Painted Canvas Still Life Tutorial

NOTE: This tutorial was written some time ago, not to mention I was using Photoshop 3 at the time! Even though there may be easier ways to do some of the tasks here, hopefully a look into the overall process is still interesting and hopefully will also encourage you to experiment with the tools and experiment with your textures! I think its more fun to just play and be creative then be completely surprised with the beauty of your final artwork!

» Click here to see my new Still Life Tutorial using Photoshop CC 2104, Topaz Impression and Topaz Detail

For this tutorial I’m taking a photo and trying to make it look like a painting on canvas. The original photo of an antique vase with some flowers and berries was taken in my living room on a partly sunny day. Honestly it was a bad photo…but it was a photo of one of my favorite vases.

So I decided I would try to take this bad photo and make it into something better. The photo to the right is my final version of this image, this tutorial does not get you to that final image but I will describe those final steps.

Keep in mind the order I’m presenting here is not the order used to create the image. As I work I make different decisions which effect the order of the layers – so this tutorial does not represent a step by step process, it only show the layers used to create the final image.

The original photo had a white background, some draped white fabric which was removed completely… as I mentioned it was a bad photo and the draped fabric just had to go!!

The first layer is a texture I had created some time ago.

At this point what I am trying to do is to make the vase look as if it has been painted. So I needed to figure out how to make something look as if it had brush strokes. I tired various Photoshop filters to achieve that effect.

The one that worked best for me was the Colored Pencil which you see above. But this isn’t enough… and it looks really blurry… I need to try a few more things.

The next thing I did was duplicate the vase photo again, place it on top of the Colored Pencil layer, and applied the Poster Edges filter. Poster Edges is a really powerful filter and to use it correctly you really need to play around with the settings, the edges can easily overpower an image so take care when using this filter.

Once I had settings that I thought would work I moved on to try one more thing.

The final adjustment I made to the vase photo was to duplicate it one last time and change that layer to Black and White. This is my new little trick to get more contrast into an image, its a very handy layer! This layer is above the Poster Edges layer.

The photo above is the combination of all three layers, it may not look like it’s been painted when looking at this small image but if you were to see it at full size, the vase and the flowers look like they have transparent layers of high and low areas just like they have been painted with oil paint.

The color pencil layer is set to Overlay, opacity 99%, the Poster Edges layer is Normal, 46% Opacity and 67% Fill. The Black and White conversion layer is Soft Light, opacity 99%.

The Layers

I thought at this point I should show you the layers since all this can get very confusing! At some point when I have a big chunk of time I’ll sit down and try to do a video tutorial…

Now with my vase all set the next thing to work on is the background.

At this point I have a vase floating in mid-air… that has to change! So what I did was duplicate the original background texture a couple times. The first duplicated layer was modified so overall the image was darker — I did this using Levels.

That layer sits right on top of the original background layer. Since I only want to make the vase look as if it is sitting on something I used a layer mask and gradate the background so the darker color begins at about the mid point of the vase and travels down.

As you can see above the vase is no longer “floating”. That layer is set to Soft Light, 100% opacity. You will see that I also added a black shadow at the base of the vase to further ground it. The shadow was created using a black brush that starts at the very front of the vase and extends to a point where I believe a real shadow would end, where the brush when over the vase was erased.

This is out of sequence, but needs to be explained. The next thing I did was add a new texture. This new texture is white with what looks like painted brush strokes. When I placed this within the layers all the tones changed completely! So what I did was duplicate the original texture layer, placed it below the Black and White Conversion layer and set the layer to Multiply, 82% – once I add the new white texture this layer helped return my tones to the previous levels.

The image above is the new texture layer that changed all my previous work even after the layer settings were modified. So duplicating the first texture helped return my values to where they needed to be.

The above is where I ended up. The white texture layer was set to Overlay, with an opacity of 59%

Now that I am very close to finishing what do I need to do – ADD MORE TEXTURE!! After the white layer was added I felt I needed to just a bit more texture in the upper and lower right hand side.

A white brush on the top set to Hard Light, Fill 27%, and a black brush set to Multiply, Fill 49%, the Opacity for both was still set to 100%.

Let’s see… oh, yes. Its supposed to look as if the entire image is painted on canvas. Well I knew the Canvas filter just wasn’t going to do what I wanted, and it was also too easy to do, so I wanted to find another way to make the canvas texture. And I came upon a neat solution.. who would have guessed!

Unfortunately this is sort of tricky to show you at this size. What I used was a Pattern Fill. Its the pattern that looks like very very loose woven fibers. It worked! Looking at the image above the fill is too big – the woven pattern should be smaller but when I made it smaller it looked really bad – so you’ll have to look at the final image. But this fill pattern layer is set to Soft Light with an opacity of 59% (on my layer image above it says 33% which was the final setting on the much larger image, on this smaller tutorial image a setting of 59% worked).

That’s it! But of course, you know me…its not the end… ’cause at this point I always ask myself… what if….

I really liked the way this image turned out. I’m happy with the painted look I achieved (it can be improved but on the first try it worked) and I’m very happy with the overall vintage look and feel. But. What about taking it the next step forward, bringing the colors into the next century (the spittoon vase is from the early 1900’s), and what about cropping it…!!

Time to Play!

What I did was flatten the entire image, cropped it down to the image at the very top of this tutorial then I played. What I did to change the color was use my favorite shortcut – Variations. I just messed around with the overall highlights, and changed the overall color, and saturation. Then when I was at a point where I liked the new color palette I went back in, duplicated the entire image, added more cyan or green or magenta to get some additional color in the vase – then erased everything except where I wanted the new colors on the vase.

The final image can be seen, and purchased as a print here.

And then I really was – finished!

Note: I can not keep up with all the crazy spammers so if you have any questions please feel free to contact me!