Using The Oil Paint Filter In Adobe Photoshop CS6

I’ve written before about using the free Pixel Bender Oil Paint filter for Adobe Photoshop CS5. I just upgraded to Adobe Photoshop CS6 and was ecstatic to find that the Oil Paint filter is now included. They’ve made a few changes to the settings that I both like and don’t like.

I’ve chosen this simple poppy photograph to demonstrate the changes and give you my own “secret sauce” for using the oil paint filter in combination with a Topaz Labs* filter to get the effect that I want.

Final Image

Image with the Photoshop CS6 Oil Paint and Topaz Labs filter



Original image.

 The Pixel Bender Filter and Photoshop CS5

The Pixel Bender filter is a free filter that works with Adobe Photoshop CS5. The filter has several effects, but honestly, besides the Oil Paint filter, I didn’t see much use for the others. I love how the Oil Paint filter enhances details especially on plants and animal fur in a soft, undulating way. I usually added a Topaz Labs* filter to up the detail and contrast. (See Combining Textures And Filters In Photoshop For A Painterly Look.)

As much as I loved the filter, it had a few problems. The interface was finicky and the hardware processing needs were so demanding that I had a very difficult time running it on my 4 year old iMac (I’ve since upgraded my Mac.)  It got to a point where I never used it because it was so much of a hassle. It was also difficult to see exactly what you were getting in the preview window.

The Photoshop CS6 Oil Paint Filter

When I upgraded to Adobe Photoshop CS6 over the weekend, I was thrilled to find that the Oil Paint filter is now a part of Photoshop! I’ve been playing around with it this week and here are my initial impressions. I’m now using the filter on a new, fast iMac so I can’t compare the processing needs exactly, but overall, it just seems more responsive and the preview is great. Photoshop has made some changes to the Oil Paint effects that I don’t much care for though.

Panel Comparison

The New Oil Paint Interface (right)

The first difference I noticed is in the Stylization setting. In Pixel Bender, it controlled how swirly the effect was. Now, it goes from a textured, pebbly effect to a swirly effect. I don’t much care for the pebbly effect, but I can see how some might like it. Cleanliness tends to mellow out the contrast and intensity of stylization. I usually set this pretty high because I like the swirly look of this filter, but not the pattern of it. The other settings mostly effect the intensity and scale of Stylization and Cleanliness. The Shine setting will give more contrast to the filter, but it will also emphasize the pebbly or swirly texture.

Style and Shine

Example: Stylization low, Cleanliness fairly low, Some Shine

Even when I increase the Stylization and Cleanliness all the way up, if I add any Shine I get this unwanted pattern.

Some shine

Stylization and Cleanliness at 10, Shine 1

If I put the Shine setting to 0, it takes out the pattern, but leaves some of the desired painterly feeling to the image. (The effect is easier to see in the images following this one.)

No Shine

Stylization and Cleanliness 10, Shine 0

My Secret Sauce

To get the look of the Pixel Bender Oil Paint that I liked, I jack the Stylization and Cleanliness effects up all the way and completely turn off Shine.

Quick update: I’m finding that if I have Shine turned off, I can play with the Cleanliness setting to modify just how soft and swirly the effect is. Depending on the image, a much lower Cleanliness setting may be desirable. Try each extreme of the Cleanliness filter to see which direction works best for your image.

Tip: I’ve found I usually need to increase contrast with a levels adjustment after I run the Oil Paint Filter.

No Topaz

Stylization & Cleanliness 10, Shine 0, No Topaz Filter

You may find that the Oil Paint filter alone works well for your purposes. I love detail, so I usually add a Topaz Labs* Filter. I usually use Topaz Labs Detail 2* with the Creative Detail Accent preset. I’ve perhaps exaggerated the effect a little here for illustration purposes. You can play with the settings or the opacity of the layer to get the effect you want.

With topaz

Oil Paint Filter With Topaz Labs Detail filter

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. Thanks for supporting the site.

Are you using either the Pixel Bender Oil Paint filter or the Photoshop CS6 Oil Paint filter? What do you think? Show us your results on the Facebook page and compare notes.

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11 Responses to Using The Oil Paint Filter In Adobe Photoshop CS6

  1. Henrik June 2, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    Thanks. Of the many “tutorials” (written or videographed) for this filter, this was one of the few that had some meaningful information and a carefully chosen demo picture.

    • Leslie Nicole June 2, 2012 at 11:48 am #

      Thanks for that comment, Henrik. I’m glad you found it useful.

  2. Lorelei June 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    Thanks so much for this clear tutorial. Love the photos showing the results as well as the exact formula and it’s variations. I love Topaz and it’s great to have help with that, too. I just purchased CS6 but was disappointed to find that my 4 yr. old computer can’t run the Oil Paint Filter till I buy a newer graphics card. That should be resolved soon and then I’ll be up and running, thanks to this tutorial.
    Thanks for this timely help!

  3. Bob Jensen June 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    I should have read this sooner – thanks. Will download Pixel Bender when I get home.

  4. VIAINA October 22, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Hi Leslie,

    which one of the single packs of Topaz have you used here? Just would like to buy one single pack, not the whole suite …
    VIAINA recently posted..Willkommen bei VIAINA Studio!

  5. Lois Bryan April 13, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    Great info, Leslie, I’ll try pixel bender with your Topaz Creative Detail Accent. Now, you’re going to think I’m completely crazy, but I’ve kept all my PS versions on my poor old computer (three to be exact) as either I’m too ignorant or too lazy to bring ALL the extras from one version over to another to another. As long as I don’t have two versions, plus other intensive programs all going at the same time, I’m usually okay, lol!!! (The smell of smoke is a dead give-away that I’m in trouble.) I absolutely love your final image … I’m mad for poppies for all the beauty that you’ve captured so well!!!!

    By the way, here’s a tip to anyone having trouble with Pixel Bender. Now … this is my idea … I didn’t get it from anyone, so if your computer blows up, it’s all my fault, lol. BUT. I had the problems you described with slow performance (I’m on CS5) … and did a lot of forum reading about the problem. The solution I came up with … get ready to cringe … was to go to image size … percentage … and take the Pixel Bender layer down to 50%. Once you’ve done that, the program works like a dream. When you’re finished with the filter, go back to image size and put the percentage to 200%. I know … sounds like I’m talking treason, doesn’t it … but it seems to work just fine. I will say, I have ultimately taken the image into Corel Painter 11 and touched up some stray odd spots … but on the whole it has been successful. Here’s an example:

    Hope that was helpful!!!!
    Lois Bryan recently posted..Malachite On Peony by Lois Bryan

  6. lisa January 1, 2014 at 5:59 am #

    Hi Leslie! They only show Detail 3. I am assuming that’s the newer version to 2?

  7. Edward Feldman June 26, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    NOTE TO ADOBE… PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE… I depended on Adobe Photoshop in my work… BRING BACK THE OIL PAINT FILTER… No other paint filter plug-in has the quality and uniqueness of the Adobe Oil Paint filter tool. I use it every day without exaggeration. it’s financially important to me and many hundreds of thousand others. One of its unique features wasn’t that it was easy-to-use but it look so real. Please choose to put it back in not because it’s easy, but because it’s difficult for anyone else to reproduce what you’ve done. This filter was so unique that it stood out on his own. Take a look at my website and you’ll see just how important it was to my work. Thank you for listening. Please do more than just listen, PLEASE bring it back thank you.

    • Leslie Nicole July 4, 2014 at 8:34 am #

      I guess I haven’t updated my Photoshop CC as I didn’t realize Adobe pulled it out. In looking at the Adobe Blog, there is a plug-in that may do the trick called Pixel Bender Accelerator for Photoshop. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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