Impressionist Brush

Site Search

The Impressionist Brush in Photoshop Elements changes the existing colors and details in an image so that it looks like it was painted using stylized brush strokes.

The short description is that it changes a photo to make it look painted and what better way is there to put your own unique stamp on an image?  

There are different options to use with the brush and they are different from the options available with the normal brush tool.  

This is a technique that works best with a tablet but it will work fine with a mouse as well.  It is also one that can be time demanding and that will depend on whether you want a really great painting or one that just looks good.

Here is an example of working with the Impressionist Brush ...

impressionist brush original impressionist brush painted
Original Image Painted Image

Mouse or Pen?

If your copy of Elements came with and Intuos or a Bamboo then of course you are going to use the pen and tablet to paint.  It just makes it so much easier.

The technique will work fine with a mouse as well - it will just be more exhausting to cover the whole image flinging your mouse around.

The Options

 When the Impressionist Brush is selected you will see this litttle icon impressionist brush iconat the top of the screen in addition to the normal brush options.

impressionist brush options

These are the standard options.  From left to right they are the Brush Tip Shape, the Size in Pixels, the Mode of the Brush and the Opacity of the brush.

Click on the icon to check out the different options you can use when painting.

impressionist brush optionsThere are three options available.

The top one is the Style of the brush stroke, the middle is the Area and the bottom one is the Tolerance.


There are ten different brush variants for the Brush ...

impressionist brush tight short Tight Short impressionist brush tight medium Tight Medium impressionist brush tight long Tight Long
impressionist brush loose medium Loose Medium impressionist brush loose long Loose Long impressionist brush dab Dab
impressionist brush tight curl
Tight Curl

impressionist brush tight curl long Tight Curl Long
impressionist brush loose Curl Loose Curl Each sample was done with a 27 Pixel Brush, an area of 25 Pixels and a Tolerance of 0%.
impressionist brush loose curl long Loose Curl Long

As you can see, each one gives a different look so some experimenting will be required.


Controls the size of the brush stroke.  What this means is how far beyond the regular size the paint will flow.


Tolerance controls how similar in color value adjacent pixels must be before they are affected by the brush stroke.

Photo Painting

With all of these adjustments, logic would suggest that all you need to do is make some choices on the options and paint your image.  There is more to it than that.

impressionist brush raw paintTake a look at this one, for instance.  

Without seeing the original image it is simply a mass of color - some orange and white and green on a background of a kind of tan color.

This was done with the Impressionist Brush set as follows ...

  • Brush Size 27 Pixels
  • Opacity 100%
  • Brush Style Loose curl Long
  • Area 25 Pixels
  • Tolerance 0%

To give this image, or any image for that matter, a painted look while maintaining its look requires a few modifications to the settings.

The first and probably the most effective method is to lower the Opacity of the brush in the options bar because this brush is not pressure sensitive.

After lowering the opacity select an appropriate brush size for the image and the desired effect.

A large brush on a small image will produce large blobs of color while a large brush on a large image will produce smaller blobs of color.  Smaller blobs will maintain the look of the original image.

impressionist brush wine and cheeseThis is the same image with some adjustments to the options.

The first change was to lower the Opacity of the brush to 12% while keeping all of the other settings and then the background was painted - the background being the drop cloth behind the main subject.

The lower opacity gives the background a painted look without the big color blobs that are visible in the other image - unless you like the big blobs of color.

NOTE:  At this point I started adding layers for each of the foreground objects - the wine bottle, the wine glass, the grapes and the cheese.  With the layers it is easy to get rid of one and start again if I messed up.

The foreground objects, wine bottle, wine glass, grapes, cheese and cutting board, were done with different settings (on their own layer).

The Opacity of the brush remained at 12%, the brush tip size was lowered to 12 PIxels and the Area was lowered to 5 Pixels.

These adjustments kept the foreground objects more or less within the area they occupy.  A larger area and brush size would have had them wandering into the background.


Trellis/Watercolor Filter

Impressionist brush trellis Impressionist brush trellis watercolor
Original Painted Trellis and a Watercolor
Filter was added

The Trellis was painted with the Impressionist Brush and then the Watercolor Filter in the Filter Gallery was added.

Tabitha/Angled Strokes

Impressionist brush tabitha Impressionist brush tabitha painted
Original Painted Tabitha

Tabitha was painted with the Impressionist Brush and then Angled Strokes were added from the Filter Gallery.


Impressionist brush portrait Impressionist brush portrait painted
Original Painted Portrait

Th Impressionist Brush tends to soften the hard, sharp edges.  The frame was added because - well - just because.

As you become familiar with the different options available and work with the Impressionist Brush your results will get better and better!

Page Links

Mouse Or Pen

Impressionist Brush Options

Photo Painting


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

Return to top

Site build It!

Use the Contact Form to ask questions, provide feedback or comments.

Questions are good - so are comments - or requests!

Return to Digital Art from Impressionist Brush
Copyright© 2009-2013.