PI5 Painting With Textures

If you like the shimmering, light-dappled look of Impressionist paintings,  you're going to love this tutorial!

small version of photo painting

View painting full size

Learn how to use the new PI 5.0 Paint with Textures feature, along with the Bristle Smear Retouch tool, the Particle Paint tool, and a little Magic Light to turn your photos into works of art.

You can use this photo I took of a hibiscus in my backyard to follow along with the tutorial.  For best results, don't reduce the image size. The photo is quite large (705 X 518 pixels) because "brush strokes" and textures do not show up well on small images. Accordingly, this tutorial contains a number of large images that will likely slow download. However, I promise you that the results will be worth the wait. At the bottom of this page you'll see thumbnails linking to stunning views of this image and others I've done with this technique.

With the hibiscus photo open in the work space, select the Bristle Smear Retouch tool. In the Attributes toolbar, select the Coarse Smear preset from the dropdown list. We'll use this tool first to soften the edges of the flower and leaves, and to break up hard lines elsewhere in the image. Instead of painting from scratch, we'll just borrow the photo's basic structure and color and redistribute the pixels in a painterly way.

Choose View, Toolbars & Panels, Brush Panel, to fine tune the Bristle Smear tool's attributes. Click on the Shape tab and set the Density value at 70.

Bristle Smear Retouch tool settings

Go around the edges of the petals, starting with the pink and dragging outward slightly, about 1/4" or so. Do this gently. You want to break up the hard edges and leave little "dots" of color without losing the petals' shape. Try not to overdo the softening effect, leaving some sharp lines intact here and there. 

soften edges of petals and center of flower

After going around the outer edges of the petals, drag the Bristle Smear tool through the white lines in the center of the flower, curving the stroke along the natural lines. For the stamen in the center, smear just a little around the fuzzy red part, and very sparingly over the yellow part. Aim for a look like the one shown above.

Next we'll do the same thing around the leaves and stems. Start by softening the edges of the leaves, dragging them outward slightly. Leave sharp edges here and there so that they don't lose their shapes. Drag the Bristle Smear tool in curved lines down the ribs of the leaves and in a straight line down the large stems. 

For very small leaves and other small areas, just click and drag a hair to break up the pixels. There is no way to tell you how to do every single leaf in the image, just drag here and there and take a look. If you've overdone the softening effect, choose Edit, Undo To, until you get to a point where you like what you see again.

Here you can see what I've done to the left side of the  image. Notice that I've focused on softening high contrast areas, and have done less in the uniformly dark or light areas.

repeat process for leaves and stems

Here's the right side of the image, which has a number of linear elements such as the windowsill in back, stems and branches, and the top bar of the chain link fence. Notice that I've dragged the Bristle Smear tool in long straight lines along these elements, while continuing to use short, curved motions on the leaves.

Like the center of the flower, the chain links in the fence present a bit of a challenge. It's hard to break up the lines without completely wiping them out. Try simply clicking on the links, or dragging just the tiniest bit.

Again, look for areas of high contrast, where light meets dark, to blur the edges, and leave sharp edges and lines just as they are in places. 

softening right side fence and leaves

Next we'll add some random bits of color to break up the greenery. Select the Particle Paint tool. In the Attributes toolbar, select the Dazzle preset from the dropdown list. This is a terrific effect, adding large, soft-edged circles of color to an image. The colors vary according to the selected color. 

The default color is purple, so we'll change it by right clicking in the Color box and selecting Eyedropper. A dialog box opens that allows you to pick a color with the Eyedropper. To get colors that go well with the predominantly green background, click in the image to select a medium yellow-green from the leaves, RGB=106, 121, 61.

Go through the image clicking lightly in the darker areas to make big "dots" of soft color. Aim for light dots in darker areas, and dark dots in lighter areas. Some of the colors won't look right or add anything to the image. If that happens, it's OK, just right click and Undo, then click again until you get a color you like.  You can add some lovely pale yellows, greens, blues and purples to the image with the Particle Paint tool. Note the soft purple on the leaf below.

adding Particle Paint tool effect

Let's add a little more random color and light by selecting Effect, Noise, Add Noise. When the Add Noise box opens, skip the thumbnails and click on the Option button.

When you get the secondary Add Noise box, choose the Varied distribution and enter a value of 7 for Variance. This will make only a slight, but attractive difference in the appearance of the image.

adding varied noise

Now we'll learn how to paint with textures. Make sure the Brush Panel is open and select the Airbrush Paint tool. In the Attributes toolbar, choose the Thin Stroke preset from the dropdown list. Right click in the Color box and select Eyedropper. Use the Eyedropper to choose a dark pink from the image, RGB=255, 66, 171. In the Brush Panel, click on the Textures tab. From the dropdown list select Texture 28.

Drag in curved lines from the outer edges of the petals in toward the center. You'll see that a rough and bumpy texture appears in the paint. Be careful that you don't paint out the white parts of the middle of the flower.

Now click in the Attributes toolbar's Color box and switch to white paint. Leave all of the other settings the same.

Paint from the center out, stroke lightly and quickly, following the curving white lines in the center of the flower to emphasize them.

airbrush with texture on white center

Now we'll add texture to the rest of the image. You'll still be using the Airbrush Paint tool. From the Brush Panel's Texture tab, select Texture 7. Click on the Color tab and select the Multiple Colors option to paint with more than one color. Painting with Multiple Colors throws into the paint tiny little bits of complimentary color. Right click in the Color box and select the Eyedropper. Click in the image and choose an olive green color, RGB=82, 97, 47. In the Attributes toolbar, change the brush size to 100.

Drag lightly over the greenery, and straight down stems and branches. Try to not cover any one leaf completely. The textured airbrush paint will add a fine bump to the paint. 

Keep the paint off the pink flower and the bright white areas in the top upper right corner of the image. However, do add a little textured paint to the top bar of the fence and the vertical window sill.

adding texture to dark areas

From the Color tab of the Brush Panel, right click in the Color box and choose Eyedropper. Use the Eyedropper to select a dark pink from the flower, RGB=253, 11, 120, and choose to paint with only One Color. Leave all of the other settings the same.

Paint lightly over the petals of the flower, adding the dark pink texture to the flower.

add texture to flower

To finish painting, we'll add a white highlight in the center of the flower, darken the petals and emphasize the divisions between the petals. In the Brush Panel, click on the Textures tab and select No Texture from the dropdown list. In the Attributes toolbar, select Fat Stroke from the preset dropdown list. Click in the Color box and select white. Enter a value of 75 for Transparency. On the lower left side of the stamen in the center, between the 6:00 to 8:00 positions on a clock, make a C-shaped curve (see A below).

To darken the edges of the flower's petals, select the Tonal Adjustment Retouch tool. In the Attributes toolbar, select the Darken preset. Run the tool quickly around the outer edges of each petal one or two times, darkening them slightly (see B below).

Select the Burn Retouch tool. In the Attributes toolbar choose the Edge Burn preset. Enter a value of 5 for Brush size, Soft edge=5. Move the Level slider way down, to the 4th little line from the left.

Where the petals join, drag back and forth in a narrow line about 1/2" in from the edge to darken and separate the petals, as shown at far left (see C).

adding airbrush, tonal adjustment and burn effects

Now let's add some dramatic lighting to the image. In the Easy Palette, select the Filter Gallery. Scroll down and right click on L24, choosing Modify Properties and Apply. When the Light dialog box opens, enter the values shown at left. You'll be increasing the brightness of the light and the extent to which it falls across the image.

Filter Gallery Light settings

Click OK to apply. 

To complete the painting, add a frame. I really love the photo edges in the Edge Frame Gallery, so that's what I chose here.

add Edge Frame

View painting full size

Or add a Magic Frame in the same color as the hibiscus.

add Magic Frame

View painting full size

You can use this painting technique with other photos too. It works best for large images with a central focus, and not so well for close-up portraits. It can be tricky to redistribute the pixels on a face, particularly the eyes, so avoid head-on portraits. However,  profiles or photos with the person's head turned down or to the side are workable (see the cat and child images below). 

Click on a thumbnail to see the results of this technique applied to other images. The horse, child and cat images are from the PI 5.0 Samples folder. The puppy image is my own photo of my Welsh Terrier, Pepper. (Back to Top)

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