The effect we’ll be creating in this tutorial transforms a photograph with fine brush strokes to produce a realistic painted appearance. This technique is great for simulating illustrated artwork for retro movie posters or just to give your images a cool stylized look.
Open up your chosen image in Photoshop. I’m using a portrait photo I picked out from Shutterstock. Add a Curves adjustment layer and darken the blacks and brighten the whites to subtly increase the contrast.
The Diffuse filter adds a cool brushed effect but it has blurred the image slightly. Go to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen to bring out some of the details. Use an amount of around 100% but a low Radius to avoid over processing the image.
This result looks pretty good as it is. The texturing from the Diffuse filter adds lots of swirly details on the skin which gives the image a traditionally painted effect. However, there’s one little step that further manipulates the image and results in more of a digitally painted look. Select Surface Blur from the Filter > Blur menu and adjust the values to around 50px Radius and 15 Threshold. Fine tune these values so only the large flat areas are affected.
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