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Photoshop 7 Filters to Make Your Picture Artistic

📄 Contents

  1. Hour 15: Filters to Make Your Picture Artistic
  2. Brush Strokes
  3. Sketch Filters
  4. Summary
  5. Q&A
  6. Quiz
  7. Quiz Answers
  8. Exercises
Create masterpieces by experimenting with the artistic and sketch filters and by altering the brush strokes of your own Mona Lisa.

See all Sams Teach Yourself on InformIT Design & Creative Media Tutorials.

Photoshop 7 is still the ultimate graphics program. It has set the standard for image manipulations since 1987. Even though it’s mainly used for photo retouching and image manipulation, you can also use it to create original art, either from scratch or based on a photograph. You can even use it to set type! It’s more fun than a video game and much less difficult than you might think.

There’s honestly no way to become an overnight expert, be it in Photoshop or anything else, but these four chapters, 15, 16, 21, and 22, will give you a basic understanding of what "Sams Teach Yourself Photoshop 7 in 24 Hours" is all about. Chapter 15 explores how Photoshop’s filters can turn your so-so picture into a masterpiece. Chapter 16 teaches you how to experiment with some of the filters to distort, stylize, and pixelate your picture for special effects. Fixing damaged or "just plan lousy" pictures, discussed in Chapter 21, is the number one reason why most people buy Photoshop. You’ll be able to work a miracle on old, torn or faded photographs. Chapter 22 focuses on photo repair….particularly with color…how to fix red eye, drag-and-drop repairs, and remove unwanted items in your image.

Once you have finished all of the 24 lessons, you will have the tools you need - your imagination, creativity, and a basic understanding of what Photoshop 7 can do. Have fun learning the new tricks and techniques!

—Carla Rose

This chapter is from the book

Hour 15: Filters to Make Your Picture Artistic

In Hour 10, "Advanced Painting Techniques," you saw how Photoshop's filters could help imitate other media. You looked specifically at the Watercolor, Colored Pencil, Charcoal, and Underpainting filters. But those are still just the tip of the iceberg. Under the general headings of Artistic and Sketch filters, Photoshop offers approximately 30 different filters that you can apply alone or in combinations to turn your so-so picture into a masterpiece. In this hour, you run through the alphabet of the Artistic, Brush Strokes, and Sketch effects. You will be amazed, boggled, confounded, delighted, ecstatic....


I've deliberately left out step-by-step To Do exercises in this hour. You apply all these filters in the same way: Filter→Artistic, and so on. Use the dialog box and its preview window to judge the effects of the filter as you change the settings. The key to success with any of these filters is to experiment until you get the effect you want. If you don't like what you see when you apply a filter to the whole picture, undo, revert, or partially fade the filter. The command Edit→Fade reduces the strength of the filter, or any other tool or effect, by a percentage you set in its dialog box.

Artistic Filters

Artistic filters apply a certain amount of abstraction to your image. How much depends on the kind of filter and, to an even greater degree, on how you set the filter's variables. Many of these filters ask you to set Brush Size, Detail, and Texture. Brush Size affects the thickness of the line. Detail determines how large a "clump" of pixels must be so that the filter will, in effect, notice it and apply its changes. Texture, not to be confused with the effect of the Texturizer filter, simply adds a random smudge here and there in your image. Most of Photoshop's filters have a preview window in which you can see the effects of changing the settings before you actually apply the filter. To move the image inside the preview window, click it. The cursor turns into a hand, enabling you to slide the picture around to see the effect on specific parts of the image. If you change settings and the preview doesn't change right away, you see a thin line between the plus and minus symbols (beneath the magnification amount number). This line tells you that Photoshop is calculating the changes to apply. Click the plus or minus symbol to see a reduced or enlarged view within the preview window, but it's always a good idea to preview your image at 100% before you click OK.

For the sake of consistency, let's apply all the Artistic filters to this bunch of orange dahlias. See Figure 15.1 and the color plate section for the unfiltered view.

Figure 15.1 Basic, non-artistic photo.

Colored Pencil

The Colored Pencil filter goes over the photo with a sort of crosshatched effect (see Figure 15.2). It keeps most of the colors of the original photograph, although any large, flat areas are translated to "paper" color, which you can set to any shade of gray from black to white. The filter's dialog box, shown in Figure 15.3, asks you to choose a Pencil Width and the pressure of the stroke. Paper Brightness can be set on a scale of 1–50, with 50 being the lightest, and 1 being completely black.

Figure 15.2 Colored Pencil filter applied.

Figure 15.3 Colored Pencil filter settings.

Using a narrow pencil (low number) gives you more lines. Greater stroke pressure picks up more detail from the original picture. In Figure 15.2, we used a large pencil and light pressure. In Figure 15.4, we tried a compromise: a small pencil and heavy pressure, using a Pencil Width of 2 and a Stroke Pressure of 14. As you can see, the results are quite different from each other.

Figure 15.4 Less pencil width, more stroke pressure.


The Cutout filter is one of my favorites. It can reduce a picture to something resembling a cut paper collage or a silk screen print. The Cutout filter does this by averaging all the colors and shades and converting them to just a handful. You can decide how many by setting the number of levels from 2–8 in its Options dialog window. You can also set Edge Fidelity (1–3) and Edge Simplicity (1–10) in the dialog box, which is shown in Figure 15.5.

Figure 15.5 The Edge Simplicity setting refers to how much the edges are simplified.

Low Edge Simplicity and high Edge Fidelity settings produced the picture in Figure 15.6, which seems to be the most pleasing variation for this filter and photo combination. It's important to experiment with different settings every time you apply a filter to a new photo. What works with one picture might be totally wrong for another that is more or less complicated. In one combination or another, this filter manages to make almost any picture look good.

Figure 15.6 Cutout filter applied.

Dry Brush

Dry brush is a term used by watercolor painters to denote a particular style in which the brush is loaded with heavily concentrated pigment and dabbed, rather than stroked, on the paper. Figure 15.7 shows the Dry Brush options box with a small Brush Size and a high Brush Detail. You can see the result in Figure 15.8.

Figure 15.7 Dry Brush filter dialog box.

Figure 15.8 The Dry Brush filter can look very cool when applied to the right picture.

Film Grain

One reason that many commercial photographers are turning to high-resolution digital photography is to get away from the problems caused by film grain. Film grain is the inevitable result of applying a layer of chemicals to a piece of plastic. When a picture is enlarged a great deal, you see the graininess of the chemicals as specks in the picture. It can add an interesting texture to your pictures, if you apply it carefully. It's often better to apply the Film Grain effect to selections, rather than to the whole photo. Figure 15.9 shows what happens when it's misapplied.

Figure 15.9 Film Grain adds a spotty texture that's more pronounced in dark areas.

Notice how the Film Grain filter picks up the texture on the flower petals. It makes the picture look gritty. The dark specks tend to concentrate in flat dark areas. If I use Film Grain on a photo with less contrast, such as the lynx in Figure 15.10, it works much better.

Figure 15.10 Grain applies dark specks to dark areas and light specks to highlights.


Fresco is an Italian term for a mural painting done on a wet, freshly plastered wall. The results of using Photoshop's Fresco filter have little resemblance to the classical fresco works by such artists as Botticelli or Michelangelo. However, it's an interesting filter—and potentially useful. It gives a spotty but nicely abstract feeling. You need to be careful not to let the picture get too dark because the Fresco filter adds a good deal of black to the image in the process of abstracting it. Figure 15.11 shows an example.

Figure 15.11 A fresh approach—but not exactly a fresco.

When I first applied the Fresco filter to this picture, it turned almost totally black. To make the picture and filter combination work, I first had to adjust the curves to lighten it overall. Finally, I applied the Fresco filter with a setting of 1 for the Brush Size and Texture, and a Detail setting of 3. Remember that if some filter doesn't seem to work for you with the picture as is, you can change the filter's settings and then try again.

Neon Glow

It's hard to understand how the Neon Glow filter got its name; it has no resemblance to neon. As you can probably tell in Figure 15.12, the Neon Glow filter reduces the image to a single-color negative and adds white highlights around the edges of objects. You can choose a color in the dialog box and specify the width of the glow. If you use a very light color or gray, it can produce an interesting watermark effect. It turned the flowers into something like an x-ray. With the lime-green color applied, it was definitely weird.

Figure 15.12 Neon Glow (?) filter applied.


The Neon Glow filter, more than most, should be applied to only certain kinds of pictures. Although it might give you an interesting spaced-out, surrealist landscape, it does nothing at all for portraits, or other photos in which you want to preserve the character of the original.

Paint Daubs

The Paint Daub filter adds a square or wavy crosshatch texture to the image. You can set brush size and sharpness, and choose among several brushes. The Simple brush was used in Figure 15.13. Experiment with the settings for this filter; some settings work much better than others. In this example, I used a Brush Size of 5 and set the Sharpness to 2. I liked the result.

Figure 15.13 Paint Daub filter applied with a Simple brush.

Palette Knife and Plastic Wrap

When a painter uses a palette knife, the result is large areas of smudged color blending interestingly at the edges. The Palette Knife filter, alas, doesn't do that. Instead it reduces the picture to blocks of color by grouping similar pixels and averaging them. The result, in my opinion, is not very interesting. However, you might have better luck with it than I did. Try it. If you don't like it, there's always Undo.

Plastic Wrap is another filter that I seldom use. It places a gray film over the whole picture and then adds white highlights around large objects. The Plastic Wrap filter is supposed to look as if you covered the scene with plastic film. Instead, it looks more like you poured liquid latex over it. The overall effect can be overwhelming. Still, some of my friends have had good luck applying it to a smaller area, or in combination with other filter effects. It can be very effective as a way of making type look metallic.

Poster Edges

Here's a filter that is worth playing with. Poster Edges locates all the edges in your image, judging by the amount of contrast between adjacent pixels, and posterizes them, placing a dark line around the edges. It does really nice things to parts of our sample photo, as you can see in Figure 15.14. But it's not so great on large flat areas, like the sky or the side of a building. The posterizing process tends to break up these areas into patches of dark and light tone. In such a case, apply Poster Edges to a selected part of the photo, rather than the entire image. For instance, the best way to use the filter on a landscape might be to apply it to the ground but not to the sky.

Figure 15.14 Poster Edges filter applied.

Rough Pastels

Rough Pastels is a terrific filter with an interface that's a little bit more complicated than the others because you can specify texture as well as the stroke length and detail. Figure 15.15 shows the Rough Pastels dialog box. Choose from the textures supplied or import one from another source. (You can create or import textures and save them as Photoshop documents; then you can open them and apply them as textures through this dialog box or the Texturizer filter dialog box.)

Figure 15.15 Rough Pastels filter dialog box.

The Stroke Length and Stroke Detail settings seem to give the best results in the low to middle portion of their respective ranges, but, as always, experiment to see what works best for your image. Figure 15.16 shows the Rough Pastels filter applied to our sample picture. See it also in the color plate section.

Figure 15.16 Rough Pastels filter on Canvas, scaled to 80%.

Smudge Stick

Smudge Stick is a tricky filter. On light-colored areas, the Smudge Stick filter adds a subtle, rather spotty texture that can be quite nice. On dark areas and lines, it adds a smudge, making the lines heavier and the edges blurry. Figure 15.17 shows an example.

Figure 15.17 Smudge Stick filter applied.


Have you ever tried painting with a sponge? It's a technique that's taught in some of the finer preschools and kindergartens. Basically, you dab a sponge into poster paint and then dab it on the paper. The results can be very nice, especially if you skip the poster paint and go straight to Photoshop's Sponge filter. On large flat areas, the Sponge filter gives a good imitation of a coarse, natural sponge (the kind they sell in the Sponge Market in Key West). In areas of detail, the sponge is a smaller one. You can, in fact, set the Brush Size, Definition, and Smoothness in the Sponge filter dialog box. One possible result is shown in Figure 15.18. This, again, is a filter that might be better used selectively, rather than on an entire image.

Figure 15.18 Sponge filter applied.


The Underpainting filter, which you read about in Hour 10, reduces everything to a somewhat grayed out, paler, and soft-focused version of itself. Use it as an intermediate filter on the way to an effect, rather than by itself.


In Hour 10, you learned ways to make a photo look like a watercolor. Unfortunately, applying the Watercolor filter isn't necessarily one of them. Figure 15.19 shows this filter applied to the sample image. The look isn't really watercolor, but it might have some uses. If you like the general effect of the Sponge filter, but it distorts your picture too much, try the Watercolor filter instead. It has the same "clumping" effect, but with smaller clumps. Both of these filters—Watercolor and Sponge—tend to darken the image quite a bit. You might need to lighten the picture before applying the filter. The color plate shows the same photo, with first the Watercolor filter, and then the Smart Blur filter applied to soften the edges of the clumps of paint.

Figure 15.19 Watercolor filter applied.

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