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Combine Brush Strokes filters to widen your creative horizons

Added on Monday 28th of February 2011 02:26 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


After a while you can recognize a Photoshop filter from a mile away. But that shouldn’t stop you from using them. We’ll show you how to experiment with multiple Brush Strokes filters and you’ll be amazed at the unique results you can achieve.


To create unique artistic images with the Brush Strokes filter, we’ll:

     Explain how to select the perfect image for this technique.

     Experiment with the Brush Strokes filters on single and multiple layers to achieve different effects.

     Apply a layer blending mode to enhance the filter effect.


Photoshop is a versatile application. You can use it for retouching images, and you can also use it to produce original illustrations, either from scratch or based on existing images. When using an existing image, you can use one of the many Brush Strokes filters to emulate a variety of traditional artistic styles. But, when using a combination of these and other filters, you can go beyond the norm and widen your creative horizons, as shown in Figure A.




Choosing the right image

Starting with the right image is extremely important to our technique. Because many of the Brush Strokes filters tend to reduce detail in an image, you should look for one that has a good balance between fine detail and simplicity. Your image should have enough detail that your finished piece won’t contain large areas of featureless color, and it should be simple enough that it won’t contain similar areas of unidentifiable hodgepodge.

An image with strong subject lines and a moderate amount of detail, as shown in Figure B, is perfect. To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, and extract the file winterscape.png.




Prep the image file

Once you’ve located the image file you want to use, you’ll get the layers set up for this technique.


To prep the image:

1.       Launch Photoshop.

2.      Navigate to your image file, and then click Open.

3.      Select the Background layer and create a copy by dragging the layer onto the Create A New Layer button located at the base of the Layers panel.

4.      Rename the new layer Brush 1.


Open the Brush Strokes filter command

To determine which combination of Brush Strokes filters you’ll want to use, you have to be familiar with the effects of these filters. Let’s open the Brush Strokes filter command and browse through the variety of filters available.


To explore the Brush Strokes filter:

1.       Select Filter > Brush Strokes > Accented Edges, and the Accented Edges dialog box opens, as shown in Figure C. It doesn’t matter which Brush Strokes filter you choose because once the dialog box opens, you can easily switch from one filter to another from within the dialog box.

2.      Click the Angled Strokes button, located to the right of the Accented Edges button to apply a new Brush Strokes filter to your image. To see more of your image, click the minus button located in the bottom-left corner of the dialog box.

3.      Click on the other various filter options, and observe the effect each filter has on your image.




Apply several Brush Strokes filters to one layer

Now that you’re familiar with the Brush Strokes filters, let’s apply a combination of several. We can either apply multiple filters to the same layer or apply them individually to copies of the same layer. Let’s try it both ways and note the difference.


To apply several filters to one layer:

1.       With the Angled Strokes filter still applied, move the Stroke Length slider all the way to the right to 50.

2.      Click OK to apply the Angled Strokes filter. The results are shown in Figure D.

3.      Choose Filter > Brush Strokes > Spatter.

4.      Move the Spray Radius slider to the right to 25, and click OK. You’ll get the results shown in  


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