster into a fine painting.


  3. Get a feel for the brush's characteristics using the doodle pad image window. Click the Fat_Star.psd title bar to make this the active document. Click the Background layer on the Layers palette to make this the active layer.

  4. Press D for the default colors. Double-click the Edit in Quick Mask mode icon and make sure that the Colored Indicates option is set to Selected Areas (or Alt(Opt)+click on the Quick Mask icon until the circle is colored and the rectangle isn't on the face of the icon). Your work is in Quick Mask mode now, and now's your chance to paint all over the place. The more "character"—random, uneven strokes—the better for the finished painting (see Figure 2).

    Figure 2Figure 2— Knock yourself out. This is about as much fun as is legally possible!


  5. Press Q to exit Quick Mask mode. Click the Channels tab to view the Channels palette and click the Save selection as channel icon at the bottom of the palette to save the selection as an alpha channel. Click the Alpha 1 channel to switch your view to the alpha channel.

    You do not want this willy nilly texture to dominate anything except the blue background. So now you have to remove the star, the glow, and the horoscope symbols from the alpha channel.

  6. First, Ctrl(Cmd)+click the star title on the Layers palette. Press X to switch white to the foreground. From a view of the alpha channel, press Alt(Opt)+Delete (Backspace) to flood the selection area with white (see Figure 3). Press Ctrl(Cmd)+D to deselect.

    Figure 3Figure 3— Remove the star's silhouette from the alpha channel, and it will show no brush strokes when the Lighting Effects filter is applied.


  7. Repeat Step 6 with the glow layer, the signs, and especially that straggler Leo, just above the background (see Figure 4). Does your image look like this? You can quickly select the remaining layers by Ctrl(Cmd)+clicking the Leo layer, and then Ctrl(Cmd)+Shift click the glow and signs layers to add them to the selection.

    Figure 4Figure 4— Remove all silhouettes that you do not want "paint textured."


  8. Return to the Layers palette and click the Background layer to make it the current editing layer. Go to the Filter menu and choose Render, Lighting Effects. As shown in Figure 5, choose Directional for the Light type and the Alpha 1 channel for the Texture Channel. The setting for the Height slider is minimal—you're making paint strokes, not trying to rival the Mariana Trench. Dispense with the fancy options below the lighting boxes (in other words, use the settings shown in the figure to keep Metallic, Shiny, and other settings minimal). Drag that point on the end of the light in the proxy window toward and then away from the center until the exposure of the proxy window looks the same as the color in the Background layer. Click OK to apply.

    Figure 5Figure 5— Use the Lighting Effects Texture controls to apply the paint strokes saved in an alpha channel to the Background layer.


  9. Save your work as Fat Star.psd. Keep the file open for the next exercise.

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