Get A Van Gogh Effect with Photoshop Elements

I love Vincent van Gogh paintings with their swirling, liquid-like feel to many of them.

It reminds me of the physical world kind of melting together to illustrate the spiritual idea that we are all one with the universe. Maybe I need to cut back on my meditation!

Anyway I stumbled across a way that gives photos that same kind of fluidity. Well not on the same level as Van Gogh but for a lot cheaper.

I think the photo below shows the possibilities for this technique.

However I didn't use that photo for this tutorial because it was already on its way to unusual.

I snapped it with my iPhone one night from the front porch when there was this incredible lightning show which I tried to capture.

You can see from the original below that it had what would normally be considered some serious flaws (out of focus, noise, color cast, blown out highlights, etc.) But I really like how it looks with the Van Gogh effect applied.

Original photo before applying the Van Gogh effect.

I used a more typical photo for this tutorial so as not to over-deliver on what to expect for results. It was also taken with my iPhone.

Just so you know you will need Photoshop Elements 11 or newer to follow along.

Click on the video below to see exactly how it's done.

Under the video is an illustrated step-by-step guide showing how to apply the Van Gogh effect with Photoshop Elements.

How To Apply The Van Gogh Effect
With Photoshop Elements

STEP ONE- Duplicate The Background Layer.

Start by making a duplicate copy of the Background Layer by pressing Command-J on a Mac or Control-J on a Windows PC.

Exact duplicate of the Background Layer in the Layers panel is named Layer 1 by default

We often duplicate the Background Layer to work non-destructively. But for this tutorial we actually need the duplicate Layer because we'll be changing the Blend Mode in a later step.

STEP TWO- Apply "Graphic Novel" Filter.

Go up to the Filter menu and choose Sketch>Graphic Novel... by clicking on it.

The Graphic Novel dialog box appears.

Experiment with the Thickness slider and possibly the Smoothness button in this dialog box to get a look that you like.

Then press the OK button to close the dialog box and apply your changes to your image.

The Graphic Novel dialog box.

STEP THREE- Change Blend Mode To Restore Color.

Part of what the Graphic Novel filter does is change your photo to black-and-white.

Actually it changes the Layer that was active at the time. You can see in the Layers panel that the duplicate Layer (Layer 1) has the Graphic Novel effect applied to it and the original is unchanged on the Background Layer.

We want to keep the "fluid" effect that the Graphic Novel filter applied to our image but we don't want it to be black-and-white.

Luckily there is a blend mode in the Layers panel that will allow us to achieve that.

Locate the Blend Mode field in at the top of the Layers panel that by default is set to "Normal".

The Blend Mode field is located in the Layers panel and is set to "Normal" by default.

Click on "Normal" and from the drop-down menu that appears choose the blend mode at the bottom of the list which is "Luminosity" by clicking on it.

Change the blend mode to "Luminosity" by clicking on it at the bottom of the list.

Now with "Luminosity" as the blend mode on our Van Gogh Layer (Layer 1) the color has come back to our photo as seen in the Active Image Area.

That completes this lesson on how to add the Van Gogh effect to your photos.

Until next time, this is Rick saying . . . Take care!

Go from Van Gogh to the Home page.


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