Monday, September 29, 2014

Make like paint

Occasionally I like to make my photographs look a little less photographic and a little more drawn or painted. Over the years I have tried a lot of software to accomplish this with varying degrees of success and lack of. This last few days have been a concerted effort to find which software could produce the best results.

I had previously tried Virtual Painter 5 (now no longer available), Corel Painter (now only available as part of  a $600 package) and a few others that escape my memory (i.e. not memorable - literally).

This time I looked at four packages. I excluded anything costing over $100 as being too expensive for the use I would make of it and ended up looking at:
FotoSketcher (free),
GMX photo Painter (about $50),
Dynamic Auto Painter ($100) and
Snap Art 4 ($100).

First the exclusions;
Dynamic Auto Painter has a lot of people rooting for it. I didn't like the results. I really tried with this software, processing my test picture through about a dozen filters and post processing steps. The results were unconvincing. I also didn't like the way it messed with the colours. While there were detailed differences between the filters, the overall effect was sameness and a lack of differentiation. It’s also an overly complex program to come to grips with. Big fail.

GMX photo painter was much better. There are heaps of controls and, with some effort, good results could be obtained. But to get good results does require a lot of trial and error and patient work with a stylus. Don’t even think of using this program with a mouse! I liked this program a lot and if cost is an important factor then its a reasonable pick despite one or two little niggles (like the painting not going all the way to the top and left edges of the picture). I only really excluded this program because my final choice was just so much better. A free trial is available if you want to give it a try.

I’m keeping two of the programs:
FotoSketcher is brilliant for a free program. It doesn't have as many filters as some of the other programs but what it does have are very flexible. I found the best way to use this program was to produce a few JPGs with different settings and to combine the layers in Photoshop to produce the finished piece. In fact this is the strategy that I use with both my keepers. If you just want to play around and produce some reasonably impressive results then download FotoSketcher and give it a go.

My best keeper was Snap Art 4 from Alien Skin. It’s the easiest program of the four to learn and the results it produces from a single pass are truly impressive. However, produce separate layers for underpainting, body and details to combine in Photoshop and the results really surpass anything else I have ever tried. If you don’t have Photoshop then you can mask different setting from within Snap Art but I simply find using Photoshop easier. This program is a wonderful blend of power and ease of use. It also works as a stand alone program and as a plugin for photoshop, lightroom and other  graphics programs.

Here are my two test pictures (original photos from processed in Snap Art 4 and Photoshop (view full size):

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