photoshop creative

How to turn a photo into a painting in Photoshop, part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by The Photoshop Creative Team
May 10, 2014

If you can move a mouse you can create a digital painting – welcome to the wonderful world of Photoshop’s Smudge tool

Click here to download the supplied start file to get started


The Smudge tool can hide a lot of selection sins, so why not have a go at creating your own composition? In this tutorial, we took a base photo and added other elements by selecting with the Lasso tool and then copying and pasting. It is by no means pretty but it works!

STEP 02  

Open up our supplied start file or one of your own images. The Smudge tool can be very photorealistic, but we are going to use the Cutout filter to help achieve a looser effect. Grab the Lasso tool from the toolbar and draw around the sky area.

STEP 03 

Go to Filter>Artistic>Cutout and set Levels to 6, Edge Simplicity to 0 and Edge Fidelity to 2. Deselect and repeat for the next area. Refer to the supplied document for the list of areas and settings used. You can also skip this and use the supplied file.


Head to the toolbar to click the Smudge tool (it cohabits with the Blur tool). Go to the top Options bar and tick the Sample All Layers box. Make sure the Finger Painting option is deselected. Take note of the Strength setting – this determines how intense the stroke it. We are going to be using 100% throughout.

STEP 05  

Staying in the Options bar, click on the Brush Preset Picker icon. Click on the small options arrow to see the other preset choices and scoot down to Thick Heavy Brushes. A window will now ask if you want to replace the current brushes. You do, so click OK. Pick the Rough Round Bristle.


Create a new layer and call it Sky. Zoom into a view that’s comfortable for you and with a large brush and choppy strokes, move your brush cursor around the canvas, keeping to the form of the objects. You can swoop in towards the middle.

STEP 07 

Create a new layer and call it Mountain. Zoom in and go to the Brush Preset Picker. Pick the Rough Flat Bristle and set a fairly large brush size. Set Strength to 100% and start going over the mountain with diagonal strokes, adjusting the brush size as needed. You can drag the ‘paint’ to cover any areas missed in the Cutout step. Leave the trees for now.


Time for another new layer, this time called Mountain Trees. Be a bit more careful with these and use the Rough Flat Bristle to create the forms of the trees. Click and drag upwards in a straight line to suggest the tops of the trees.