Adobe gave us a great new tool with the addition of the Oil Paint filter in CS6. Many of the older texture filters simply don’t produce professional results, but this new one can create beautiful effects with just a little finessing. Here’s how to do it.


Good news. This one isn’t hidden deep in some remote sub-menu. It’s right there at the top level of the Filter menu.


Brush Sliders:

“Stylization” ranges from a daubed look at 0 to smooth strokes at level 10.

“Cleanliness” is the length of the stroke, with 0 being the shortest and choppiest, and 10 being the longest and most fluid.

“Scale” affects the relief or apparent thickness of the paint, with 0 being a thin coat and 10 giving the you thick, luscious, van Gogh-style paint globs.

“Bristle Detail” governs how much of a paintbrush-hair indentation is apparent, with 0 being soft and 10 leaving strong grooves.

Lighting Sliders:

“Angular Direction” affects the incidence angle of the light (not the brushstroke). This is important, especially if you are incorporating the oil painting into another scene.

“Shine” governs the brightness of the light source and the amount of bounce off the paint’s surface.

Once you start to adjust the sliders, you’ll quickly notice that as you get one part of the image looking good, other parts of the begin to look ridiculous.

Here you can see that, just as I got the chicken looking the way I wanted it, the woman’s face started to look like something you might see at a tribal-tattoo convention. What you to do to avoid this is to use a series of masks, working with the brush controls to find the right filter parameters for different parts of the image.

This mimics how real-world painters create their images, frequently using softer, smaller brushes for areas of detail like faces, and cruder brush techniques and blending for less important areas, like the background.


One of the great things about using masks here is that they don’t have to be too precise. In fact, a bit of extra brushstroke fuzziness around the edges actually makes this look more like a painting.

I applied different parameters to the chicken, the woman’s hair (which takes the filter beautifully), her clothes, the background, and most importantly, her skin.


This feature is a bit hidden, but it’s an incredible labor saver, and also new with CS6.

Go to Select > Color Range, then choose Skin Tones from the drop-down menu and click the Detect Faces box. With this tool, Photoshop auto-selects pretty much all of the skin-tone area. (You also get a few feathers in this instance, but you can deselect those.) Use the selection to make a new mask to work with the face and skin.

For the face, I used two layers. On one, I applied some subtle brushstrokes. On the other, I gave the face a slight blur, then painted out some of the filter mask to allow the brushstrokes to show a bit around the eyes, ears, mouth, and under the chin, leaving the cheeks and neck smooth.

And that’s it: with a handful of masks and a few rounds of the Oil Paint filter, we have a nice faux fine-art piece!



Images used in this post:

– Tutorial by Byron Hudson

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