Impressionist Paintings


Impressionist paintings have always held a fascination for me.  After a visit to Monet’s garden at Giverny, seeing the landscape around his home and experiencing particularly the water lilies in the pond fed by the waters of the Seine, one cannot fail to be entranced.

Similarly, the feelings in the "Cypress Trees" by Van Gogh can only be truly felt when you see at close hand the individual brush strokes.  OK, there’s a great range represented across the styles of different artists and even across the work of one painter, and across a lifetime, but it’s the diversity that gives it the attraction.

So what makes impressionist paintings?  Can the components be synthesised by the algorithms in Paint Shop Pro?

From some basic research, the components, as identified by eminent art experts for impressionist paintings would seem to be:
  • Vivid overall effect, rather than details.

  • Visible brush strokes.

  • The far-field vision is realistic; the near field vision is confused.

  • Some boundaries and surfaces are invisible but implied; the boundaries and surfaces can be optical illusions (like the Ehrenstein disk in psychological testing).  Believe me, there’s a lot of really highbrow stuff out there, written about the way in which these masterpieces appear to our brains.

After much experimentation, and looking at the work of Impressionist Paintings Greats like my hero Monet, I think I’ve found some of the ways in which photographs can be portrayed in the impressionist style.

The most important item in the shopping list is an image sympathetic to the impressionist paintings style and for that you’ve got to look at the work of the masters and find ideas which match your style of photography; or like me, you just try and find the recipe by experimentation because of the challenge.

But:
  1. For this process to be successful the original image must be as high a quality as possible.  Working from a screen grab at 72ppi will give some “interesting results”, ie so impressionist that you might not be able to tell what the image is.  Perhaps this is a place to visit after you’ve found the basics in this tutorial.

    If you want to make your paint brush strokes really coarse, save your original image at a very low ppi value and then edit that using the method outlined below.

  2. The image needs to be quite saturated.

  3. It must be fairly contrasty (otherwise Paint Shop Pro can quite literally fall over)

The usual way of approaching a multiple stage synthesis or construction of a complex image is to make multiple copy layers within one pspimage file; then to make the adjustments to the individual layers; and finally, to merge all the layers down when you’ve created your masterpiece.

However, if you try to make the impressionist paintings masterpiece in this way, you stand a very good chance of failure because of the way in which Paint Shop Pro does its sums.  Don’t let that stop us, since there is a way which guarantees a better chance of success.


Step 1 - Impressionist Paintings Preparation



impressionist paintings finisterre

This is a scan of a slide taken in Western France over 20 years ago.  The image is sound enough and sympathetic with Impressionism.  Since we are going to manipulate it, the few surface blemishes will not be noticed.

Before you start, it is a good idea to turn your image in to TIFF file.  In Paint Shop Pro, File > Save As then choose TIFF.  Then close the file File > Close.

In Windows, in the directory in which you intend working Right Click on the picture file of your choice and choose Copy


impressionist paintings copy impressionist paintings paste
Right Click Copy Right Click Paste


Perform this last operation twice more so that you have in total three copies of your original image; (better to work on copies than mess with the original!)


impressionist paintings rename

Right click on the first copy and choose Rename.

Call it what ever you like but with the word contrast visible in the title. 

Call the other two copies charcoal and blur respectively.

With the danger of loosing your original removed, you can now play around with adjustments to your heart’s content, knowing that you can always go back for copies of the original.

Second, since the memory usage of what you’re going to do, can be quite high, going back to work on just one part of the image is better than possibly losing the whole of your masterpiece. 

Third, if you do create different forms of the same layer you have a range of materials you can blend together to choose the feel and style that you were looking for.





Step 2 - Impressionist Paintings - The Contrast Layer



File > Open to select your picture called Contrast and make it as contrasty as you dare without losing detail in the highlights or the shadows.  The best way of tackling this is Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Histogram Adjustment

Move the shadow marker and the highlight markers in towards the histogram, until they just meet the first and last parts of the curve.  Move the gamma marker slightly from its centre position until the image looks contrasty enough without losing detail.


impressionist paintings histogram


The tutorial explains how to change the shape of the histogram to do just this.  If that doesn’t produce enough contrast, adjust the shape of the curve in Adjust > Brightness and Contrast>Curves.


impressionist paintings curves


The tutorial explains how to change the shape of the curve to do just this.  Save this image and close it.  File > Save  File > Close.

With your contrast layer safely put to bed, put the kettle on for a mug of tea or coffee; but don’t make the drink quite yet.

Step 3 - Converting The Contrast Layer
To The Painted Layer



File > Open to select your picture called Contrast.  Before you go any further, re-save the file under new name that includes paintedFile > Save As then make sure you choose TIFF.

Effects > Art Media Effects > Brush Strokes


impressionist paintings brush palette


For this process to be successful the original image must be as high a quality as possible to produce the best impressionist paintings.. 

Working from a screen grab at 72ppi will give some "interesting results", ie so impressionist that you might not be able to tell what the image is.  Perhaps this is a place to visit after you’ve found the basics in this tutorial.

Do not have preview on image switched on, as it will take forever to process; better just to have the smaller preview windows open.  There is no such thing as the “"best settings", but the inset shows some recommended settings for big bold brush strokes. 

When you click OK, go and make your drink as it will take some time to render the image.  If your image is not contrasty enough Paint Shop Pro will crash!  Hence the "belt and braces" approach of this tutorial.

If you’re happy with the result save this image and close it.  File > Save  File > Close.  Otherwise, make another setting and another drink!  And if Paint Shop Pro does crash, you’ve always got the contrast image to return to.


impressionist paintings


Step 4 - Thickening The Paint
Of Your Impressionist Paintings



File > Open to select your picture called Charcoal.  You will need to turn the image into a fairly contrasty black and white image.  The best way to do this is Adjust > Hue and Saturation > Hue/Saturation/Lightness.


impressionist paintings HSL


By way of adjusting the Saturation levels, adjust the separation of the tones.

Image > Greyscale will give the best result to the charcoal layer.

If the image is a little grey, Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Histogram Adjustment or Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Curves can help.  Go to Effects > Art Media Effects > Charcoal.


impressionist paintings charcoal filter


You may need to go through the process of increasing the contrast of the charcoal image after you’ve created it.  You need a good black separated from the white background.

Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Histogram Adjustment or Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Curves to do this

This filter simulates charcoal drawing.  It will give your masterpiece the effect of thickened paint.  Set the sliders to give the maximum settings for the maximum thickening effect.  File > Save  File > Close.


impressionist paintings charcoal


Step 5 - Creating That Blurry, Mystical
Impressionist Paintings Effect



File > Open to select your picture called Blur.  Call up the blur filter by Adjust > Blur > Gaussian Blur.  A setting of about 10 is a good start value.  File > Save  File > Close.


impressionist paintings blur


Step 6 - Assembling The Masterpiece


  1. File > Open to select your picture called Painted.

  2. File > Open to select your picture called Charcoal.

  3. File > Open to select your picture called Blur.

  4. Select your picture called Charcoal and Edit > Copy.

  5. Select your picture called Painted and Edit > Paste as New layer.  Set the blend mode to Overlay.

  6. Select your picture called Blur and Edit > Copy.

  7. Select your picture called Painted and Edit > Paste as New layer.  Set the blend mode to Overlay.

  8. The tutorial  will take you through blend modes.

  9. Then save your work as fine brush.

A picture frame completes the picture.  Image > Picture Frame.


impressionist paintings frames


And there you have it – instant (nearly) impressionism.  Layers > Merge > Merge All and maybe a tweak in the contrast or histogram completes the process. 


impressionist paintings finished work


Step 7 - Learning From Mistakes
Pushing The Effect Even Further



As I was compiling this tutorial for the web, and checking the steps, despite my best intentions and great care, I overwrote one of my files.  No matter, I’d kept master copies in another file so I could return to them.

But as I used to say to my students, you only learn by your mistakes.  My error revealed the method that Paint Shop Pro must use to generate the filter in the Effects > Art Media Effects > Brush Strokes method, and now I could exploit this to make the images even more impressionist in nature.

To achieve this, you need to be familiar with
  • Using of mask layers, see this tutorial.
  • Re-sizing and saving images, see this tutorial.

Load your contrasty TIFF image, File > Open to select your picture called contrast.

Select the freehand selection tool and draw around the area you’d like to have really thick brush strokes.  Since you’re an Impressionist painter the accuracy of your capture area is not critical, and you can edit it later.


impressionist paintings freehand tool impressionist paintings marching ants
Freehand Tool Marching Ants


The “marching ants” show where you’ve drawn.

To turn this selection into a mask, choose Layers > New Mask Layer > Hide Selection.

We don’t want this mask immediately, so we’ll save it until a little later.

Layers > Load/Save Mask > Save Mask to Disk, the dialogue box will open for you to name the mask for future use.


impressionist paintings save mask


You now must close the file without saving any changes to it.

The next few steps may seem somewhat bizarre, but they do the business.

File>Open to re-open your picture called contrast

You need to decrease the resolution of the image so that Paint Shop Pro can make really big pixel blocks.  Check the size of the image before you do anything to it and write down the width and length pixel settings as you’ll need them again later.

The settings that you’re going to change the image to, are only my suggested ones, and you may need to play around with them.  Set the ppi first, then the pixels for the width; check that the aspect ratio is locked.

Image > Re-size.


impressionist paintings re size


Follow the steps for the creation of the painted image, ie  Effects > Art Media Effects > Brush Strokes.


impressionist paintings really big brush


Then re-size the image again to its original width and length dimensions as you noted a few moments ago, setting the ppi to 300

Image > Re-size

Save the new image under a new name as something like big brush.

Step 8 - Assembling Your Impressionist Paintings
Masterpiece of Masterpieces


File > Open to select your picture called Big Brush.

In combination with the mask and the image that you made with small brush strokes earlier, the criterion of  "The far-field vision is realistic; the near field vision is confused" can be achieved with more effect.

  1. Retrieve the mask - Layers > Load/Save Mask > Load Mask from Disk.

  2. And retrieve the image you saved as fine brush.

  3. Assemble the layers and mask in this order, and there you have it – a little closer to impressionist paintings.

impressionist paintings layers Layers > Merge > Merge All

  1. File > Open to select your picture called Charcoal.
  2. File > Open to select your picture called Blur.
  3. Select your picture called Charcoal and Edit > Copy.
  4. Select your picture called Big Brush and Edit > Paste as New layer.  Set the blend mode to Overlay.
  5. Select your picture called Blur and Edit > Copy.
  6. Select your picture called Big Brush and Edit > Paste as New layer.  Set the blend mode to Overlay will give an image with really big brush strokes.  A little cropping and a frame et voilá.





impressionist paintings final masterpiece


And there you have it - a Paint Shop Pro technique to create your own impressionist paintings!



Impressionist Paintings Page Links

Step 1 - Impressionist Paintings Preparation.

Step 2 - Contrast Layer.

Step 3 - Contrast Layer to Painted Layer.

Step 4 - Thickening the Paint.

Step 5 - The Blurry, Mystical Effect.

Step 6 - Assembling the Masterpiece.

Step 7 - Learning From Mistakes and Pushing the Limits

Step 8 - The Masterpiece of Masterpieces.









Enjoy This Site?
Then why not use the button below, to add us to your favorite bookmarking service?



Copyright© 2009-2010.