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Creating A Photo Illustration Effect With Watercolor Brushes: Part 3

This is part 3 of the 4 part tutorial on creating a photo illustration effect (see finished illustration at the end of the post.)
In this part I’ll cover creating a Line Art Illustration effect from a photograph.

Creating A Line Art Illustration Effect in Photoshop

I could have done this tutorial with the most commonly used method, but when I was researching how to do this, I tried many different techniques and I wanted to share a few with you. Each has a slightly different feel.

If you tried a really creative technique for your color image, use the original color image to make the line image. Be sure it’s the same exact size as the creative version so everything will align perfectly.

Method 1: The Find Edges Filter (easiest)

This is the method you will find in probably the majority of tutorials for this effect and it’s certainly one of the easiest. It does have the drawback of having no settings to fine-tune the results. They are what they are, although the results are usually sufficient.

  1. Duplicate your color image to the layer above. Command + J (Mac) or Control + J (PC)
  2. Convert the duplicated layer to Black and White. There are many methods to do this, but for simplicity’s sake, in the Photoshop menu choose: Image/Adjustments/Black & White.
  3. Find Edges Filter: In the Photoshop Menu, choose Filter/Stylize/Find Edges.

That’s it! Easy Peasy!

Line Illustration effect using Find Edges

Method 2: The Minimum Filter

This method is also easy, but a little harder than the Find Edges method above. It does have the benefit of having more adjustment possibilities.

  1. Duplicate your color image to the layer above. Command + J (Mac) or Control + J (PC)
  2. Convert the duplicated layer to Black and White. There are many methods to do this, but for simplicity’s sake, in the Photoshop menu choose: Image/Adjustments/Black & White.
  3. Duplicate the Black and White layer to the layer above. Command + J (Mac) or Control + J (PC)
  4. Invert the Duplicated Black and White Layer. Command + I (Mac) or Control + I (PC)
  5. Convert the Duplicated layer to a Smart Object. From the Layer menu, choose: Smart Objects / Convert to Smart Object. Note, I’ve made this method a bit more complicated making it into a smart object. You could skip this step, but it lets you go back in and make changes to the filter setting later if you want.
  6. Change the Blend Mode to Color Dodge. Don’t freak out — your image will disappear. This is normal.
  7. Apply The Minimum Filter. From the Photoshop Filter menu choose: Other/Minimum. When the dialogue box comes up, start with a pixel radius setting of 1 and then increase it by one pixel until you get the effect you want. (Preserve should be set to Squareness.) This is why I had you change the blend mode first, so you could preview the results in real time. Tips: The higher the pixel radius, the thicker the outlines are. If you find later that you want to change the look, just double-click on the filter in the layer panel.
  8. Tip: lowering the opacity of the layer that you used the minimum filter on will smooth the tones. I used an opacity of 79%.

Photoshop Minimum Filter Settings

Your setting may vary depending on your image size. The higher the pixel radius, the thicker the outlines are.

Line Illustration Minimum filter setting 1

LineIllustration_Minimum3

Method 3: Invert and Blur

This has the same steps as the Minimum filter method above except that it uses a Blur filter. I’ve seen some tutorials say use the Gaussian Blur filter and others say use the Box Blur filter. I didn’t see much difference between the two.

  1. Duplicate your color image to the layer above. Command + J (Mac) or Control + J (PC)
  2. Convert the duplicated layer to Black and White. There are many methods to do this, but for simplicity’s sake, in the Photoshop menu choose: Image/Adjustments/Black & White.
  3. Duplicate the Black and White layer to the layer above. Command + J (Mac) or Control + J (PC)
  4. Invert the Duplicated Black and White Layer. Command + I (Mac) or Control + I (PC)
  5. Convert the Duplicated layer to a Smart Object. From the Layer menu, choose: Smart Objects / Convert to Smart Object. Note, I’ve made this method a bit more complicated making it into a smart object. You could skip this step, but it lets you go back in and make changes to the filter setting later if you want.
  6. Change the Blend Mode to Color Dodge. Don’t freak out — your image will disappear. This is normal.
  7. Apply The Gaussian Blur Filter. From the Photoshop Filter menu choose: Blur/Gaussian Blur. When the dialogue box comes up, slide the pixel radius setting until you get the effect you want. The higher the setting, the smoother the image becomes. My setting was 61.9. If you find later that you want to change the look, just double-click on the filter in the layer panel.

Your setting will vary depending on your image size. The higher the pixel radius, the smoother the image. The top image has a pixel radius of 61.9 and the bottom 7.6.

Line Illustration Blur filter high

LineIllustration_Blur_low

Method 4: Topaz Labs Adjust Filter

After I learned all the above techniques, I realized that one of my Topaz Labs* filters would probably work. I liked  this setting in the Topaz Labs* Adjust filter.

  1. Duplicate your color image to the layer above. Command + J (Mac) or Control + J (PC)
  2. Select the duplicate layer and from the Photoshop Filter menu, open up the Topaz Labs* Adjust Filter. I used Adjust 5.
  3. Choose Effects: Stylized Collection from the top left panel and the Sketch – Pencil preset in the bottom right panel. Then in Global Adjustments in the right panel, play with the Detail settings until you get the settings that work for your image. I increased the Detail Boost setting and to a lesser degree, the Strength setting. I have to say, I’m rather loving this.

Note: Topaz Labs* Simplify also has pencil sketch presets.

Line Illustration Topaz Adjust

Comparing The Results

Let’s see how each one looks in our illustration. I have to admit they look pretty similar small like this! Look at the detail in the left side of the castle and on the bridge on the right side.

Method 1: The Find Edges Filter

Chateau de Chinon by Leslie Nicole

Method 2: The Minimum Filter

Chateau de Chinon as a photo illustration by Leslie Nicole

Method 3: Invert and Blur

Chateau de Chinon by Leslie Nicole

Method 4: Topaz Labs Adjust Filter

Chateau de Chinon by Leslie Nicole

Which do you Prefer?

I hope that wasn’t too much information all at once. I wanted to pass on all these techniques to you.

Creating A Photo Illustration Effect Using Watercolor Brushes. A tutorial in 4 parts.

  1. Part 1: An overview of what will be covered.
  2. Part 2: Preparing the Color Photograph.
  3. Part 3: Creating the Black and White Line Illustration. (This post)
  4. Part 4: Putting it all together and using the watercolor brushes. (Coming this week)

* Topaz Labs Filters is an affiliate link. I get a small commission from any sales resulting from a click from this site (at no extra cost to you.) I really do love these filters. Nearly all of my own images use one of these filters. Thank you for supporting the site!

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4 Responses to Creating A Photo Illustration Effect With Watercolor Brushes: Part 3

  1. Kathleen Lapergola September 12, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

    Thanks so much for these instructions Leslie!!

  2. Ann Bastion September 13, 2014 at 5:04 am #

    thank you so much for comparing these processes Nicole, this is just what I have been looking for
    , looking forward to you final composite tutorial.

    • Leslie Nicole September 21, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

      You’re welcome, Ann. Glad it is useful for you.

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