Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Simplifying a Subject in Photoshop

A common objective in painting from life is to avoid getting hung up on the little details of the subject too soon (or at all). To further the discussion from my previous post, let’s see how we can use Photoshop to simplify a photograph. Below left is the original photo. It seemed a little dull, so I used Image> Adjustments> Levels to make it more contrasty (right.) The rest of these tweaks all started with the leveled photo.
Let’s posterize it to see how that looks, using Image> Adjustments> Posterize with 2 levels (below left) or 5 (below right.) Make sure the Preview box is checked to see how it’s looking while deciding which number to enter. The left image has become too distorted probably, but it’s interesting to see the darks go to black. The one on the right still has too much detail, methinks.
The experience of taking off my glasses to be able to see big shapes during the workshop gave me this idea. Below left has Filter> Gaussian Blur of 10 applied. That blurred image was then Posterized with 6 levels (below right.) That definitely gets rid of extraneous detail.Another excellent option is to use Filter> Artistic> Dry Brush (below.) The brush size was 10, the detail was 0, and the Texture was 1. If the preview image is too big, you can click on the - (minus) symbol on the lower left to reduce it. This does a nice job of smearing out the details. You can run the filter more than once if desired. It looks good to me as the amount of detail I’m interested in. To intensify the colors (right) I used Image> Adjustments> Hue/Saturation, with a +10 on Saturation. Of course, all this digital manipulation isn’t going to be possible if you’re painting outdoors. But if you also enjoy working from photographs in your studio, then...

Happy Tweaking!


Lesley Riley said...

I love this tip and the end result. Thanks Loreen!

Loreen Leedy said...

You’re very welcome Lesley! I've always enjoyed exploring the process of art-making.

Barbara Strobel Lardon said...

I too have used photoshop this way.
I end up spending way too much time since it is so fun to see how you can transform a picture into so many possibilities.

Love this example, a great tutorial.

Beena said...

One of the easiest ways to simplify, is something you had already done in your previous post. Go for a black and white reference photo along with a color one. Then, you can just initially focus on value without the distraction of color.

I read an article in an artist's magazine a long time ago that suggested doing some paintings that were all in grayscale. I tried it, and came away with a lot.

Then I also had a digital photography professor who insisted we do all our work in black and white.

And whether it's black and white film, or the color is desaturated or converted in a digital editing program, it's an ideal way to study value and to simplify an image. (Although it's not always as fun as playing with the filters or image adjustments menu in Photoshop!)

And I still like your painting of the house "way more better" than any of the photos, digitally edited or otherwise!