Friday, November 11, 2016

Transform Your Photo to a Watercolour in Photoshop

One of the very best things about is the incredible variety and diversity of the content on the website. Not only does it boast professional, print-quality photos, high-resolution clipart and HD video, but with an inventory of over five million images the selection offers something for every need and taste.

However, as much as  photograph can provide the perfect visual detail to a project, there are times when it's necessary or just plain fun to play with them a bit.  For example you could take that great picture and turn it into a reasonable facsimile of a watercolour. With image editing software this is, of course, quite easy to achieve. While the process might not make the art world sit up and take notice, the results are satisfactory for most purposes and come without the expense of hiring an artist.

I actually undertook this project as a gift for my husband a couple of years ago. When his parents made the decision to sell the family farm he was devastated. Just in his teens he had neither the means nor the maturity to set himself up as a landowner.  Even to this day, when we pass by it on our many trips hither and yon, he looks toward the house with slight melancholy.

It dawned on me that while I couldn't give him the whole package, what a nice gift it would be to bring a little piece of his past into our home. A painting of the house I decided would look perfect over the fireplace in the room he was currently renovating at our place.  Unable, however, to find an artist whom I trusted and was affordable, I opted for Plan B. My photographer daughter took the picture and I took on the transformation to watercolour with Photoshop.

Author Seth Godin has said that art is not in the eye of the beholder, but in the soul of the artist. Well the 'artist' here has shown a basic understand of Photoshop over the years. Yet, when I set onto the the aforementioned project it was with a desire to learn through experimentation.

And I'm happy to say that the results were good enough, though I hadn't realized the house and grounds were considerably different than those in his memories.  I have since found an artist who can take on the more ambitious alteration required to bring his past to life.

The key point, though, was that it was fun to take an image and see what I could do with it using some expertise and a lot of trial and error.

I enjoyed the project so much I've decided to give it one more try here today. The first step, obviously, was to select a photo that would look great as a watercolour. I love this  gorgeous shot of autumn in New York's Central Park (#296795),  one of the most popular autumn downloads from

After opening the image in Photoshop the size can be changed to whatever specific requirements are.  My first step then was to brighten the overall picture and intensify the colours just a tad by selecting Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation,  and changing the settings to -3 for Hue, 2 for Saturation and 1 for Lightness.

 Next I renamed the background layer to original then right clicked and created a duplicate copy.
With this highlighted I chose Filter>Artistic>Dry Brush. The settings used were Brush Size, 3; Brush Detail 2 and Texture 1. Play with these to get the effect you like.

Then change the Blend Mode to Screen.

Highlight the original layer and select Filter>Artistic>Cutout. For this purpose I set the Humber of Levels to 7, the Edge Simplicity, 3 and the Edge Fidelity, 2. Again, however, you will want to play with the setting to get the desired results.

Choose Soft Light for the Blend Mode and you're done. Here's my work of art.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

1,220 Gorgeous Photos of America the Beautiful

As the end of 2016 slips away, so too, do the number of vacation days left to me. I recently used up a couple to enjoy a nice long weekend, bookmarked by visits with old friends.  Obligations, time and distance have made regular visits impractical, so we cherish these little adventures we arrange. 

Both excursions, of course,  were blessed with the laughter and comfort you experience in the company of someone who knew you when you were still shaping and who has continued to love you along the way.   Having been through most of the wars, as they say, and come through the other side, we indulged in reflecting on just a few serious memories of the life we've known. Otherwise, this was going to be all about fun.

While making that point about dedicating upbeat hours together wasn't necessary there was one topic from the beginning we put off limits. The American presidential election would not be mentioned. Of this we have had enough.

And now,  today, finally, it will all soon be over. Later tonight we will know, for better, worse or more so depending on your view, who the Americans have chosen as their new president. The historical significance of this race, one of the ugliest and most bewildering ever, isn't lost on anyone. The two top candidates are a politically-savvy, well-educated woman, who has never been accused of inspiring warm and fuzzy feelings, and a businessman of questionable ethics and morals.

Like most Canadians I have my opinions on this. They are mine, they are strong and I will share them in detail with anyone who asks. What I won't do is share them here. This is a blog about images, neither the place for political commentary or for volatile topics. I have no illusions that anyone might want to hear what I have to say. I have no power to influence anyone. My editorial days are behind me; my soapbox was dismantled long ago.

What I do feel compelled to comment on is Republican candidate Donald Trump's campaign promise to "Make America Great Again". The reason? I tend to think America is already pretty great. Certainly, there are issues — guns and healthcare to name a couple. But what country doesn't have a few warts? 

Its citizens are intensely proud of their nation. Travels have taken me south of the border frequently and I will forever be awed by the Americans' love for their country.  Nowhere else does one see such patriotism displayed. This is a place that is viewed as powerful in the eyes of the world. The rich history that is its foundation built a democracy that is held in esteem by others.

There is grandeur in its aesthetic, variety in its landscape. It's a country of tropical breezes and polar ice, rocky mountains and deserts, towering skyscrapers and open prairies. It is from 'sea to shining sea' America the Beautiful. Flawed, perhaps, but no more than most. Not a country that needs to be made great again. It's already there.

Check out that beauty in these wonderful photos from America Landscape Pictures