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How to Make a Photo Look Like a Painting in Photoshop

Updated on May 16, 2012

Make a Photo Look Like a Painting

It is really easy to take one of your favorite photos and make it look like a painting in Photoshop. With just a few very simple steps you can begin turning all your photos into images that look like paintings. Many people like to do this, because they prefer to hang stylized paintings in their home rather than realistic photos. Many people feel a painting has a much more gentle and artistic feel that suits most home decor. Plus, I need to mention that this tutorial is a lot of fun.

Create a duplicate layer.
Create a duplicate layer.

Step-by-Step Tutorial

We will be using Photoshop CS4 for this tutorial; you may need to make adjustments to this tutorial if you are using a different version of Photoshop.

Step 1: First you will need to open a file to work with. I recommend using a photo of a landscape like the one in this tutorial. This technique doesn't work will with portraits in my opinion.

Step 2: Once you have selected a file to work with you will need to create a duplicate layer of the original layer. You can do this by right clicking on the original layer and selecting duplicate layer. You should now have two layers. One should say "background" and the other should say "background copy" assuming that you did not change the names manually. We will want to work off the layer called "background copy" so make sure it is highlighted blue.

Step 3: Now we need to blur this layer using the Gaussian Blur filter. The Gaussian Blur filter is located in the menu bar located at the top of your screen. You should select Filter -->Blur --> Gaussian Blur. This will cause a new window to appear.

Select the Gaussian Blur Filter.
Select the Gaussian Blur Filter.
Adjust the amount of blur.  Try something between 3 and 10.
Adjust the amount of blur. Try something between 3 and 10.
Change the blending mode to darken.
Change the blending mode to darken.

Step 4: The new window will have a slider and a preview of your image, but zoomed in. In this window you will need to choose how blurry you would like your photo to be. You want it to look blurry, but still be able to determine what the picture might be. I recommend that you use a setting between three and ten. When you have decided upon a setting you can click the OK button.

Step 5: Lastly you want to change the blending mode of the layer you just blurred. Be sure you have the blurred layer selected. Now change the blending mode from normal to darken. The blending mode setting can be found in the top left corner of the layers box. Once you have changed the blending mode your photo will be complete.

Turn All Your Pictures into Paintings

Yes, it is that easy to make all your pictures look like a painting. Now that you know this really simple method, you can start having fun and turn all pictures into paintings. Before you get started I want to tell you a few optional tips to improve your pictures that you turn into paintings:

  • When you are done with this tutorial try making a Vibrance adjustment. Often times the blur and darken blend will cause your colors to appear more dull. A quick Vibrance adjustment should boost your colors and make the picture look more painterly.
  • You may also want to make a levels adjustment to get rid of the gray haze that can sometimes appear over the photo.
  • I like to sharpen each image as well using the "Smart Sharpen" option. You may find that you need to use lower settings than normal when dealing with pictures that have this painterly effect.
  • Lastly, make sure you choose the right photo for this method. I personally feel that landscape photos work best with this tutorial.

Results of Turning a Picture into a Painting

Original Photo


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    • designnbuy profile image

      Design'N'Buy 4 years ago from USA

      Quite good and knowledgeable tutorial!

    • profile image

      Unknown 6 years ago

      This was a really good lesson to show us. It was very easy to use, and very straight forward! Thanks for the amazing tutorial !

    • kgala0405 profile image

      Kevin Galarneau 6 years ago from Michigan

      @ Teresa: I bought Photoshop a few years ago when I was doing a little bit of real estate photography. Now with everything going on in the market, people in my area don't want to pay someone to take their photos. I still use Photoshop for projects my friends give me and for my vacation photos. Plus, I've started using it for Photoshop Tutorials. Teresa if you decide to buy it you won't regret it. If you don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on Photoshop CS5 you can always try Photoshop Elements.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Well formatted and easy to follow hub. I have been putting off buying this program but I think I will cave soon. It could be so useful for my hub pages career!

    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 6 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Well written, very good concise instructions, including your video that you articulated well on directions. Thumbs up. This was way cool.

    • brittanytodd profile image

      Brittany Kennedy 6 years ago from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

      Wow! Great hub! I love the way you illustrated before and after in the images. Great work, voted up, shared!

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Very clear directions for a program that usually takes months to master! Thanks, kgala! Voted up and useful.

    • kgala0405 profile image

      Kevin Galarneau 6 years ago from Michigan

      Cherrycrime, you are right you can totally do this with portraits. I just say that I recommend a landscape type photo because I prefer the way those look when compared to to using this tutorial with portraits. Thanks for your comment! :)

    • cherrycrime26 profile image

      January Moon 6 years ago from NY, Now Living in Atlanta Ga

      GReat tutorial, you can also do this with portraits as well, I love photoshop, voted up

    • alissaroberts profile image

      Alissa Roberts 6 years ago from Normandy, TN

      This is a great tutorial for using Photoshop! You have laid out easy to follow instructions for anyone to use. I am seriously going to have to invest in this program because it looks like you can really make some awesome photos with it! Thanks for this useful hub - voted up!

    • profile image

      jacobyreygarza 6 years ago

      Really good tutorial! I love Photoshop!

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 6 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      Wow, I need to get Photoshop asap. I've been putting it off for so long, for good reason, the price.

      Boy, you make it look so easy!

      Thanks for sharing this simple step video.

      Voted Up & Useful!