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.tutorial: pretending you paint stuff

This tutorial is the definition of "quick and dirty." Possibly it's the shortest tutorial I've ever written. First, though, I have to give a shout-out and credit to girlnamedpixley, who was awesome enough to introduce me to a new and different way of using Photoshop filters to achieve a painterly/mixed-media effect with a photo or screencap. I took it and ran with it in a couple of pieces, and am enjoying it immensely. I think it would be great for artists who are trying to stretch beyond their usual set of Photoshop tools (we all have our favorite features, don't we?), or for beginners who are ready for the next step.

This tutorial can be laid at the feet of ran_cl and uglybusiness, who asked ♥

Okay, down to business. Today, we are making this:



.zip file: here. As always, the .zip file includes: the source image, copies of all the layers, the final result, a screenshot of the layers palette (for those with no CS4 compatibility), and a .psd.

.caveat
This tutorial is really only an introduction to a method; the steps you take and the way you take them (blend modes, blurring, erasing, desaturating, everything!) will change a lot depending on the source material you’re starting with.

Software: PS4, but translatable to earlier versions of PS (to PS7, at least)
Difficulty: Beginner/intermediate. You need to know basics like cropping and how blending modes work, how to use the eraser and smudge tool. That sort of thing.



Subject: Arthur! I did absolutely nothing to color-correct this; I like it just the way it is. Ideally, you will crop out the background, if it isn't smooth and plain. Why? For two reasons: first, the Find Edges tool (coming soon!) will pick out the edges of everything in the image, and give you a very busy and somewhat sloppy result; second, and related, I think the effect we're going for here is best suited to a single, isolated subject that you want to stand out; when it's used across an entire image, there's just too much going on and competing for attention. This, however, is a matter of my personal aesthetic, so take it with a pinch of salt and a shot of tequila.

The process:
1.) In the top menu, go to Edit > Define Pattern. When the Pattern Name dialogue pops up, click okay. This sets the background image as a pattern that you will use later to get that painted-in look.
IMPORTANT: If you decide to resize the image later, you will need to redefine the pattern.

2.) Duplicate arthur_orig
3.) Filter > Stylize > Find Edges
->This picks out the edges and borders between colors, and will help create that fine brushstroke effect. Don't worry if it's all crazy now; you can tweak it later.
4.) Set the Find Edges layer to Multiply

Now for the background:
5.) Open jedan (brasaremean) and resize to about 1000px wide
6.) Paste in between the background and Find Edges

Now for the fun stuff:
(You may want to consult this screenshot for clarity.
7.) In the main palette, click the Pattern Stamp icon (the thing that, uh, looks like a stamp). In the menu that comes up, select the Arthur pattern. Make sure that you've checked the "Aligned" box if the option is presented to you.
->Note on pattern stamps: These can be used like brushes, as you will discover shortly. If you look at the screenshot just above, in the stamp menu you'll see the brush icon (right next to the one for the stamp). You can change your brushes here, just as you do with the paintbrush tool. The only difference is that, instead of painting a color, you'll be painting in the pattern. Nifty, huh?
8.) Add a new layer between find edges and jedan and set to Hard Light (this will be pattern stamp – HL 100% in the .psd and layer chart)
9.) Start to paint in the pattern. Because the pattern exactly matches the background image, you're basically just painting in the background, but with the texture that the brush provides. You'll wind up with something like this.

Okay, here is where the variability comes in. There are a couple issues here: tweaking the find edges layer, and playing with the color. We'll take these one at a time.

Toeing the edge
You can see how the Find Edges filter picks out every single edge, and it looks like someone had a field day with some kind of horrible pixelating device. Also, some of the edges in Arthur's profile and neck are very obvious, as is the heavy black line that edges his face. Ways to address these problems can include: reducing layer opacity, changing layer blend, desaturating (or applying a layer mask and desaturating that, then erasing where you'd like color to come through), erasing, and smudging. I opted to keep the color, but get rid of some of the lines and reduce the heavy black line edging Arthur's profile, so I erased a few things and smudged the rest. My result is this.

Coloring outside the lines
I wasn't crazy about all the white space, or about the amount of yellow involved, so I did a few things:
-Back to the pattern stamp! I added two more pattern stamp layers, pattern stamp – CB 70% and pattern stamp – SL 38%, and basically spent some time messing around with saturation and opacity. A good way to start is to paint in the entire pattern, see what you don't like, and take steps to fix it. Another thing I did was go into each of the layers and blur them a little bit. Not much (maybe 30% strength at the most), just enough to make the color transitions a little smoother. The results for both layers are here and here, and as you can see, I ended up erasing quite a bit, as well as desaturating pattern stamp – CB 70% and changing the opacities.

Final touches
I couldn’t quite solve the problem of the white/pale space in Arthur's neck, so I duplicated the background image, positioned it above jedan, set the layer to Multiply and lowered the opacity to 33%. That fills in a bit of color.

The final layer chart:
find edges – multiply 100%
pattern stamp – SL 38%
pattern stamp – HL 100%
pattern stamp – CB 70%
bkg copy – multiply 33%
jedan (Normal)
background

Aaaand the result!


This probably isn't really a finished piece on its own; it still feels a bit rough to me. Still, it might make a start on an LJ header or friends-only/info page banner, and maybe a nice icon. For an example of this technique worked into a much more complicated piece, check out this Castiel graphic. So it is flexible, you see. I tell the truth about these things.

As I said, because I can't say it enough, everything above is totally variable. What you do is going to change by the image you use, and the effect you're going for, so keep in mind that this tutorial is just a way in to a technique you might not have known about. The rest is up to you ♥
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