This is rather a long tutorial that will show you the basic way to take a photo into a digital "painting" if you are not an artist. It's a slow process, but you can follow as many or as few of the steps along the way as you are comfortable with. You can also add things to the painting technique once you've become familiar with the method - you can add your own steps or special processes along the way to make the results uniquely yours.
What I'm going to show you here are the basic steps to beginning your painting. In finalizing your photo-illustration or digital painting, you will provide the finishing steps yourself. You'll see my painting at the end of the process, but some of my own final steps will not be included.
Those of you who are artists with painting and drawing skills aren't likely to need or want this tutorial since you already possess the skills to make a painting without a photo, but beginners who only want to make a special image for a family member or friends will find this helpful. The only tools you'll really need are photoshop, or a graphics program with similar functionality.
Ready to start?
Select your image an open it into photoshop. Here's mine. A photo of one of my daughter's - I'm planning to make a Mother's Day card with this one. The first thing you'll want to do is crop it to the area you want to retain, and think about any changes you might want to make along the way - such as hair or eye colour, the addition of makeup or clothing changes, or a different background. In creating a painting over the photo, you can change things as you go.
Most likely I will make a background change - probably something simple, like a painted backdrop that photographer's use. The first step I need to take to change the background is to do a rough isolation of the image portion I want to paint over.
To do this I'll use the quick mask. The quick mask will allow you to paint over the parts of the image you want to copy. Click this icon in the toolbar (usually located near the bottom of the tool bar), select a brush size and paint over the parts you want to move to a new layer. When I'm doing a rough isolation, I usually like to work with a large brush (300 pixels or larger for large areas, 100 pixels for smaller areas) and I find the "hard" brush (in your brush options, select the hardness slider and move it to the right to take your brush from soft to hard) gives better results. Once you've covered the area to be copied your image should look something like this one, with a red "mask" - notice the way this shows in your layer palette - instead of the normal "blue" active layer, you see a gray masked layer.
If you turn the quick mask off (click on the quick mask button in the toolbar) you'll see the selection outline (moving dotted line) that outlines your entire image and everything EXCEPT the area you've painted. That's because the area you painted is "masked off" - sort of like if you've covered an area on your wall with painters tape. What we actually want is to access the area we masked off - we want that area to be our selection. To do that, simply choose the "select" option from your menu, then select the "inverse" option. Now you'll see the area you masked off is the selected area. Now you can choose "edit", then "copy", then select "edit" and "paste" to paste it to a new layer.
Now I'm going to select my background - I tend to do this before I begin painting, but you can wait until the painting portion is finished if that's what you prefer. I've chosen one of my standard backgrounds - pretty tones that I find complementary to women's skin. Copy your new background to a layer in between your original photo and your isolated portion. You'll probably find there are areas along the edges of your isolated layer that you don't want - you can clean these up by erasing the extra bits if you like, but since you are going to recreate this layer in painting, you don't really need to do that. If you decide to use this layer as PART OF your painting, then you may want to.
At this stage, if you haven't been labelling your layers, make sure you label each layer appropriately so you know which layers are which. Label each new layer as you create it.
Now you begin the painting portion. You have two options. If you are skilled enough, you can paint every section by hand (using a mouse, or if you have a tablet, then your pen and tablet). If you aren't, then you can create each section of the painting by using the quck mask technique given above. Because this tutorial is for beginners, we'll use the quick mask method. Click on the quick mask button and paint over your first section. My first section will be the skin. This area will need to be a little more precise than your first masked section. Once the masking is complete, click the mask button again to get the selection area, choose "select", then "inverse", then choose "edit" then "copy", then "edit", then "paste". Your masked skin layer is now copied to it's own layer.
Duplicate this layer. Working on the duplicate skin layer, select the magic wand. Set it's tolerance to 100 or higher, and make sure the contiguous option is NOT selected. Select the skin on this duplicate layer with the magic wand. Now select the colour picker from the tool bar and click on an area in your skin to select an "all over" skin color. Select the paint bucket tool from the tool bar and make sure it is set to foreground, normal mode, opacity 100, tolerance about 50. Now click inside the selection area. This will fill your selection with the "paint" colour you have chosen. Because normal human skin is usually not the exact same color you may have to click a couple of times to fully fill the areas you want filled. Some areas, like lips and eyes don't need to be filled with skin colour. What you should have is something that looks like this. The colour is flat, without detail.
If you are skilled enough, you can add details with your brush, if you are not an artist or not ready to try this step, then you can blend this skin colour paint with your "real" skin layer below by using the blending modes and opacity to get something you like. We're going to try and add details ourselves. On a separate layer, you can add your eyelashes and eyebrows. Paint them in with a fine brush and vary the colour of hairs slightly. On another separate layer paint shadows and details using slightly darker shades and tones of the skin colour you've chosen.Once you have the details roughly brushed in, use the gaussian blur filter to blend them into your painted skin.
Now I'm ready to begin
the hair. I'll tell you right now - I am not good with hair. I usually work with multiple colours over a number of layers. My first layer is a light reddish brown, and I've chosen some watercolour brushes to work with. My hair is usually a rough colouring, then blended and reduced in opacity to reveal the original hair, which I usually keep in the underlayers to give some detail of individual hair, and to give it some definition. This project had three separate layers of colour for the hair, which were blended together (layer, merge down) as one.
Once this is completed roughly, then it's time to adjust the layer opacities as well as the layer blending modes. I can't really tell you what to select in this stage - it's entirely up to your own eye - your likes and dislikes. Once you have all the layers blended you can flatten and save your painting.
This can be the final stage if you are happy with your results. I usually take mine into Corel Paint and continue the work in there - particularly on the hair and blending. I find Corel Paint has better tools for blending paint and better brushes for paint strokes. If you don't have corel paint, you can use the filters in photoshop. This is the final image from photoshop, without having had the benefit of any additional painting and blending in Corel Paint.
And this is my completed image after having worked on it in Corel Paint - adding more detail, blending and brush strokes.