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Photo to Photo-Portrait in Photoshop

Wednesday wouldn’t be the same without Janine Smith (@landailyn

On Monday I had a tutorial up on Firgs awesome place, Design By Firgs, a photo-to-drawing project the was inspired by Bert Monroy and taken to another level by Firgs herself.

Today I’m going to alter things a bit to apply more readily to old family photos in order to acquire the look of an unfinished painting. Keep in mind the steps outlined here are just a suggestion! Try other settings, other filters, check and uncheck boxes! Different things look better with different filters or settings and these steps, as with any tutorial, should be used as a basis, only! In other words, play! Have fun!

For this particular project, I’ve used an image I restored for the wonderful Kelly (@Herstoryan) – It’s really the perfect thing for this project! This is the original:




And this is the image after I colorized it:




Colorization, if you’re image isn’t color, is an essential part of this project. After all, we’re going for the look of a painted portrait, here, and most of those would have been in color. I’d also suggest using a curves adjustment, a hue/saturation adjustment and maybe even a sharpening filter (just as the good old High Pass) to exaggerate the colors and lines. Most old photos are going to be fairly “soft”, without much sharpness at all – it’ll be a good thing to add some to it, now.




When the photo is sufficiently tweaked. duplicate all previous layers (PC = Shift+Crtl+Alt+E or Mac = Shift+Cmd+Option+E). This will be your “starting point” layer. Select the layer (Ctrl or Cmd+A) and go to Edit > Define Pattern. Now duplicate this layer (Ctrl or Cmd +J), and proceed to Filter > Stylize > Find Edges.




If the edges still look a bit weak, duplicate the edges layer and use a Multiply Layer Blend Mode on it, then merge the layers (Ctrl or Cmd+E). Still too weak? Do it again! Go for it! When your edges look good, give this layer a Blend Mode (Multiply) and lower the opacity to 75%. Put a blank layer beneath it and fill it with a color you like. Keep it something that will work well with “old”, in other words, pass up the lime green or neon orange in favor of the more sepia tones. Put a canvas texture on it by going to Filter > Texture > Texturizer




Return to the top of the layer stack, now, the “Find Edges” layer. Add a new, blank layer above. Selecting the Pattern Stamp Tool, and the pattern we defined at the beginning, on the blank layer, but only paint in the background (yes, the background)! Change the Layer Blend Mode to Pin Light and the Fill Opacity to 50%.




Add a new blank layer, continue with the Pattern Stamp Tool and paint in the central subject. Keep the

lines vague towards the bottom and unfinished. It helps to use a very soft brush while painting to achieve this look. You want the “painting” to appear unfinished!




Change the Layer Blend Mode to Multiply and the Opacity to 75%. Add a new blank layer. The Pattern Stamp Tool still selected, change your brush to something along the lines of the great “Grunge Garage” set by gwipDesign (available, free of course! at Brusheezy.com) and paint in and around the main subject. This time, you can go outside the lines into the background – a bit anyway! Towards the bottom, keep the painting further back from the edges you painted previous. We’re wanting the painted area to be smaller on each layer. Change the Layer Blend Mode to Soft Light and the Opacity around 56%.




Yet another blank layer at the top of the stack. Paint in another area of the main subject (change to another of the grunge brushes, if you wish), and set to Hard Light. Play with the Opacity of this layer. I kept mine at 100%.




Now – you guessed it! Yet another blank layer! This one I started in the subject with the brush at 100% opacity and worked out to the very edges of the canvas lowering the brush opacity to 50%. I then lower the Opacity of the entire layer to 50%, keeping the Layer Blend Mode to Normal. While I understand there are probably 100 ways to do this that would be a lot easier, it just ended up looking cool!




This is a good time to go back to your “Find Edges” layer, the one before you started “painting” and lower the opacity of the layer to somewhere between 25% and 35%.Your image should look something like this, now, your personal settings and tweaks aside.




To give the whole thing a bit more of a painterly feeling, go to Filter > Distort > Glass. You’ll be in the Filter Gallery if you use Photoshop CS4. If not, you’ll have to apply these settings separately, but still on the same layer. In the Glass filters, I applied the following settings: Distortion: 3, Smoothness: 3, Texture: Canvas, Scaling: 80%. In the Filter Gallery, select New Effects Layer and go to the Artistic filters and select Paint Daubs. My settings here are Brush Size: 2, Sharpness: 1, Brush Type: Simple. Add another New Effects Layer. Go to the Brush Strokes filters and choose Angled Strokes, this I set to Direction Balance: 43, Stroke Length: 14 and Sharpness: 4. Add a final New Effects Layer and go back to the Artistic filters, this time selecting Underpainting. Here, I applied the following settings: Brush Size: 7, Texture Coverage: 6, Texture: Canvas, Scaling: 117, Relief: 10 and Light: Top Right.




Lower the opacity of this layer to around 50%.




Thank for following what I hope will prove to be a fun little project! Not all your photos will be good candidates for this – I had a dreadful time finding an image that did work well (thanks again to Kelly!), but when you do find one that works well, it can make a wonderful image for display!











About Janine Smith (114 Articles)
Janine Smith is the owner of Landailyn Research and Restoration, a Fort Worth, Texas based company whose services include family history research and photo restoration. Janine honed her skills in restoring badly damaged photos as a volunteer with Operation Photo Rescue, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair photographs damaged by unforeseen circumstances such as house fires and natural disasters. <br> Janine’s work is well-known in the world of genealogical and historical societies, museums, libraries, university archives, and non-profit organizations; appearing on the board of directors for several organizations and institutions. She is a sought-after lecturer on photo restoration and preservation to libraries, genealogical and historical societies. <br> In addition to being a Lynda.com author, Janine is the author of many articles on research and restoration appearing in newspapers and magazines, both on and offline. Janine's history and photo restoration columns appear regularly on TipSquirrel.com and in the popular Shades Of The Departed Digital Magazine. <br> Janine is the winner of the 2010 “Photoshop User Award” in the photo-restoration category.

6 Comments on Photo to Photo-Portrait in Photoshop

  1. SHAZnyc // 20/01/2010 at 6:44 am //

    Another great post, thank you for sharing.

  2. SHAZnyc // 20/01/2010 at 6:44 am //

    Another great post, thank you for sharing.

  3. AWESOME!!! Great work Janine! I love how you kicked it up a notch and took it to the next level. 😀

  4. AWESOME!!! Great work Janine! I love how you kicked it up a notch and took it to the next level. 😀

  5. The finished results are beautiful and I can see using these techniques for all kinds of creative retouching, not just for old photos. Great detailed tutorial.

  6. The finished results are beautiful and I can see using these techniques for all kinds of creative retouching, not just for old photos. Great detailed tutorial.

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