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How to Turn Photos into Paintings with Photoshop CS6 Brushes

By Bob Hershon

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With the addition of the new brushes and capabilities of Photoshop CS6 anyone can magically turn their library of  photos into a gallery of masterpieces which then can be printed and framed, emailed or uploaded to a site of your choice.  If you don't own Photoshop CS6 yet you can download a fully functional version free from Adobe for 30 days.  

Before and after with the Round Fan Stiff Thin Bristles Brush

 Lets get started!  Open a photo you would like paint on.  Next, make sure you have the Layers window open (if not, at the top click Window>Layers or F7 on your keyboard).  Double-click the background layer to unlock it and select okay.  Next, add a new blank layer on top of that one and keep it empty. Now we are ready to transform the photo.  We will be painting only on this blank layer so you may want to lock your original image below it.  On the left side of the screen inside the Brush Tool select the Mixer Brush Tool.  At the top of the picture check the Sample All Layers box.  And on the same line to the left click the two buttons next to each other to Load Brush after each stroke and Clean Brush after each stroke.  By hovering over these icons you will see what they are.  Make sure the color box to the left of these is empty for the moment as pictured below.  

Next, open the Brush Presets window (Window>Brush Presets or F5 on your keyboard) and select the Round Blunt Medium Stiff Brush.  Drag over the picture at varying brush sizes to get that painterly look.  Try using both long and short strokes.  If you make a mistake no need to worry, simply get your eraser tool and erase a bit. 

Before and after with the Round Blunt Medium Stiff Brush

 Play with brush sizes using a smaller brush with tiny strokes for detailed areas you want to keep in focus like facial features for example.  Try using small crosshatch strokes for another type of effect.  If you want to paint with a certain color that is on your image simply Option-Click on that color to grab it and start painting away!  That chosen color will be blending into the color you are dragging the mouse across just like wet paint.  You will notice that color box we originally left blank will be filled with that color choice now. You can even add a new blank layer and try another type of brush, brush tool preset and combine it with the new Photoshop CS6 oil paint filter.

Before and after with the Oil Medium Wet Flow Brush

New to Photoshop CS6 are brushes that are 2000 pixels or larger, big enough to use on a poster!  The Rose brushes I used are part of a huge library of custom brushes which include effects.  No longer do you have to search the web for these specialty brushes.  They make a perfect addition to any of your paintings.

Rose brush size large enough for a poster

  Once you are happy with your final painting we are ready for the last step.  In order to finalize your painted masterpiece simply choose File>Save As> choose JPG (or another format if you wish) and don't forget to give it a new name.  Voila!  From photography to painting in a flash gives you an idea of what the wonderful new brushes in Photoshop CS6 can do!  

A brush "tool preset" combined with the new oil paint filter

 For more advanced users who have a pen and a tablet, here is a video created by John Derry, whose new title on Photoshop CS6 New Features: Brushes on Lynda.com premieres on August 1st 2012.  In this  video John uses the new erodible tip brushes which mimic charcoal or pastels.  He has created an entire range of tool presets which we will examine in a later article. These incorporate all the behavorial possibilities (texture, brush projection, color mixing etc..) the Photoshop CS6 Brushes like the erodible tip, airbrush and pencil use.


Published on Jul 19, 2012

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