PI5 Tweaking Creative Painting Effects

The Creative Painting Templates create awesome faux watercolors, oil paintings and sketches. They don't generate the attention they should, possibly because the default attributes may be too powerful for many images.

Small Detail from Painting

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This tutorial shows you how to tweak the Fine controls in the Painting dialog box so that they yield lovely results for smaller web images.

This tutorial features a picture of two cygnets taken by Carol Brooksbank. Carol is  a gifted graphics artist, photographer and all-around Renaissance Woman who has a huge online digital photo gallery that you won't want to miss.

Open the swan image up in PI. Choose Effect, Creative, Painting. When the Painting dialog box opens, select Painting Template 21. Note that the default is Pattern 26. The image looks OK in the small Preview window, but click the Preview button.

Painting Template 21 and default Pattern

Take a good, critical look at what happens to the baby swans at actual size. They're all blurry and smeary looking and the top swan's beak and eyes are very distorted. This happens a lot if you just accept the Creative Painting default values, so it's easy to get discouraged and just give up on them.

Instead, click on the Continue button to return to the Painting dialog box. In the Fine control section, note that the default Fineness, or brush stroke size, is 80, which is much too large for this image. Edit the Fineness value to 25 and click on the Apply button to see the results of this edit in the Preview window.

Edit fineness value

Now click the Preview button and you'll see a brush stroke effect that's much more suitable for the small swans. Although we've improved the effect a great deal, the paint itself looks a little too thickly applied for my taste. To adjust the transparency of the paint applied to the image, edit the Opacity value to 200 and click Apply.

edit Opacity to 200

You might see some minor changes in the Preview window, but to get a good look at what this edit does, click the Preview button. Notice that the white paint that made blotches on the swans' bills is much more transparent now, and so it softens rather than completely blots out detail. Click OK to apply the Painting effect, which is shown on the swans only below.

cygnets painting

To enhance the painting and add a little more fuzz to their soft, downy feathers, select the Bristle Smear Retouch tool.  In the Attributes toolbar, select the Coarse Smear preset from the dropdown list. Drag the Level slider down to about the halfway mark. Note that the Preset changes to "None" whenever you edit preset values, but the Coarse Smear preset is still active.

Bristle Smear Retouch tool settings

What you'll be doing is judiciously adding little rough edges around the fuzzy parts of the swans, e.g., on their backs and chests. Position your cursor on the edge of the swan and drag out a tiny bit into the dark area surround it, creating a fluffy edge. Don't make every single edge raggedy, just accent the feathers. If necessary, pull the Level slider even farther to the left to get a more subtle effect.  You should end up with something like this.

Drag around edges with Bristle Smear tool

After you do the swans, drag in a straight line here and there in the water, wherever there is an area of high contrast. Drag straight lines around the edges of the paving on the right side of the image to break up hard lines.

If you want to really jazz it up, add an Edge Frame or mask to finish the image. I like using the Frame Designer's Magic Frames with Border deselected to get some really interesting results. Alternatively, use an Edge Frame or one of your own masks to add interest. View full size

Now that you've had some experience tweaking Painting attributes, try turning other photos into paintings. Remember that almost all images will benefit from edits to the Fineness, Opacity and Density settings. Rarely will a photo look good with the default values as they are. Try taking the Fineness down as low as 5, if necessary, to get a better result. Remember too, that unexpected and beautiful effects can be created by switching Patterns, rather than going with the default for a particular Painting Template. 

Finally, don't be afraid to further edit after applying a Painting effect and fool around a little with the Retouch and Paint tools to enhance the painted look. That's what I've done in the example shown below. Click on the thumbnail to see how I turned this squirrel photo into a painting. Note especially how the squirrel's tail benefited from the Bristle Smear Retouch tool.


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