Painting tutorial: Realistic brushes - oil painting pt 2

Turning photographs into realistic-looking oil paintings or pencil sketches requires more than just the application of filters. Learn how to use Photoshop's brush collection to obtain the best results. Part two - oil painting.

Photoshop has a selection of brushes for applying realistic craft effects. These brushes can apply colour and convincing textures at the same time. Here we'll add the finishing touches to the initial painting effect created in part one.


11. Duplicate the main Painting layer (created in part one), complete with Layer Mask, by going to Layer > Duplicate Layer.

To give the impression of thick paint on the layer, add a Layer Style. Go to Layer > Layer Style > Bevel and Emboss. For Style choose Emboss, and increase the Depth slide to 81.


12. Click on the layer mask for this layer in the Layers palette and fill it with black using Edit > Fill > Use: Black. This will completely hide the image layer, ready for some more painting.


13. Return to the Brush tool and continue to paint with white. Remember to make sure that you are painting on the Layer Mask and not the actual image layer by checking for a bold outline around the thumbnail for the mask in the Layers palette.

Concentrate on painting mainly into the lighter areas in the image with the brush at a fairly small size. As you paint, you’ll see the effect of thick paint standing on the surface of the canvas begin to develop.


14. Change brushes to add a few more deft strokes of impasto that will really add to the oil painting effect. Click in the Brush Picker and choose Oil Medium To Large Tip. In Brush Options, select Shape Dynamics and set Opacity Jitter Control to Pen Pressure.

Next, choose Shape Dynamics and set Minimum Diameter to 75 per cent. Again, painting with white, add a few stokes here and there with this brush.


15. Now right-click/Ctrl-click each layer mask in turn, choosing Apply Layer Mask on both.

This will apply the mask to the image layer, maintaining the transparency values from the masks. Click on the topmost painting layer and go to Layer > Merge Down (Ctrl/Cmd+E) to merge the two painting layers together.


16. Select the Smudge tool from the Toolbar. Choose the Oil Medium To Large Tip brush again from the Brush Picker.

Bring up the Brush Options and in Shape Dynamics set Minimum Diameter to 75 per cent.

If using a graphics tablet, go to the Other Dynamics category and set Strength Jitter to Pen Pressure.

Now, using this tool on the Palette Knife layer, gently smudge parts of the image, paying special attention to smudging edges here and there. This will give the impression of some nice loose brushwork.


17. To complete the painting, we need to apply a canvas texture to the Canvas layer. Click on the Canvas layer in the Layers palette and go to Filter > Texture > Texturizer.

In the Texturizer dialog box, choose Canvas for Texture, 176 per cent for Scaling, 10 for Relief, and Top Left for Light Direction.

Click OK to apply the texture. To finish, flatten the image with Layer > Flatten Image.

Printing perfection

To add the perfect finishing touch to our “oil painting,” try printing the finished image onto canvas-textured media. There are many manufacturers out there that produce canvas-type inkjet papers, and some real artists’ canvas can be used in a normal inkjet printer.

The advantage to using this is that the subtle canvas textures we’ve added using Photoshop’s special brushes are enhanced by the physical surface texture of the canvas.

It’s worth making a test print first, to see if printing on the canvas paper produces any unwanted colour shifts.

Compensate for this by adjusting the Hue/Saturation in Photoshop before making the final print (it may take a few test prints to get it just right).

Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding media-type settings for your printer.


This article was extracted from Photoshop Photo Effects Cookbook by Tim Shelbourne. This book is highly recommended by Digit, and is available now at a retail price of £17.95 from ILEX, the digital creative’s publisher of choice.

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