From photo to paintings

PhotoPlus : The Canon Magazine|June 2020

From photo to paintings
James Paterson uses Photoshop CC’s Mixer Brush Tool to transform any photograph into a unique digital painting ready to hang on the wall
James Paterson


Use the Mixer Brush Tool and Watercolor brush set to turn pics into paintings

Time needed

45 minutes

Skill level


Kit needed

Photoshop CC

This is a fun project to try out on a photo from your image library – you could pick an outdoor scene like ours, or why not try a different genre? Perhaps portraiture, still life or abstract. We’ll use the Mixer Brush Tool to give the photo the look of an impressionist painting.

If you’ve ever looked through the Photoshop Filter Gallery you’ll know that there are several filters within that can be used to create a painterly look. But they are all blunt and universal. The great thing about using the Mixer Brush Tool is that it creates painterly strokes based on the details and colours in the image. So you can tailor the effect, rather than applying a generic filter. However, this involves a bit more work.

We have to push and pull the colours around with the brush to create our strokes, following along with the lines and shapes in the shot with short, sharp strokes. We can also enhance the effect with other brushes, including a free Watercolor set from Adobe.

Using several layers allows us to gradually build up the effect. Just as a painter might, we can start by using broad strokes, then go on to add finer details in later. It may take a little while to do, but it’s a relaxing and rewarding task, and makes even the most ham-fisted scrawler feel as if they are really painting.


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June 2020