Painting effect II. in Photoshop

Impressionist painting, only a bit different.

Load the photo in Photoshop

Another set of actions for turning a photo into a “painting”, but this time we are not only shifting slides but will need some gift of the hands, or rather, a sense of beauty.

We ourselves will create the painting only half-automatically. Don’t you worry, most of the work will be done by the software after all. All you have to do is select the major and the less important features of your picture. But more about this a bit later.


Check whether History Brush icon is there on the left at the original state or at Open row on History palette. If you have just loaded the picture it will surely be there.

Click Art History Brush (key Y) on tools palette. It’s under normal History Brush. Most probably it is not active so find and select it in the menu.

Set brush size in the options row at the top of the panel: it should be 15 in case of a 1000px width picture and higher in case of a picture with bigger width.

Opacity should be 10%, and Style Tight Long. Write 50 pixels in the Area field. Do not change the rest of the fields.

More or less

Now you have a brush of your own settings, paint over the image with it. You’ll get rough stains, but not to worry, we’ll highlight the details shortly.

To be more precise

In the seconds round, decrease brush size to about half the size now, and set Opacity to 30%.

Avoiding the edges and corners of the picture, paint over the rest again, and you’ll get sharper, more detailed brush strokes here, though the picture remains rough in many places still.

Repeat the settings above, i.e. decrease brush size to half of the previous size (we had 4px), and Opacity to 60-70%. Using these settings, paint over the most important details of the image, if it’s a portrait, it should be the face only, if it’s a landscape picture, it should be the major elements/buildings and their surroundings.

Sophisticated center

You can repeat the action with a brush size decreased 4-5 times. The picture becomes more and more life-like as you decrease brush size, while the bigger Opacity value turns the strokes more and more sharp.

The most important thing to remember is to extend the first phase, the most rough strokes to the whole picture, and concentrate each finer phase to the main theme. Use the smallest brush size to elaborate the fines details: in our case it is the church and its immediate surroundings, or the eyes and the mouth in a portrait. The edges and the background remain rough this way, while the important features will be nicely elaborated, radiating the atmosphere of a painting.


This step is optional, it can be totally skipped. The painting-effect can be emphasized with strongly brightened corners. The picture will appear as if the imaginary painter had elaborated the center and the edges and corners would have been neglected a bit.

The quickest method for brightening is to select Vignette section under Custom tab in Filter/Lens Correction menu, and shift the Amount slider it in the direction of Lighten.

Oil canvas

The result looks like an oil painting in a somewhat impressionist style. Up on the wall with it!

More contrasts

If you are aiming for an effect that is less like a photo with more contrasts, use Image/Adjustments/HDR Toning option before the 2nd step (at least Photoshop CS% is needed for this!), and then set Detail value high. The further steps are as written above.