Photoshop tips to make a photo look like an oil painting

Written by barrett barlowe
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Photoshop tips to make a photo look like an oil painting
Manipulate photographs to look like oil paintings in Photoshop. (fauvist oil painting verrazano bridge image by Keith Clarke from

Many artists transform photographs into paintings. Many use digital graphics software to manipulate existing pixels into works of art. Use Photoshop to create your own oil painting effects with filters, brushes and colour correction tools. Learn a few simple tips to make your photographs look like oil paintings.

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The "Wet Media" brush set in Photoshop contains some useful choices for adding an oil paint effect to your photographs. "Oil Heavy Flow Dry Edges" paints thick bands of colour with ragged edges. "Brush Heavy Flow Scattered" is good for stamping rough-edged patches of paint. The "Oil Medium Brush Wet Edges" brush blends well into other paint strokes.

Duplicate the exact colour of any part of your photo by clicking on the image with the "Eyedropper" tool.

Paint on a separate layer so that you can use the photograph as a guide but leave it intact.


Painting brushstrokes takes patience and some practice to master, but Photoshop filters offer instant oil effects. No two photographs are the same; experiment with some of these useful filters and decide which works best for your image.

Start with the "Underpainting" filter. The "Underpainting" filter breaks up the photograph into blocks of colour. Choose "Filter" then "Artistic" and "Underpainting" from the Menu bar and sub menus. All filters have options that are controlled by slider bars. Slide the "Brush Size" slider all the way to the right. This setting results in a loose, brushed look.

"Paint Daubs" also creates an oil paint look. This filter breaks up the image into circular blobs of light and colour, whereas "Underpainting" breaks up details into square shapes. Some adjustable options include "Brush Size" and "Brush Type". Use a small, size "2" brush to create very realistic, tightly rendered paintings.

"Palette Knife" imitates the flat, geometric strokes of a painting made with a palette knife, rather than a brush. This filter works well with portraits that have simple backgrounds.

The "Texturizer" filter, located under "Filter" and "Texture," adds a canvas texture to your digital painting. The addition of the canvas texture to your image makes it look like a real painting.

Colour Correction

Manipulating colour is another way to make your photograph look like an oil painting. Turn a colourful portrait into a mood piece by making it sepia-toned. Choose "Image" "Adjust" and "Levels." Pull the "Blue" output levels slider to the left. Pull the "Green" output levels slider a small amount to the left. Your image is now a muted sepia-tinted colour, reminiscent of an old master's colour palette.

Boost colours to make them modern and vibrant using the "Hue/Saturation" controls.

Add the "Texturizer" filter to the image to complete the effect.

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