To create a digital painting is a fairly uncomplicated task in Topaz Simplify. While there are many custom curated effects that will revamp your image with a single click, the objective of this tutorial is to understand the core technology behind the Simplify plug-in so that you can create art that is distinctively yours.

bikecollage© Greg Lindenbach

We’ll be working from the right hand panel of Topaz Simplify where selective adjustments will be made to create a digital painting. No presets will be used, only settings and parameters on the right side. The predominant panels we’ll be working in to get the desired results include the Simplify, Adjust and Edges modules.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 9.18.58 AMSimplify 4.1 Interface

The technology behind Topaz Simplify uses scale space algorithms to close off holes and eliminate details, thus allowing for the depiction of paintings, line drawings, water colorings, cartoons and so on. So if you’re in a creative mood, follow this tutorial to effortlessly convert your photos into digital art!

How to Create a Digital Painting

1. In Photoshop open your image and duplicate the layer (ctrl/cmd + J).

2. Select Topaz Simplify from the Photoshop Filter menu.

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs, PhotoshopCC3. Press Reset (bottom right corner) to rid of any effects that may have been applied in a previous session, ensuring that you start with a clean slate.

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs

4. In the right hand panel under Global Adjustments, select Edges.

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs5. Expand the Edges module and change the Edge Type to Mono Line – Fine.

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs6. Under the Edge panel, increase the Edge Strength slider.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 9.29.30 AM

You’ll see the blank white canvas transform into a line sketch:

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs7. Next increase the Simplify Edge slider. This will remove image features of a certain size; a higher setting means there will be a lesser number of edges remaining:

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs8. Increase the Reduce Weak slider. You’ll see faint and weak edges start to diminish:

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs9. Once you have finalized your line drawing, to add back in color, select the Combined mode, which combines the base (body) and edges (line).

If you prefer to only work with the body you can work in Base mode, but be sure to switch back to Combined to add back in the edges before pressing OK.

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs10. Expand the Simplify panel and increase the Simplify Size somewhere between 0.20-0.40 and you’ll start to see details removed. Bring the Feature Boost to 1 or 2 and you’ll see details and features start to be brought back. The image is starting to look more like a painting:

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs11. Change the colorspace from RGB to YCbCr.

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz LabsYou will notice that the RGB colorspace produces a more dramatic color effect, while YCbCr tends to shift the color less. Color artifacts will become more muted and natural when converted to YCbCr mode.

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs, colorspace, ycbcr, rgb12. Expand the Adjust panel and make basic adjustments as your image requires. For this image I increased the saturation and saturation boost. If you image appears to be flat or soft, increase the structure slider to add more depth.

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs13. Press OK when finished to return back to your host editor.

After a few tries you should have this down by memory. I followed this method a couple of times to produce different results. Here are the two creations I made back to back that vary only slightly:

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz LabsBack in Photoshop I went to the layers palette and reduced the opacity of the two Simplify layers to blend them into one another as well as blend back in the original photo for a photorealistic look.

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz Labs

Here’s the final result:

Create a Digital Painting, Topaz Simplify, Greg Lindenbach, Topaz LabsAdorning your image with artistic effects in Simplify is quite easy and this tutorial shows only one aspect of what can be done within the program. Rather than just applying a preset and pressing OK, next time you’re in the program try mixing up the selective adjustment sliders to form something truly unique and your own!


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