How to turn a photo into a painting

Photoshop is as beloved by artists as it is by photographers, and in this project we are going to combine art forms, giving a portrait a hand-drawn, hand-painted effect – complete with the artist’s arm ‘sketching’ their masterpiece for a 3D look. 

You will need a portrait plus a photo of a hand holding a pencil or brush - use a simple portrait with a plain background, as this works best for a convincing-looking drawing. 

For the hand, position the subject’s arm on a white background – such as a sheet of plain paper – and shoot from directly above to keep everything in as level a plane of focus as possible, using a mid-range aperture for a good depth of field. A flashgun will add a slight shadow, helping the end image look more realistic. 

The technique makes extensive use of Photoshop’s Filter Gallery to provide painterly effects, brush tools to provide different textures, and plenty of layers set at various opacities combined with a variety of blending modes to mix and match the layers together.

The end result indeed looks impressive, but is surprisingly easy to achieve…

Step-by-step: Bring your sketches to life