Paint Your Photographs

A friend and I were talking art (like paintings) the other day, and she wanted a new painting for her office.  While we were talking, she said she really wanted one of my photographs, but everything in her office was painted on canvas.  Too bad it wasn't painted...  "What if it looked like it was?" I asked.

There are several software programs that, in the hands of a true artist, can convert a photograph into an image that looks like it was painted with brushes.  Fay Sirkis is such a talented artist.  You can see some of her work here.  She uses Corel Painter software to make her "painted" portraits.  I sat in on one of her seminars at Photoshop World several years ago.  She made it look so easy, but I do NOT have her skills or the software she uses.

There are some artistic effects in Photoshop that can be used to make an image look more like a painting, but they are rudimentary, at best.  (Or, maybe, I just need more practice.)   There is another way, however, for you and me to create some nice looking images with a free Photoshop CS5 plug-in from Adobe, called Pixel Bender.

The installation is simple, and you can have it up and running in minutes.  There are only five sliders to adjust, and some quick experimentation is all that is required to figure out the effect each will have on your image.  All of the effects are global, but you can use layers to build up the image if want the effects to be more subtle in specific parts of the image.

Pixel Bender's panel

I think Pixel Bender works best on simple images that don't have too many tiny details that are important.  Again, the effects are global, so you may want to create separate layers if you are unhappy with parts of your image. The workflow is fairly simple, and you don't need books to figure out how to get the results you want.  I hope they'll develop and improve this capability in the next version of Photoshop.

A lady in a kimono and parasol at the Cherry Blossom festival in Washington, DC

A lotus flower from Va Beach, VA, altered with Pixel Bender.

Print some of your favorites on canvas to enhance the feeling of a painting.  I like to use the folks at Artistic Photo Canvas.  They do a great job, and their prices are very reasonable.  You'll be happy to hang these on your walls.

You should give this plug-in a try.  Pixel Bender will not turn you into a painter, but you can have a good time creating something different.