photoshop creative

Create the van Gogh style in Photoshop (part 1)

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Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
August 29, 2015

We’re ten years old – celebrate this weekend with a tutorial from our first issue!


1. Inspiration source


Open a new file. As you will need to refer to Van Gogh’s original painting throughout, go online and search for a large file of Starry Night. The higher quality will be of use layer when zooming in for detail. Copy and paste the original into the main file and keep as a separate layer to refer to if you need.

2. Guide drawing


Choose the Brush tool and set to 4px, 50% hardness and 100% opacity. As you look at the original, use the brush to draw outlines of the original composition. If you have no confidence in your drawing ability, there is an easier way: set the painting layer’s opacity to 30, select the drawing layer and use the brush to follow the contour lines, starting with well-defined areas.

3. Shadows and lights


To give the drawing more depth, we need to fill in the dark areas and highlight the brighter. Choose a 45px brush at 50% hardness and 30% opacity, and start filling in the dark areas like tree and sky.

4. Get together


Rather than searching for a picture that matches Starry Night’s composition, we have gathered several snaps as our source imagery. Each one contains items that loosely resemble the original (like trees and houses). Insert these snaps into your project and name layers as appropriate.

5. Compose


Some parts of our image will be painted directly onto canvas, where others are based on photographs. With a selection tool of your choice, select the houses in the snaps and move them them to where they should be in the picture.

6. Transform


Use the Transform tool (Cmd/Ctrl+T) to get the elements in your picture exactly where you want them to be. Place houses loosely at this stage and save each transferred selection as a separate layer. Great accuracy is not essential as these are going to be covered in thick paint.

7. The tree



The ominous tree adds eeriness to the image. Its prominent shape plays an important part in the composition so should be copied accurately. Study  van Gogh’s original to get the exact shape of the tree perfect in your version, and mask your tree as appropriate.

8. A spot of colour


It’s time to add colour to the drawing. The end result will be make of several paint layers so this is the first of many. Use the original painting to source and sample colours. Select a brush and loosely apply paint to the drawing. Work methodically starting with the blue sky and cover all blue areas.

9. Colour palette


Open the Colour palette to choose darker shades of blue for darker areas. When you have finished covering blue parts of the image, use the Colour Picker to sample yellow in the original painting and repeat the same process. Again, start with pale areas and gradually move to darker ones.

10. Build the style


Palette Knife, Twirl and Paint Daubs are effects applied lightly to the image for a hint of the van Gogh style. Apply as much or as little of these effects as you see fit. Go to Filter>Artistic>Palette Knife and try the following settings: Stroke Size: 8, Detail: 4, Softness: 8 and apply to the entire image.

Come back tomorrow for part 2, and remember to check out our incredible birthday subscription offer!