Photo art using simple digital painting techniques can transform even the most ham-fisted artist into a budding Rembrandt. You can simply use a photo as a starting point, tracing over the original shapes and colours without having to worry about shape and form.
Here, we’ll show you how to make this style of photo art by giving an image a painting effect with the Smudge tool in Photoshop. As its name suggests, this Photoshop tool smudges colours when you drag it through different shades in an image. However, it’s also an excellent tool for giving your pictures a painting effect.
The painting effect can look like painted strokes, particularly when you use Photoshop’s range of artistic brushes.Here, we’ve worked with a classic still life – a bowl of fruit.
The real delight in Photoshop effects like this lies in watching the image take shape as you apply your strokes. It’s an extremely organic process, with skills and ideas developing as you practise, so open an image and start smudging!
Make photo art by using the Smudge tool to create a painting effect
Step 01 Apply a filter
Open fruit_before.jpg in Elements. Press Cmd/ Ctrl+J to duplicate the background layer. Call the new layer ‘Paint Daubs’ and go to Filter > Artistic > Paint Daubs. Set Brush Size to 5 and Sharpness to 7. This will blend the colours. Press Cmd/Ctrl+J to duplicate the top layer.
Step 02 Create sketch lines
Rename the top layer ‘Glowing Edges’. Go to Filter > Stylise > Glowing Edges. Set Edge Width to 2, Edge Brightness to 8 and Smoothness to 15. Press Cmd/Ctrl+I, then Cmd/Ctrl+U to view the Hue/Saturation box. Drag Saturation to -100. Click the Blend Mode menu and choose Multiply.
Step 03 Prepare your canvas
Click the Create New Layer icon in the Layers panel. Rename the layer ‘Source’ and press Cmd/ Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E to merge a copy of the layers below. Then create another layer. Call it ‘Smudge Paint’ and go to Edit > Fill Layer. Select Color from the Use menu and choose an off-white hue.
Step 04 Set up the tool
In the Layers panel, drag the Source layer above Smudge Paint. Lower Opacity to 14%. Select the Smudge tool. In Options check Sample All Layers and set Strength to 70%. Click the Brush menu and choose Rough Round Bristle from Default Brushes. Highlight the Smudge Paint layer.
Step 05 Start painting
Begin with the Smudge tool. Use the ] and [ keys to resize your brush tip as you paint. Make your strokes follow the line of the shapes, and keep them loose for a painterly feel. Experiment with brushes and strength settings as you go. You could leave a messy border, as we’ve done here.
Step 06 Add depth
Keep painting with the Smudge tool. Then hide the Source layer, highlight Smudge Paint and hit Cmd/Ctrl+J to copy it. Go to Filter > Stylise > Emboss. Set Angle to 135, Height to 4 and Amount to 100. Change the Blend Mode to Overlay for more depth and a slightly raised feel.
Top Tip: Brush Strokes
To get the most out of digital painting, a good knowledge of Photoshop brushes is required. A little time spent playing with settings can be useful and save you time, too. The Brush panel contains a whole host of different brush tips, and you can download thousands more. Once you’ve got a brush set, you can load it by clicking the flyout menu to the right of the Brush Presets box. Choose Load Brushes. then simply navigate to your chosen tools.
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