In this tutorial learn how to transform your image into a realistic-looking impressionistic painting using the stroke, color, lighting and texture modules within Topaz Impression.


Impressionism is a style of painting that was formed in 1874 in Paris by a group of painters who were rejected from the art establishment and decided to start their own exhibition.

What was a departure from the traditional style of painting at the time, Impressionism is defined by an unfinished, sketch-like appearance with rapidly applied brush strokes.

Unlike Realists such as Gustave Courbet, painting accurate details was not important as Impressionists were more concerned with capturing a scene’s lighting and color in the given moment.

Water LilliesMonet’s Water Lilies at the MoMA

Another characteristic of Impressionism is the subject matter – landscapes and natural scenes from daily life are common themes found in impressionistic paintings.

Rather than sitting in a studio, painters like Monet, Renoir and Degas painted en plein air. They had to paint quickly outdoors to catch a passing moment, hence the need to capture quick impressions of any given scene.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat at The Art Institute of ChicagoA Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat at The Art Institute of Chicago

With Topaz Impression it is possible to render painterly brushwork in a similar manner that the Impressionists would have painted in. From impasto, a thick application of paint, to Pointillism, a technique used by the Neo-Impressionist Georges Seurat, follow along to create your own impressionistic work of art!

Before we begin, if you do not own a copy of Impression download a free 30-day trial here.

Step 1: Opening Topaz Impression

To start open Topaz Impression, which works as a standalone editor. Impression can also be used as a plugin and external editor in several applications. See our knowledge base for additional setup assistance if needed.

Since Impression does not include a masking functionality just yet, if you want to do layer masking, it is advisable to open Impression as a plugin through Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or PaintShop Pro. (See the article “The Importance of Using Layer Masks with Plugins” for instructions on using layer masking with plugins.)

Step 2: Accessing the Selective Parameters

Once you are inside of Impression, go to File-> Open to open up a new image. Impressionists typically painted landscapes, nature or the daily life around them so choose a similar photo to match this theme. See work by Claude MonetPierre Auguste RenoirEdgar Degas or another Impressionist painter for inspiration. Create an Impressionistic Painting Upon opening Impression you’ll first see a screen that shows presets and collections. A quick way to apply an impressionistic effect is to navigate to the ‘Impressionistic’ collection in the top right corner. Create an Impressionistic PaintingYou’ll then find a list of custom curated effects inspired by different painters and styles. One-click transformations are a good starting point, however you can be more creative by mixing up the selective parameters to create your own custom effect. With thousands of artistic possibilities, let’s navigate to the selective parameters screen where several modules are located including: stroke, color, lighting and texture.

These modules are the backbone to the program and how each preset was created. There are two ways to navigate to the selective parameters screen. The first way is to click on a preset and then click on the selective parameters icon shown in the middle of it: Create an Impressionistic Painting The second way is to navigate to the top right corner of the interface and click on the same icon Selective parameters to transport you to the selective parameters. Once you are to the selective parameters screen, press the reset icon Reset icon to start with a clean slate.

Step 3: Stroke

There are four modules within the selective parameters to work with: stroke, color, lighting and texture. Tip: click on a module name to expand and collapse it. StrokeLet’s start with the Stroke module to decide on the medium we’ll be working with along with the shape and size of the applied stroke.

1. Under ‘Brush’ choose between one of these brushes, which will render strokes like look like an oil painting: Type 01, 02, 03, 10, 11. For this demo I haven chosen brush type 02. Create an Impressionistic Painting 2. Impressionist paintings usually have an opaque surface, so increase the Paint Opacity slider to make the brush strokes more apparent.

3. Impasto is a technique where paint is laid on thickly to the canvas – this style was commonly found in impressionistic paintings. Increase the Paint Volume slider to convey this style.

4. Impressionist painters painted with a variety of brush strokes from long applications to short dabs. Adjust the Stroke Width and Stroke Length sliders to create a brush stroke that fits your style and the mood of the subject you have chosen. By increasing the Stroke Width and decreasing the Stroke Length, you can achieve more rounded strokes.

5. You may also decide to increase the Spill slider, which determines how clear the edge of the stroke is applied. For a more painterly look, increase this slider.

6. If you increase the Brush Size, try decreasing the Stroke Length and Stroke Width and vice versa. Try experimenting with the sliders, however should you need a guiding point, you can see settings I used in the screen capture below:

Create an Impressionistic Painting

Step 4: Color

Once you’re happy with the way your brush strokes look, now it’s time to move onto color. You can click on the ‘STROKE’ module to collapse the panel, giving you more room to work with. Create an Impressionistic PaintingImpressionists painted outdoors because they were inspired by the effects of light through the use of color. Monet once said, “It’’s terrible how the light runs out, taking color with it. Color, any color, lasts a second, sometimes three or four minutes at a time. What to do, what to paint in three or four minutes…”

At the time, Impressionists were working with the relatively new complimentary color theory. When painting outdoors, much yellow was used, so the complimentary color violet was often created by mixing a phthalo or ultramarine blue with red for the shadows (rather than using black).

1. Impressionists painted with brighter and more saturated colors, keeping them in the middle range (neither too light or too dark). Start by increasing the Saturation slider for more vibrant colors.

2. You may also choose to work with individual colors in the image, such as the greens and blues, adjusting the saturation, hue and lightness. You may attempt to try and create complimentary colors in your image, however be sure to try to keep the colors as natural as possible. Simply select the color you wish to work with and adjust the HueSaturation & Lightness sliders underneath as desired.

Create an Impressionistic PaintingTip: hover over an individual color to see where it appears in your image.

Step 5: Lighting

The Impressionist painter Renoir once stated, “No shadow is black, it always has a color. Nature only knows color. White and black are not colors.”

1. To start, collapse the Color module and then expand the Lighting module. Since black was an uncommon color found in Impressionistic paintings, decrease the Contrast slider a tad to reduce the difference between the whitest areas and darkest areas.

Create an Impressionistic Painting

2. You may also choose to brighten your image if underexposed. For this demo I will not be working with Brightness since the image is already well exposed and any increase in brightness would blow out the highlights in the flower.

3. The Light Direction directly affects how “light” hits the the Paint Volume and texture. Typically I prefer to wait to work with this until after I have selected a texture. Move the dot along the x and y axis to affect texture and paint volume.

Step 6: Texture

To finalize our masterpiece, let’s pick a substrate from one of 72 different textures. Impressionists painted on canvas, so select between one of six different canvas types. Create an Impressionistic PaintingSince paint has been applied thickly to the canvas, we won’t want the texture strength to be too strong, so keep it on the lower end. Once complete, save your custom effect as a preset if you want. Name it something meaningful like, “Misty Meadow” or “Sandy Shores”.  To save a preset, click on theCreate a preset icon in the top right corner. Then save your image or press OK to return back to your host editor. Here’s my final result: Create an Impressionistic Painting

Did you follow this tutorial and create something cool? Share your results with us on Facebook or Tweet us @topazlabs!

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