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 three - Luminous landscapes.

Luminous landscapes

M W Turner was probably the most adventurous painter of the first half of the 19th Century, creating landscapes of astonishing abstraction.

Echoing the earlier French painter Claude Lorrain, Turner evoked the brightness of Mediterranean light but in such dazzling, luminous swirls that his Italian landscapes, images of Venice, and classical themes were sometimes barely recognizable.

Stormy northern oceans became frothing torrents of waves and spray, while steam trains rushed through billowing smoke.

What Turner conveyed was the impression of what we know the scene contains, and he did so over 50 years before the Impressionists. A swirling luminosity is the most obvious characteristic of Turner’s style, and it was used to evoke both the brilliance of warm sun and the violence of the sea.

To give a photograph such a feeling, begin by intensifying certain colours – pale blues and rich yellow tones for a sunny day, or cold greys and blues for bad weather. Next, create a layer of clouds, and swirl and distort it, making it either subtle and radiant or powerful and stormy.


Turner travelled widely – especially in Italy – and coastal scenes are particularly appropriate for this treatment. Cities with rivers and bridges were also favourite subjects.


1. Open your selected image, add a new layer, and set its blending mode to Hard Light. This layer will hold the artificial sun, so name it “Sun”.


2. Activate the Sun layer, set the foreground colour to a strong yellow using the Color Picker, and select a large soft-edged brush from the Toolbar.


3. Add the misty sun with a single dab of the brush.



4. To depict the sun’s white- hot centre, reduce the brush size and set the Brush tool’s blending mode to Screen. Dab again inside the sun, just below its centre. Reduce the brush size again, and dab again until the central brightness is almost white. It’s probably better if the dabs are not all in exactly the same spot.


5. To enhance the sun’s glow, click the “Add a layer style” icon in the Layer palette and choose Outer Glow. In the Layer Styles dialog box, change the blending mode to Multiply or Color Burn, and the glow’s colour to yellow. You may also want to reduce the layer style’s opacity.


6. Create another layer with hard Light blending beneath your Sun and call it “Sky”. Click the “Add layer mask” icon for the Sky layer and, with the mask active, select the Gradient tool and choose Linear Gradient in the Tool Options Bar. The foreground colour should now be white and the background black. Next, hold Shift, and drag from roughly where you placed the sun down to just below the horizon.


7. Click the Sky layer’s image thumbnail, and ensure the Gradient tool is still selected. Set Photoshop’s foreground colour to a pale blue (such as RGB values 165, 178, 255) and the background to a rich yellow (255, 240, 100).


8. Drag downward and fill the Sky layer with the blue- to-yellow gradient. If you don’t like the result, simply drag over it again.


9. Because the Sun and Sky are in layers, you can fine tune the results. If the colours are too strong change the opacity of either layer or adjust the Sun’s layer style. Here I reduced the Sun layer’s opacity just a little. If the effect is too weak, duplicate a layer or experiment with the blending modes.


10. Next, add some swirling clouds. Ctrl/Cmd-Click the Sky layer’s mask so Photoshop creates a selection. Then go to Filter > Render > Clouds. For a stronger stormy effect, apply it to the Sky layer. In this case, the landscape needs a gentler effect, so activate the layer’s mask by clicking it without holding down the Ctrl/Cmd key, and then apply the Clouds filter.


11. Without releasing the selection, choose Filter > Blur > Radial Blur. Drag the Blur Center box to the sun’s approximate position and click OK.



12. The Radial Blur filter can make the sky’s colours almost disappear if you apply it to the mask. After all, it blurs the black-&-white cloud shapes and makes the mask grey. To fix this, using the same selection, hit Ctrl/Cmd + L to adjust the Levels. Drag the white and grey triangles to the left to reveal the now-swirling clouds.


13. If you are using Photoshop CS2, you may want to stretch the selection with the new Warp transformation tool, which is found under Edit >Transform. Here I just dragged one of the Warp box’s lines upward and spread the sun’s radiance over the whole frame.



14. For a subtle, painterly effect, apply the just Lighting Effects filter to the Sky layer (Filter > Render > Lighting Effects). Immediately afterward, use Edit > Fade Lighting Effects to fine tune its impact.


15. Finally, add a Photo Filter adjustment layer. I closed my selection and then added a warming filter, which unified the picture with its overall colour cast.


Creating a soft, restrained atmosphere is probably harder than adding so much swirling chaos that the picture becomes totally unrecognizable. Adding the atmosphere on separate layers means you can reuse it with other suitable photographs.


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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