photoshop creative

How to oil paint in Photoshop, part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
December 23, 2013

The first part of this tutorial on how to create an expressive oil paint effect in Photoshop with brushes

Download all the files you’ll need for this tutorial here

Oil painting in Photoshop


Open your chosen image for the effect into Photoshop, and Ctrl/right-click the Background Layer and choose Duplicate Layer. Click on the original Background Layer and go to Edit>Fill, choosing White for Contents. Return to the duplicate layer and set its Opacity to 40%. Now add a new layer.


First we want to make a rough trace of the main elements in the image. Choose the Brush Tool and load the Thick Heavy Brushes set from the Brush Picker. Choose the Rough Flat Bristle Brush. In the Brushes Palette (Window>Brushes) in Other Dynamics set the Opacity Control to Pen Pressure. Choose a dark brown for your Foreground Colour.


Use this brush at a small size to roughly trace around the main elements in the scene. This will just be a guide as you paint, as you’ll have the original photograph to refer to. If you’re not confident with drawing freehand, you’ll find a rough sketch supplied with the tutorial files, which you can copy and paste into your image.


When your sketch is complete, lock this layer using the small padlock in the Layers palette. Click on the photo reference layer and hide it by clicking its visibility eye in the Layers palette. Now add a new layer. In the Options Bar, change the Mode for the brush to Hard Light. Set the brush Opacity to 80% and the Flow to around 60%.


Choose a mid-toned bright violet colour for foreground and use the brush at a medium size to cover the canvas with short, vigorous strokes in varying direction. This is will establish the basic canvas colour.


Load the supplied colour swatches. Choosing dark warm browns and oranges from the swatches, start to block in the main elements in the scene using directional brush strokes. Your brush strokes need to follow the forms within the scene, such as horizontal strokes for the water.


Because of the way the brush is set up, repeatedly brushing over the same area will intensify both the tone and colour. Remember, we’re not painting detail here, just establishing the overall masses within the scene. Think of this stage as building the foundations of the painting. Make sure to block in the dark mass of the foliage in the upper left.


Add a new layer. Now we need to add some of the lighter midtone areas. Use the same brush, but change its Mode (in the Options Bar) to Overlay. With the tutorial files you’ll find a tonal sketch, showing the distribution of these lighter tones. Start on the buildings, using short strokes following the form. Use midtone oranges here.


At this stage, you can still keep your brush work quite loose, as we’re simply building tonality. When you’re adding the lighter tones to the water, remember to use just horizontal and vertical strokes. Add in the lighter yellows/golds for the bridge and distant buildings.

  • Sydney

    Where can I find the video? What cover cd? I’m really frustrated that I can’t finish this tutorial.