Turn Your Favourite Digital Photo into an Oil Painting

Some digital images lend themselves to artistic manipulation and it can be fun to experiment with the filter effects in your favourite software application to see what you end up with. In this tutorial we will edit an image to make it look like an oil painting. The process is very simple and straightfoward and can produce impressive results.

 

Some digital images lend themselves to artistic manipulation and it can be fun to experiment with the filter effects in your favourite software application to see what you end up with. In this tutorial we will edit an image to make it look like an oil painting. The process is very simple and straightfoward and can produce impressive results.

Most filter effects are more visible when applied to relatively small (between 15 x 10 cm and A4-sized) images. They don't seem to work as well with very large image files because the maximum adjustments possible tend to be limited. Still, making a snapshot look like an oil painting can be impressive in itself.

Step 1: Start Adobe Photoshop Elements and open the image you wish to transform. Resize it to the desired size with a resolution of 300 pixels/inch.

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Step 2: Click on Enhance > Adjust Colour > Adjust Hue/Saturation and increase the image saturation to about +40. Click OK.

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Step 3: Select Filter > Distort > Glass to apply a glass filter to the image.

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This will call up an option box in which you should apply the following settings: Distortion - 5, Smoothness - 3, Texture - Canvas, Scaling - 60%. Click OK.

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Step 4: Create a duplicate layer by selecting Layer > Duplicate Layer.

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Step 5: Now select Filter >Artistic > Palette Knife.

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Step 6: Using the sliders in the upper right corner of the screen, adjust the brush size and sharpness until you achieve the look you want. We have selected the following settings: Stroke size - 30, Stroke Detail - 3, softness - 0. Click OK.

If at any time you wish to view the entire image instead of the 100% enlargement provided by default, selecting Fit on Screen in the pop-up menu in the lower left corner of the screen changes the view accordingly.

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Step 7: Create another duplicate layer as you did in Step 4. Go to the Filters dropdown menu in the top toolbar but, instead of selecting the Artistic Effect, select Brush Strokes > Angled Strokes.

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Adjust the sliders to the following settings: Direction Balance - 50, Stroke Length - 6, Sharpness - 1.

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Step 8: Create another duplicate layer then select Filter > Texture > Texturiser.

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In the adjustment area in the top right corner of the screen, select Canvas in the Texture box then adjust the sliders until you achieve the desired effect. We have chosen: Scaling - 160%, Relief - 7, Light - Top Left or Top Right. Click OK.

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Step 9: Hold down the Shift key and select the three new layers you created previously. Then click on Layer in the tool bar along the top of the screen and select Merge Layers. This should combine the selected layers, leaving you with two layers.

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Step 10: Make sure the top layer has been selected (the labelling box on its right side will be darker than the background). Select Enhance > Adjust Colour > Hue/Saturation and move the Saturation slider all the way to the left. This converts the image layer to black and white.

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Step 11: Making sure the top layer is still selected, move to the Layers dialog box in the lower right corner of the screen and change the blend mode to Overlay. This will re-set the image on the screen back to colour.

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Step 12: Return to the Filter drop-down menu and select Stylize > Emboss.

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In the dialog box that appears, adjust the settings to Angle - 150 degrees, Height - 1 pixels, Amount - 500%.

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Step 13: Using the blending mode slider on the right side of the Layers dialog box, adjust the opacity on the top layer to around 50%.

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Step 14: The final step is to merge the remaining layers into a single image by selecting Layer > Flatten Image.

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The final image.

Alternatives
Photoshop Elements isn't the only software application you can use for replicating artistic effects. However, it's the best one we've found for replicating the appearance of an oil painting. If you're looking for an alternative application, make sure it includes a suitable selection of filters.

Finding the right software is a challenge. Although basic freeware applications like Google's Picasa may include a range of filter effects, they don't provide any that replicate watercolour or oil paintings. Applications that provide 'one-click' solutions for giving photos a painterly look don't provide enough control for photographers who want realistic simulations - and they may not work equally well with all types of images.

One worthwhile alternative is Corel Painter X, which provides a wider range of filter effects than Photoshop Elements - but it's also more expensive. GMX - PhotoPainter from Gertrudis Graphics (www.gertrudisgraphics.com) is another, cheaper option. A Google search on 'software with artistic effects' should help you locate some additional programs.