Photoshop Tutorial: from image to painting

Smudging a tool in Adobe Photoshop I long thought useless, but since quite some times now photoshop gurus have used this tool for highly artistic achievements like changing a photo into a painting. Well explaining how the end product will look might be time consuming, but they say that a picture worth a thousand words don’t they?
So here is a before/after picture taken and post processed by Scott Deardorff, it is on this very picture we are going to work in this tutorial.
Make sure to click on it for a bigger version

***Disclaimer*** Before we begin, let me clarify that this tutorial was written by Scott Deardorff and all images are his. I am posting this adobe photoshop tutorial with Scott’s consent.

“For the purpose of this tutorial, I’ll use a small portion of the original.

Here’s my description of how to go about the task of turning “Beagle” into a photo-realistic smudge painting:

1. Start out by doing some basic image corrections: crop the image as desired, perform a curves adjustment to increase contrast and a saturation increase (hue/sat targeting red) to enhance the color. Your corrections should produce something similar to this:

2. Upsize the image to approximately 16 x 22 at 72 ppi. This will give you enough size to work with.

3. Sharpen the image by whatever means you prefer. Sharpen substantially, so it looks over-sharpened. Your image should now look something like this:

4. Now you can begin the task of smudging the image. View the image at 200% as you smudge, which will permit greater attention to detail. For all the fur areas use a 15 px. brush at a strength of 40%. IT WILL BE KEY TO MAKE YOUR SMUDGE STROKES FOLLOW THE DIRECTION OF THE FUR. Your fur texture won’t show much detail yet. A later step will help to bring out some definition. You will have to use a smaller brush (about 10 px.) still at a strength of 40% to smudge in tighter areas, like the mouth, nose and around the eyes. Remember to follow the natural lines of whatever it is you are smudging, as your strokes will become more apparent later. At the end of this step, your beagle should look like this:

5. In this step we’ll give him a little more life by enhancing his eyes nose and mouth. Use the same 10 px. brush at 40% to smudge the irises (the colored part of the eye) and any parts of the eyes that haven’t been smudged. Set the smudge tool to darken and use a 5px. brush at 100% to remove the existing catch-lights. Use the burn tool (about 5 px., exp. 6% – set to shadows) to burn in the pupils, the circumference of the irises and the outlines of the eyes. You may need to smooth these areas out a little with the smudge brush. Use the burn tool (about 15 px./3%/shadows) to darken the black areas of the nose and mouth. Use a 1 px. hard brush to paint white catch-lights into both eyes. Use the dodge tool at a low exposure to add a little extra light to the irises opposite the catch-lights. Also use the dodge tool to add highlights to the tongue and brighten the highlights of the nose. It looks like this now:

6. Usually the background is done first in a smudge painting. For this tutorial, we’ll do it at this stage. First, erase the whiskers (they’ll be painted back in later) using your smudge brush (darken/10 px/100%). Take a snapshot and designate this as the history brush state. Now use the smudge tool (lighten/60 px./60%) to smudge some brushstrokes into the background. Move the brush from the background, toward and overlapping the beagle. Once the background looks good you can use the history brush to go back over the subject removing the smudge strokes. You’ll need to clean up the edges with a smudge brush set at normal/10 px./75%. Here’s what that looks like:

7. This next step will enhance textures substantially. On a duplicate layer apply the paint daubs filter (brush size 1/sharpness 4). Use a layer mask to remove or lessen the sharpening in certain areas that appear over sharp. Flatten. This is how the image should look at this point:

8. Now smudge in the whiskers (normal/3 px./100%). For the long eyebrows take a color sample of a fur highlight area and check the finger painting box. It looks like this now:

9. Remove the green color cast under his nose and jaw line by selecting and feathering that area then making a color-balance adjustment (add a little more red). Here’s that correction:

10. For the grass (not shown in the detail) use a grass-blade-sized brush at about 85% to smudge the individual blades. Set the mode to darken for blades directly in front of white fur.
Here’s what your painting should look like when it’s done:

I hope this tutorial has been of some use to you. If you have any questions please feel free to ask.
Scott Deardorff ”

Again I’d like to thank Scott for this great tutorial and for kindly allowing me to post it.