Use nothing but the power of brushes to turn any photo into a multi-layered spattered portrait
Download the start image from Dreamstime (ID 30401383) or open the image you wish to turn into a painting and create a white, 50% opaque layer. This will help you to see the outlines of your subject while brightening the darker shades. On another new layer, start sketching over the outline with a 2px, black, round brush.
When you’ve completed the outline – don’t worry if it’s rough, as we’re going to build lots of layers – briefly hide the white layer. On a new layer, select colours from the model layer (Alt/Opt+click) and with a 5px brush, squiggle to lay down the main tones to paint with.
Unhide the white layer. With a 5px, 50% opaque brush on your colour layer, start brushing, mixing shades of colour together to create a painted layer of the face. Keep eyedropping with the Alt/Opt key and brushing until you’ve finished creating the painted layer.
Keep working on the painted aspect of the image. Add highlights and shadows to the hair, and with the clothes, create new layers to paint onto. Try experimenting with the blend modes of these layers to change the way the painted strokes react to each other.
Select the 2px brush that you made the outline with. On a new layer, make crosshatched strokes over the darker areas of the face. Reduce this layer’s Opacity to anything from 5% to 50% depending on how dark you want the hatching; it just adds a nice extra texture.
Grab the 50% opaque, 5px brush once more. On a new layer, make squiggles in white or bright colours like orange or purple, just to add some more texture to the image. You can reduce the opacity of this layer if the lines appear too bright or bold.
With an 8px, 100% opaque brush, insert a new layer and make thick, marker-like strokes in black and white over edges that need more prominence. This really cartoonises the image a little more, removing it from the original photo that the painting is based on.
Hide the photo and the white layer, and add a colour background that complements the subject. Organise your painted, sketched and outline layers into groups, and hit mask on the painted group. Load the supplied brushes; Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the mask and brush the paint layers back in, with visible strokes at the edges.
With the majority of your painted layers masked out, insert new layers beneath your portrait, and using paint brushes, add flicked paint strokes beneath the portrait. It looks best to get the paint all at the same angle; use the Direction option in the Brush panel.
Find splatters of paint blobs. Add these too, in the same colours as the paint you manually brushed in. The aim is to make the portrait look like it was painted with these brushes, all in one specific direction.
Use drip brushes to add more tone to the image. These work particularly well at the bottom of a portrait, or dripping from a specific place, such as the flower on our subject’s dress. Again, remember to create new layers beneath the painted layers, and apply the brushes there.
As well as adding paint below your brush strokes, add it above by inserting layers at the top of the layer stack. This effect looks particularly good at the edges of your portrait; we’ve created an explosion of paint splatters at the side of the subject’s face for effect.
Select the airbrush-style brush from the Brush palette. This particular brush creates awesome, unique-looking spray-style strokes that you can add – again on new layers – in whichever colours will embellish your artwork nicely.
Up to now, we’ve not paid much attention to the background, but with most of the portrait done, hide your layers and insert a watercolour texture above your blue background. Tweak the background with Fill layers, adjustments and clipping masks to create a watercolour-style look in a colour of your choice.
Finally, add some adjustments to get the portrait looking brighter and bolder. We’ve used Curves, Color Balance and Vibrance to tweak it, along with a High Pass layer of 4px to sharpen (set to the Overlay blend mode) and a layer of noise to texturise.