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Home » Photo to Painting – How to Make Art From Photos

Photo to Painting – How to Make Art From Photos

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art from photos

Photo to painting – how to make art from photos is for people who wish they could paint, draw or make beautiful art in some way but feel unable to draw or paint.

The picture you see above shows what you can do with an iPhone camera, some picture editing software on a PC or Mac and a little bit of know-how.

The original picture (below) was a grab shot on my iPhone in the grounds of the Nuffield Hospital in Ipswich UK.

I don’t always have my Nikon cameras with me, especially if I am out and about doing non-work related stuff. On this occasion, I was visiting the hospital.

The tree that the leaves came off was getting more bare with each visit and I decided to grab a quick picture before the leaves on the ground turned to mush.

The colours in the dead leaves were really rich and warm, so I thought an image would be good to have in my picture archives.

People have said to me, ‘why have you altered the colours?’ I have done it to show how you can easily turn a photo into something abstract and ‘arty’, and of course, I still have the original image to enjoy.

I really love them both and would probably blow them up to be displayed in the same room.

art from photos

How to begin making art from photos.

In this tutorial, I have used the camera on an IPhone 5s and some very simple techniques in Photoshop CS 6.

If you don’t have Photoshop, don’t be put off because I will also be doing further tutorials showing how you can get arty effects with free apps on IPad or in Photoshop Elements.

And if you do have Photoshop but feel intimidated by it – don’t be! Yes, the professionals out there in the design industry may be the big guns when it comes to Photoshop but, there is no reason why us minions should not dabble around with it.

I am no expert myself, everything I do has been by trial and error and there may be a hundred different ways to do this, but this is my way.

So if you are a critical pro reading this (ie a Photoshop snob), probably best if you toddle off someplace else and leave us novices to play happily with our pixels.

Unless of course you are friendly and want to offer some helpful pointers – in which case please stay!

For this image, I started off with the picture below.

So grab a shot on your phone, or use one you already have and lets get started.

For people who prefer to learn from videos as well as written instructions, click here to watch me going through the steps on-screen in Photoshop.

My first step in making art from photos was to crop my first image to a shape I liked.

You need to open Photoshop and then open your image. Of course, you can leave it in its original format if you like. But I wanted mine to be square.

Most people who are familiar with Photoshop will know how to crop an image to a specific size.

In case you don’t, I have made a screen shot below so you can see.

So just select the crop tool from the tool box on the left (1) and then set your crop dimensions in the boxes in the tool options bar (2), then click and drag across the image with the crop tool to decide on where you want the crop to be (3). Then hit enter to make the crop happen.

The next step in making art from photos is to make another layer.

For those unfamiliar with the term ‘layers’ – imagine having a drawing book with tear out pages.

Some of the pages are transparent or partially transparent (like sheets of clear or semi-opaque acetate) and some are white.

Imagine you create a drawing on a white sheet of paper but then you want to put some text over the top, but you don’t want to write directly onto your drawing.

So you tear out one of the transparent pages and write or paint extra details onto the acetate which you then layer over the top of your picture.

Then you want to add a title somewhere else on the picture, so you take a second piece of acetate and write your title and add this to the stack.

You could keep on adding layers of acetate with various details on. You could play around with adding and removing sheets of acetate to see what the image would look like with certain elements removed.

This is how layers work in Photoshop.

We are taking a base image and adding a transparent layer over the top to get the effect we want.

Unlike the fictitious drawing book mentioned above, we have control over the opacity of the layers in Photoshop.

You will see how to use opacity further on.

How to create a layer.

Just go to the layer drop-down menu and select Layer – New, as shown in the photos below. Name the new layer Photocopy.

(Please note you could also select ‘duplicate layer’, however, this tutorial is to show you how to cut and paste images into layers and so I have used this method.)
art from photos
art from photos

Now we need to cut and paste the background image into the new layer.

This will give us two layers to work with – each layer will have different effects which we will blend together.

In the layers palette to the right of the screen, click on ‘background’ to make sure you are working with the right layer. (See the image to the right here.)

art from photos

With the background layer highlighted go to the Select drop-down menu and choose All. (1)

Then go to the Edit drop-down menu and choose Copy (2).

art from photos
art from photos

Now go back to the layers palette and highlight the photocopy layer (3), see pics below.

With that layer highlighted, go into the Edit drop-down menu and choose Paste (4). You will see in the layers palette now that you have two layers with the same image (5).

art from photos
art from photos
art from photos

Next – create a photocopy effect.

To do this, ensure that your background and foreground colours (at the bottom of the tool panel) are set to black and white.

(1) The foreground and background colour swatches. (2) The little black and white squares icon that you click on to make the foreground and background colours black and white if the aren’t already. (3) The little bendy arrow that you click on to toggle (swap) the background and foreground colours around.
art from photos

With your background and foreground colours set to black and white – go to the Filters drop-down menu and choose Filter Gallery (1) pic below left.

When the filter gallery window opens,  make sure the Photocopy function is highlighted (1) pic below right and the sliders (2) are set to around 16 to 18 for the Detail and 30 for the darkness. Then click on OK to return to the main screen.

art from photos
art from photos

Next we are going to work on the colour layer which is the background layer.

So go to the Layers palette and click on the small eye icon on the Photocopy layer (1) pic below.

Until you click this off, the Photocopy layer is visible (2) and will prevent you from working on the background layer.

Clicking the eye icon (3)will hide the layer so you can see the background layer underneath (4).

art from photos
art from photos

With the Background layer highlighted, you will now ‘bend’ the colours to begin getting an arty effect.

Go to the Image drop down menu (1) and select Adjustments (2). See pic below left. And then, move the Hue and Saturation sliders (3), see pic below right until you get a colour effect your like. Then hit OK.

art from photos
art from photos

Now it’s time to turn the background image, with its new colours, into an oil painting.

So with the background layer still highlighted, go to the Filter drop-down menu and choose Oil Paint. You can see here (right) what the close-up effects of the Oil Paint filter will be.

art from photos

As you can see from the pictures below, you need to go to the Filter drop-down menu and choose Oil Paint (1), see pic on left.

This will open the Oil Paint window (2), see pic on right and in there you can use the sliders to get different effects. You can see what my settings are (you can also see these settings in my YouTube video).

art from photos
art from photos

Now we are going to go back to the Photocopy layer and remove the white background to make it transparent.

First, go to the Select drop-down menu and choose Colour Range (1), see pic below left. In the Colour Range window, use the Eye Dropper (2), see middle pic to select a pure white area (3). Now all the white areas will be selected (4) see pic below right.

art from photos
art from photos
art from photos

With all the white area selected, go to the Edit drop-down menu and choose Cut.

Now all the white will disappear leaving a checkerboard background – see pic below left. All the checkerboard areas are transparent and you can now see the oil-painting underneath – see below right.

art from photos
art from photos

Now all that is left to do is change the opacity of the Photocopy layer so the black is not so dominant.

You do this by making sure the photocopy layer is highlighted (1), see pic below and then moving the opacity slider (2) up and down until you are happy with the look of your picture.

art from photos

That is one way you can make art from photos with Photoshop CS 6.

Make sure your save your new image as a separate file from the original picture so that you still have your original.

When you have been working with layers, it is always best to keep a copy of the .psd document with the layers still intact.

So you would go to Save As and save it as a .psd file. You can then go to Layers – Flatten and save another copy as a JPEG file with all the layers

flattened. JPEGS are smaller and can be  used in social media etc.

For those who do not have Photoshop, I will be doing some more tutorials on free software that gives some really beautiful effects.

I have a couple of free apps on my IPad that I will be showing you.

So if you are keen to make art from photos, come back soon and if you have any comments or questions, please scroll down to ‘leave a reply’ and talk to me!

And don’t forget, there is a video on my YouTube channel to demonstrate this tutorial and help you make art from photos.