Create a painterly image with classic lighting effects, tiling, texturing and layers


In this tutorial, you’ll learn to crop and rotate an image, adjust lighting, add a tiling background, add light highlights using blending modes, superimpose a new image to augment the scene.

My goal was to produce a piece that looks like a painterly image that a minor Dutch painter might have produced in the 1800s. The original picture was shot in a local Southern California Starbucks a few weeks ago. Before I tripped the shutter,  I was struck by a few things about the scene – the man (who I knew to be a tow truck driver) had the most amazing beard, was wearing a very unusual broad-rimmed straw hat, and also was wearing a dark blue jean jacket that would make it impossible for someone to place the man in the 21st or even the 20th century. I saw an opportunity to suggest a simpler time in the distant past.

To accomplish my vision for the image, I used Photogene2 (for cropping to create a tile and flipping an image), PhotoWizard (for layering images, rotating, cropping and healing), DXP (for compositing masking layers),  Noir (to create a black mask to focus the eye on the lighted area) and AntiCrop (to enlarge an image sufficiently to rotate it). I also used FlickStackr to locate and download texture.

Here is the original image:
Step 1 – Rotate and crop image
Using AntiCrop, and I extended the height and width to the maximum the program allows:
Using PhotoWizard, I rotated the enlarged image to maximize the area to the my left of the subject so that the balance of elements in the image would be closer to ideal. Once I had the table perpendicular to the bottom of the cropping box, I committed, and then cropped to what I felt were better proportions that did not clip the subject’s right arm:
My go-to initial editor for images is Photogene2 – there are several others that might fill that bill for you. I used this one to make minor color corrections and to denoise the image a bit (since it was shot in somewhat low light). I also applied a very light blur to hide some of the noise.
Step 2 – Remove the fire alarm from the wall
Using Photogene2, I took advantage of the heal capability to select an area I wanted to clone to obliterate the fire alarm box on the wall.
Step 3 – Create and apply a light-focusing dark mask
Using Noir, I created a mask that allowed me to draw the eye to the man, specifically his hat and the papers in front of him.
Using DXP, I composited the color layer on top of the black and white image I created. I then applied the Color blend setting, adjusting it to taste with the slider. Halfmix and Multiply would also have produced similar results, and the second option could have also desaturated the image a bit, if that was the desired result.
Step 4 – Import, scale and composite a light ray over scene
I wanted to imitate the emphasis on the contrasts of light and dark that was common to the Dutch painters of the 1800s, so I located a ray-like texture and imported it as a layer in PhotoWizard. I scaled and rotated it to suit – you have the option either to maintain its original aspect ratio or scale it freely in any direction – an awesome feature. Using the blend types and percentages, I was able to find a very subtle setting that reinforced the effect of the light coming in the window.
Step 5 – Import and scale an image of a vase with flowers
A friend pointed out that the table seemed a bit long and empty, and that I should consider adding something to the image to counterbalance the man. I selected an image on the Shutterstock website and purchased it for about $3. Using PhotoWizard, I imported the flower onto a layer, and then used the scaling and cropping tools to properly scale it and remove the dark background. I then adjusted the translucency to suggest that it was outside the direct line of light.
Step 6 – Erase the chair to the right
Continuing in PhotoWizard, I used the cloning tool to carefully remove the chair to the right hand side of the table. It didn’t seem to add anything to the image, and drew the eye away from the main subject. I wanted the scene to look like it might be occurring in a cottage, and that the man sitting at the table might be a farmer or overseer on the property that might surround the house in which he sat.
Step 7 – Create and apply a craquelure texture for use in as a texture
As many old paintings aged, they develop unique cracks that we naturally associate with the passage of time. I located a beautiful craquelure pattern on a plate uploaded by lisabee 73 on Flickr, and after downloading using Flickstackr, I imported it into Photogene2 and cropped to carefully avoid the curves and irregularities of the plate.
I then imported the evolving image back into PhotoWizard, and imported the tile in as a layer. I adjusted the blending over the most sensitive areas of the scene (the hat, and the corners) to see what setting worked best in all locations. I also saved the layer to the mask library so that I could manually tile the pieces throughout the scene. In the most tedious part of the exercise, I then continued to import individual copies of the tile and place each one individually throughout the image to complete the tiling effect.
And here is the final image – called “A letter from the beloved”.  Where you have the option to create a title, this can have a significant effect on how the viewer perceived the image – you effectively create the context and start to set the mood.


Thanks for following along! If you’re interested in seeing more of my work, you can visit my Flickr photostream.


NOTE: if you’d like to try to utilize this texture on your own images, here is a link to Lisabee73’s texture page with this particular craquelure texture – but you’ll need to crop it yourself!

It’s very important to acknowledge textures that you utilize in your work (see my note on her page). There are number of great groups on Flickr whose members share textures they create or find. One of my favorite groups is Textures for All. I use three to five textures in a number of my pieces – but that’s a subject for a later tutorial!




— Bob

Bob Weil

Bob is the co-author of The Art of iPhone Photography (with Nicki Fitz-Gerald), published by Rocky Nook photography books and supports Nicki in managing iPhoneography Central and the associated Flickr group.



Related posts