Combining Textures And Filters In Photoshop For A Painterly Look

The quick view Before & After of this image is here

This will be a more advanced demonstration using Photoshop CS5. I’m going to assume that you already know how to use layer masks, blend modes, adjustment layers and adjustment layers with clipping masks. If you don’t know those things, I’ll be covering them in upcoming tutorials. If you can’t wait to get started, go over to my other blog, Photo Artist Textures where you can find tutorials or just glance over this to keep in mind what’s possible.

The Original Image

This is my original photograph with minimal processing done in Lightroom.

Camellia Original photograph

Original Image


Add a Texture

Image after texture added with basic processing. Texture is French Kiss, Flower Garden.

Camellia with texture

Camellia with French Kiss texture, Flower Garden

The Layer Panel

I have done some basic editing. Description from the bottom up.

  • Original Image
  • Levels adjustment: To brighten whites.
  • Texture added: Multiply 100%. Layer mask to reveal the flower. (black reveals layer below)
  • Adjustment layer with clipping mask: to darken the texture slightly. The clipping mask confines the adjustment to just the texture.
  • Cloning layer: Spot healing and Rubber Stamp to clean up dust, etc.
  • Merged Layer: I merged all the layers as I knew I was going to use filters. Notice I locked it. I knew I would try several filters and so I didn’t want to accidentally edit the original merged layer. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if I had, because I could make another, but it was more convenient.
Layer Panel

Layer Panel with edits and texture

Adding Filters To Unify The Image And Give A Painterly Effect

I rather liked this combination of texture and Camellia, but something was missing. It needed another step to unify the image. I decided to try both Topaz Labs Clean filter and the Pixel Bender Oil Paint filter. I’ll first show you the Final with the Layer Panel and then show you zoomed in versions as it’s hard to see the differences in a small web image.

The Final Image

This is the final file where I applied several versions and 3 filters.

Final Camellia Image

Final Camellia Image with 3 filters

The Final File Layer Panel

Remember that merged layer up above? Well, I duplicated that to a new document. I did this to apply the Pixel Bender Filter. Pixel Bender gets fussy with me when a file size is quite large, so I wanted to use a it with a single layer file. I could have brought this layer back into the original file, but I decided to do my final filter work in this new file.

I’ve named my files PreFinal and Final so later it’s clear to me which is the final. It’s also always a good idea to name your layers. It makes working easier and later when you look at your file, it’s clear what you’ve done. I also use the notes tool when I need more detailed descriptions.

OK, let’s break it down. Description from the bottom up. Note: New original merged layer refers to the merged layer from the first document, which I duplicated into this document.

  • Pixel Bender Oil Paint Filter: I duplicated the merged layer from my first document with the basic editing and texture into this new document.
  • Pixel Bender Oil Paint Filter 2nd version: I liked the flower, but I wanted the background less detailed. With a new original merged layer I used the Pixel Bender Oil Paint Filter again with more blurring. I then used a layer mask so that the more detailed flower from the layer below is revealed.
  • Topaz Labs Detail Filter: From a little experience using the Pixel Bender Oil Paint Filter, I knew that I like increasing the detail and contrast with the Topaz Labs Detail Filter so with a new original merged layer I applied the Topaz Labs Detail Filter. I added a reverse layer mask so that this filter effect is only the revealed on the flower. I reduced the opacity of this layer to 77% to diminish the filter effect a little.
  • Levels layers adjustment with a clipping mask: Brightens just the Topaz Labs Detail Filter layer.
  • Topaz Labs Clean Filter: New original merged layer with Topaz Labs Clean Filter. I placed the opacity at 28% to change the Pixel Bender version just a bit. Notice that I had tried a layer mask and changed my mind so it is deactivated.
  • Burn in Petal Edge definition: In the final version, I need a bit of edge definition between the outer flower petals and the background, so I touched them up with an overlay burn/dodge layer. (Layer in the overlay blend mode filled with 50% gray and brushed with white or black color.)
  • Final Touch Ups: Finally, there were a couple of small areas where the filters produced an effect I didn’t like, so I cleaned them up with the spot healing brush.
Final Layer Panel

Final Layer Panel in new document

Detailed Views

Textured Orignal

Textured Original

Pixel Bender Filter

Pixel Bender Filter

Topaz Labs Clean Filter

Topaz Labs Clean Filter (only)

Final Image crop

Final Version with 3 filters

Photograph © Leslie Nicole


French Kiss Texture: Flower Garden is a part of the Artiste Collection

Flower Garden Texture

Flower Garden Texture

Topaz Labs Filters (I have the Photoshop Bundle.) Note: this is an affiliate link. I will get a commission from sales.

Pixel Bender Filter Free for Photoshop CS5 only. Update: Photoshop CS6 and above have the Oil Paint filter included.


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6 Responses to Combining Textures And Filters In Photoshop For A Painterly Look

  1. Jessica April 13, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    Beautiful work! I’d never seen a burn/dodge layer done like that before — what fabulous method! I will try that soon! : )
    Jessica recently posted..Cherry Blossoms

    • Leslie Nicole April 15, 2011 at 6:17 am #

      Thanks, Jessica! Yes, I’ve been using the overlay method for some time to burn/dodge, but I learned the 50% gray trick from Matt Klowkoski’s book on layers. I like this method for 2 reasons. First, I can now see at a glance what the layer is for without having to write a descriptive name as I did before. Secondly, I can see what I’ve done – and easier to correct. Made a mistake? paint over with 50% gray!

  2. Betty May 22, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    I love studying your work Leslie and appreciate your sharing! I have great difficulty masking leaves like the ones in this image, resulting in a botched job. Do you have any tips on masking leaves w/the pointed edges? Thanks!

  3. Leslie Nicole May 23, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Thanks, Betty! Usually leaves aren’t much of a problem – depending on the blend mode and texture you are using. I usually allow the leaves to have some blending with the background, especially towards the edges. You could try to use selection tools like magic want, but I’ve found this usually gives an edge that’s too harsh. For those times when you need more separation, it’s just good old patience and elbow-grease!

    • Betty May 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

      Thanks Leslie…I’ll do as you suggest and just blend w/BG. I have the same difficulty w/Hydrangea petals, so I’ll apply this to that too!

      I’ve read that masking should always be done w/a soft brush so there won’t be that hard edge, then it seems to spill over the edge!

      Again thanks for sharing. I do enjoy using your textures and brushes!

      • Leslie Nicole May 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

        I agree. Use a soft brush and blend the edge. 🙂 Thank you! xx

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