How to Give a Photograph a Painterly Look Using Photoshop

Above is a photograph of a car that I recently took at a car show in Westchester. I’d like to give it a painterly look, so here’s how I’m going to do it.

The first thing I do is open the photo in Photoshop. Then I’ll go to Shadow/Highlight. The reason I do this is to open up the shadows, which helps create the painterly look:

Here are the settings I use. I’ll bring up the Shadow amount to 20 and the Highlight to 5. Then I’ll click OK:

The next thing I’ll do is go to Filter/Noise/Dust & Scratches:

I’ll bring the Radius slider to 24 and the Threshold to 37. These are the settings that I think look good for this photo. A different photo might need a little more or a little less with each slider. Here you see that the photo has transformed into a painterly look already:

The next thing I’ll do is add some noise. So I’ll go to Filter/Noise/Add Noise:

Here I’ll set the amount to 14.0 and keep the distribution set to Uniform. I’ll also uncheck the Monochromatic box at the bottom of the Add Noise box. Then I’ll click OK:

In the next step I’ll equalize the photo. So, I’ll go to Image/Adjustments/Equalize:

Here you can see the photo come to life. What I’ll do next is set the history marker in the history palette to the step before “equalize”:

Then I’ll use the History Brush to go back one step and darken the background around the yellow car. The yellow car is the main subject and I want it to stand out:

I’ll use the History Brush at 100% Opacity, and a 40% feather on the brush. On the tool bar at the top of the page, I’ll click on the triangle that’s pointing down to open up the brush options:

Then I’ll be able to see all the brush options and the different selections of brushes. Here I have the brush hardness set to 40%. The Master Diameter is just the size of the brush:

Here are the before and after images:

Have fun and experiment with all the sliders. If you don’t want any noise in your photo, just leave out that step. If you want more of the painterly look, just increase the Radius slider in the Dust & Scratch menu.

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