Replicate traditional artistic landscape styles using step-by-step walkthroughs. Turn your photos into realistic looking paintings in the style of Turner, Canaletto and the Impressionists. Part two - The Impressionist landscape.

The Impressionist landscape

Though soon to be a badge of pride for painters such as Monet, Manet, Renoir, and Pisarro, the term “Impressionism” was originally how one critic dismissed the work of this group of 19th-Century, Paris-based artists.

Dissatisfied with studio-perfected representations of scenes, these painters sought to record what their eyes had actually seen.

This often involved painting on the spot, brushing colours rapidly onto the canvas and capturing their overall impressions of a scene. The critic’s ridicule was short-lived, and Impressionism has proved to be one of the most enduring and popular artistic movements.

Many of the Impressionists had spent time in London and were familiar with the works of the English painter, J M W Turner.

Like Turner, their landscape paintings were also exercises in conveying the impression of light and atmosphere. Often the appearance is blurred, foggy, and degraded, and the minute details of a photograph are absent.


So, emulating this in Photoshop is a matter of applying filters and emphasizing the direction and character of the light. But the key is to convey the atmosphere of the location depicted.


1. After opening the image, you first need to create a new lighting source. Click the “Create a new layer” icon in the Layers palette, and name it “Sun.”


2. Select a large, soft- edged brush via the Toolbar and choose an appropriate colour for the sun’s outer glow. Dab once or twice with the brush. Repeat this a few times, reducing the brush size and subtly changing the colour. Do the same for the reflection.


3. In the Layers palette, hold down Alt- Opt and click the “Add a new layer” icon. Set its blending mode to Overlay and tick “Fill with overlay-neutral colour”. This will be the cloud layer.


4. To make the clouds, choose one of the more irregular brush shapes. There are some interesting ones in the Faux Finish and Natural Media presets that are available under the Brush’s Presets menu.


5. Use a large, soft, brush shape and stipple the Overlay layer with a darker shade. Don’t worry about the precise colour; the colour’s luminosity is what matters. Here I painted with shades of grey.


6. Now we need to apply a layer style to the whole layer, which will give the image texture and tone. Click the Layers palette’s “Add a layer style” icon and choose Color Overlay.


7. In the Layer Style dialog box, set the Blend Mode to Color, choose a rich blue colour, and reduce its opacity to around 60 per cent.


8. Now, add a Pattern Overlay. The Light Marble pattern from Photoshop’s Rock Patterns set creates a perfect look. Set the scale to 1,000 per cent, opacity to 48 per cent, and the blend mode to Luminosity.


9. Go to File > Save As… to save a layered copy of the file under a different name, in case you wish to make changes later. Then, on the original file, select the top layer in the Layers stack, hold down the Alt/Opt key, and choose Merge Visible from the Layers palette menu.


10. With the image now on a single layer, you can apply a variety of filters. But instead of applying them to the entire layer, make a selection first. This approach works really well with filters such as Sprayed Strokes that allow you to specify an angle. Here I wanted the water to be “painted” in a different direction than the rest of the picture.


11. A sharp-edged selection would probably be too obvious in the final image. You can use Select > Feather and enter a selection-softening radius, or you can take the guesswork out of it by switching into the Quick Mask mode by pressing Q and then applying the Gaussian Blur filter. Ensure that Preview is ticked, then adjust the Radius slider. When the edge looks right, click OK, then press Q again to return to standard mode.


12. The Sprayed Strokes filter can give a pleasing Impressionist effect. Here I increased the Size and Radius, making the effect more obvious; and Horizontal is the water’s most suitable Direction setting, because the ripples seem natural.


13. Now, select the rest of the picture, using Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + I to invert the selection, and click Alt/Opt + Ctrl/Cmd + F to apply the same filter, this time with more restrained settings.


14. Finally, a filter should be applied to the whole image for a consistent feel. Here I applied Filter > Artistic > Paint Daubs. Low settings added nice edges to some of the distinctive shapes.


Modern London, looking much as it might have through Monet’s eyes, save perhaps for Millbank Tower peeping out from behind the Houses of Parliament.


This article was extracted from Photoshop Fine Art Cookbook by John Beardsworth. This book is highly recommended by Digit, and is available, now, at a retail price of £14.35 from ILEX, the digital creative’s publisher of choice.

Photoshop Fine Art Cookbook reveals all you need to know to turn your original digital photographs into stunning images that emulate the styles of great photographers and painters. It’s an essential guide to becoming a master of image manipulation and offers scores of detailed workthroughs.

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