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Learn Photography

Photoshop Elements >


This tutorial was adapted from Easy Digital Painting in Photoshop by Nathan Barry.

You can use a brush, and the three filters, to transform a photograph into a painting.

This writer is not an artist!

So, you won't see an example here.

Do the following.

Start Normally

1) Open a photograph, and make a Background copy layer.

Background copy


Normal Beginning

2) Edit the photograph as you normally would.


Background copy


Make Three Copies

Of the Background Layer

3) Make sure the Background copy layer is active (highlighted).


Background copy


4) Press Ctrl + j twice.

You now have two copies of the Background copy layer.


Background copy 2

Background copy 1

Background copy


Adjustment Layers on Top

5) Keep any adjustment layers, such as Levels, on the top of the stack.

Rename the Layers

6) Rename the layers, as done below.


Glowing Edges

Accented Edges

Poster Edges


Apply Three Filters

Filter #1 - Poster Edges

7) Go to Filters > Artistic > Poster Edges.

Set the values so there are black lines on the edges in your photograph, like a cartoon.

Filter #2 - Accented Edges

8) Go to Filters > Brush Strokes > Accented Edges.

Set the values so highlights are produced.

9) Change the blending mode from Normal to Overlay for the Accented Strokes layer.

Blending Mode?

At the top of the layers stack, look for the unlabeled Blending Mode box.

It's to the left of the Opacity box.


If you're new to blending modes, go to Blending Modes.

Filter #3 - Glowing Edges

10) Go to Filters > Stylize > Glowing Edges.

11) Change the blending mode for the Glowing Edges layer from Normal to Lighten.

12) Change the opacity of the Glowing Edges layer to 50%.

Select the Three Filter Layers

13) Press and hold Ctrl, and click on each of the three filter layers.

The three layers will be active (highlighted).


Glowing Edges

Accented Edges

Poster Edges


Copy & Merge the Three Layers

14) Go to Select > All.

15) Go to Edit > Copy Merged.

16) Go to Edit > Paste.

A composite layer is created, containing the three filter layers below.


Layer 1

Glowing Edges

Accented Edges

Poster Edges


Rename the Composite Layer

17) Rename the composite layer, Layer 1, as Paint Here.


Paint Here

Glowing Edges

Accented Edges

Poster Edges



18) Select the Smudge tool.

19) In options bar/Tool Options, set the Strength to 50%.

20) Paint using short brushstrokes that follow the lines and shapes in the scene.


Use the Zoom tool to magnify the areas that you're painting.

Undo& Redo

You'll use Undo and Redo.

Click the arrows at the top of your screen.

Or, use the keyboard shortcuts below.


To undo the last edit, press Ctrl + z.

To redo the last edit, press Ctrl + y.


To undo the last edit, press Cmd + z.

To redo the last edit, press Cmd + Shift + y.

Blue Masking Tape

If you want to confine the brush strokes to part of the photograph, make a selection.

Making a selection is like applying blue masking tape to the woodwork that you're painting.

The brush strokes will only seen in the selected.

Straight Lines

If you want a brush stroke to be perfectly straight, do the following.

a) Click at the beginning of the brush stroke.

b) Press Shift, hold, and click at the end of the brush stroke.

The brush stroke will snap between the two locations where you clicked.

Let Some of the Original Photograph

Peek Through

Try blending the Paint Here layer with the Background layer.

Do the following.

a) Click the eye icons for the three brush stroke layers to hide them.

b) Select the Paint Here layer.

c) Lower the opacity of the Paint Here layer.

As you do so, the Paint Here layer becomes transparent, allowing the Background layer to be be partially seen.

Pen & Tablet

If you're going to painting a lot, get a pen and tablet, such as those by Wacom.

You can control the brush more easily with a pen.

The pressure of the pen on the tablet will vary the width of the stroke.

Other "Paints"

You're using the photograph as the paint.

You can also paint with:

• Colors.

Go to Color Picking

• Patterns.

Go to the Pattern Stamp Tool.

• Textures

Go to Textures & Blending Modes.

• Other photographs

Go to Tips > Make a Collage and Photoshop Elements > Make a Collage.

Other Brushes

There are hundreds of brushes in Photoshop Elements.