How to make photos look like paintings?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by jtg|1, Feb 10, 2007.

  1. Hello!
    I am trying to figure out how to make photo's look like paintings? I have asked a few people who I have seen their works but I just get answers as *play with Photoshop* and *Its a lotta work*, ok...but that don't explain it.
    Can some one explain to me how to? Or point me to a tutorial on books please, or even give me a name in which this is called so as I can research? Or is there a program or plug-in that does the work for you?
    Here are a few examples of what I'm referencing:

    Now, I have not asked the photographer above, just point to his as an example.
    Best Regards and thanks for any assistance you offer,
  2. The only thing that looks like paintings to me in those photos are the background.

    But if you want to find tutorials to do photos that look like paintings a Google search on "Photos Painting look tutorial" or "Photos Painting look" brings up a lot of links.
  3. Hi Jack, Some of them look a tad "Draganized" - a Photoshop technique named after its discoverer. You can got to ATNCentral, which is a site that has free Photoshop Actions and at least one "Draganizer" you can download and run on any image(s) you'd like.
    They also have actions for watercolor paintings, charcoal drawings, etc.
    But if you really want to jump into the "big leagues" you'll probably want a copy of Corel Painter X (Version 10... The "X" is a Roman numeral).
    And if you decide to go that route you might as well budget for a Wacom tablet to use in place of a brush because you'll probably need it. Good luck!
  4. What you really meant to ask is "how can I texturize my photographs like this?" The answer is to simply overlay the textures on your image, use a layer mask, and fiddle with the blending modes.
  5. The new movie coming out later this year called "300" is
    draganized or resembles this technique. From the look of the
    previews it's quite an interesting look for a gladiator type movie.
  6. There are a number of Photoshop filters that can help: watercolor. paint daube.dry brush, etc.. Also, the free plug-ins from Xero Graphics have some interesting effects. Combined with a canvas texture from Photoshop, the overall effect can be quite good.
  7. What I've figured out so far: It all centres around using a number of layers. This usually involves at least one textured layer. This might be a foto of a wall or rusty metal.
    The skill is finding the right blend mode and typically using a lot less than 100% of the texture layer. Typically, adjustment layers then need to be used, curves, levels,and saturation. You may want to try 'match colour' in PS, to use the colour range from a different foto. What seem to be scratches are done using very large brushes just dabbed once, I think.

    From the PS filters, 'Clouds' on a separate layer is useful.
    The dodge and burn brushes often are used.

    I would be very interested to hear from those who are really good at it how they do it...
  8. You can do this by using textures. These are simply photos of interesting surfaces, clouds, water reflections, etc. Place them on a separate layer and experiment with blend modes and opacities, and mask out your subject. They can be used to interact with the existing background, or replace it completely.
    I recently wrote an article on creative post-processing for the latest edition of Pbase magazine, #8. One of the three techniques I explain shows how to use textures, and I list a few online sources (you can also use your own). The article is under "Photoshopography" and it starts on page 15:
    Pbase magazine, issue #8
    In my gallery I have some examples of work done using textures. Here is one:
    Dre, after applying textures
    Before applying the textures:
    Dre, before
    More examples can be found here:
    Transformations gallery with more texture examples
  9. I really have to ask what I think should be an obvious question; why would anyone want to make a photograph look like a painting? Why make a rose look like a pine tree? Of all the possibilities available in this digital era, this is the one that makes the absolute least amount of sense.
  10. "I really have to ask what I think should be an obvious question; why would anyone want to make a photograph look like a painting?"

    I haven't seen anyone yet who really wants to. What they want to make is a photograph that looks like another photograph they think looks like a painting.

    If anyone wants to actually do such a thing, it would be best to get more specific...a "painting"? Which style? Which painter? Vermeer? Degas? David? Many painters' styles and working methods are known and can be emulated in the studio and in Photoshop. I've a recent post that looks at Vermeer's technique. However, this is not usually what the photographer wants. What they want is the knowledge of where they can download a (free) action.

    Pictorial or painterly photographs were all the rage in the late 19th early 20th centuries. One may not have to study painters, one can study photographers from that era and how they did it.

    Consider this: in the post-WWII period commercial illustrators took the step from taking photographs as studies for their illustrations to painting photographs ('photorealism') directly. They had experience with both, they had knowledge of the history and techniques of both.

    I haven't seen a request for such information yet that actually specified what is meant by "look like a painting".
  11. I was a bit disappointed on finding Norman Rockwell projected
    photographs on canvas and traced them with a charcoal pencil
    to arrive at the photo realistic quality in his paintings for the
    Saturday Evening Post and other publications.

    I had thought he actually freehanded everything while looking at
    models that inspired me as a teen by the craftsmenship this
    embued in his work. Upon becoming an adult and entering the
    commercial art and illustration field the meaning of deadlines
    told me that was the only way he could finish such illustrative
    paintings within a month along with the other projects he had to
    complete at the same time.
  12. Tim,

    Such techniques were employed at least as far back as the 15th century: the camera obscura, instruments to delineate perspective lines, but especially the grid -- the painter would view the subject thru a grid and paint and draw on a panel or canvas that was also gridded. Devices for projecting paintings or photographs onto drawing paper were common in the ads in the backs of comic books when I was a kid. 19th century academic painters invented a zone system for mixing greyscale paint for underpainting. Some Photorealists would grid a photo and determine the values then transfer that to pigment values and paint on a gridded canvas. Digitization made that more effective since each pixel value could be determined and matched to a paint.

    There's one Vermeer (I've forgotten the title) which includes a looksee over a painter's shoulder and at the canvas. He is painting from the upper left hand corner -- not sketching or blocking in, but painting the finished surface as if it were a 'by the numbers' painting, something that could not be done in the age, unless grids and camera obscura were employed (and even then, it would be a daunting job).

    One reason painting turned to photography is that painting technique for realistically depicting the contemporary scene ended with the industrial age, especially with regard 'artificial' materials and surfaces, such as plastics. The early 'painterly' photography was retro to begin with, and an ideological assertion of artistry against the engineer-mindset among photographers of the day.

    Why turn to painterly effects today? Possibly it is part of the digital revolution, a reaction to it, an attempt to embed in the photo texture and depth, two qualities of film grain, absent in digital capture.

    Some kinds of painting cannot be duplicated in Photoshop, but many can, especially layered painting techniques.
  13. A question comes to mind. The 'proper' way to add texture to a photograph is with the paper it is printed on -- actually "in", such paper has depth due to its fiber as well as texture.

    The question is to those photographers who make "photos that look like paintings", do they print to paper or just to display? If to paper, do they print to smooth papers or have they taken into account the combination of Photoshop texturizing with that of the texture and depth of non-smooth surface papers?
  14. "A question comes to mind. The 'proper' way to add texture to a photograph is with the paper it is printed on -- actually "in", such paper has depth due to its fiber as well as texture."
    The textures the OP is referring to are not the canvas or fiber-based textures you'll find in PS under Filter>Textures. These are textures as used by CGI artists. They are images of rust, peeling paint, scratched metal, etc. Since they are images themselves, printing is exactly like printing an image.
    Here is one of my favorite texture resources:
    Mayang's Free Textures
    Download a couple, place them on a layer above your image and play with layer blend modes and opacity to get a feel for what they do.
  15. Pam,

    What difference should I see, besides the likelyhood that the PS texture filter uses a repeating pattern rather than a full photo with a more varied effect? It would, of course, replicate more closely the effect of film grain's random distribution and varying sizes.
  16. Don,
    The effect you get really depends on the interaction between your image and the image you choose as a texture. Blending modes will further affect that interaction. As you said, PS textures have a repeating pattern. Also, they simply lie on top of the image, rather than interacting with the tones. To see this effect in action, here is a before/after example:
    The original image, before applying textures
    After (or simply click "Previous" on the example given above):
    After applying textures
  17. "Since they are images themselves, printing is exactly like printing an image"


    What I am asking is since you have already applied texture-effects to your photograph would you print it on smooth paper rather than a fine art paper, a rag paper, a watercolor paper, which is a paper with its own texture?

    Second question: is it your intention to make photographs that "look like paintings"?
  18. Hi Don,
    "What I am asking is since you have already applied texture-effects to your photograph would you print it on smooth paper rather than a fine art paper, a rag paper, a watercolor paper, which is a paper with its own texture?"
    Sorry I misunderstood your question. The paper choice would depend on your particular taste. I'm always experimenting. Who knows, maybe the image I referenced above would look even better printed on rag paper rather than smooth. I wouldn't rule anything out before giving it a try.
    "Second question: is it your intention to make photographs that "look like paintings"?"
    I think the OP just used that expression in an attempt to describe what he thought about the images. To him, they looked "like paintings".
    As for me, no, my intention is to make an image that somehow "works". The colors, tonality, subject matter, mood...all comes together in a cohesive image. Sometimes that only takes a levels adjustment. Sometimes it takes a bit more. I'll use whatever it takes to make it "sing" to me. My personal philosophy is summed up by a quote I once read, "Art is working on something 'til you like it...then leaving it that way" ; )
  19. Thanks, Pam. I didn't think you were attempting to make a photograph look like a painting. I see them as photographs worked to produce a 'retro' effect that might be more discernable if they were not color. I'm referring to vignetting, toning, and 'scratching' -- photogravure or litho engraving effects, the texturizing. I played around with the above "after" image in the channel mixer, colorize, and levels, out of curiosity, to get a sepiatone. A nice effect.

    I'd still like to know what posters mean when the ask about photographs that look like paintings.

    It may be the backgrounds that inspire them based on the photos linked to in this discussion. In your "after" image, the background is reminiscent of an 18th or 19th century painting's background sky, a bit scrubbed with age with some of the underpainting or ground visible.

    Here's an example of the kind of background I referred to which is similar to your textured background in the above link, specifically the sky:
  20. Here's one more example
  21. Check out this online tutorial
  22. While I do use photographs of stone, cracked paint, etc to create my textures, the best textures are carefully crafted and may or may not include a natural surface. Just a photo of any old marble for example may not work very well. Flickr is full of really great texture artists and texture groups if you would like to give it a try. Here is a link to some of my free textures as well. Have fun. It's addictive.
  23. I've been meaning to get back to this thread. Sorry, this is a bit of a shameless self-plug, but it is relevant and helpful for those of you wanting to learn more about this technique.
    I now have a blog specifically geared to using textures in your photographs. There are articles, tutorials, interviews, and sources for textures. Photo Artist textures+
    Feel free to ask me any questions.

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