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[Oil Painting Effect] Turn a Photo into a Victorian Masterpiece!

You can cheat the look of old traditional oil paintings with a little help from Photoshop. Create your own Victorian masterpieces and achieve that vintage look using a selection of adjustment layers and blur effects. Let’s begin!

Software: Adobe Photoshop CC Extended

Difficulty: Intermediate

Completion Time: 2 hours

Images Used For This Tutorial

Stock Photo - Beautiful young woman in green medieval dress reading book

Beautiful young woman in green medieval dress reading book: 30143565 © darkbird

Step 1

Open your reference in Photoshop. The best way to cheat this look is if you choose a photo with a similar vintage theme. A model in costume works perfectly in this instance. Using the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L), make a selection around the model. Right-click and select Layer Via Copy to create a duplicate of just the model on a new layer.

Step 2

Select the background layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Create a slight blur with a radius of 4 pixels.

Now clip a New Curves Adjustment Layer to the background and adjust the RGB, Red, and Blue Channels to deepen the background setting.

Step 3

To make the model fit the new lighting scheme, set a new adjustment layer of Curves as a clipping mask to the model and adjust the RGB channel to make the shadows richer.

When you’re finished, create a new adjustment layer of Levels with the following settings to brighten the image again: Shadow Input 7, Midtone Input 1.03, Highlight Input 224, and Output Levels 14, 225.

Oil Painting Effect

Step 4

Select the Brush Tool (B) and use a soft round brush to paint the color black for shadow all over the photo. Study old Victorian paintings for inspiration on how to setup the lighting scheme. Paint the shadows mostly behind her, then use a new layer set to Color Dodge to add highlights to the model with the color white.

Step 5

Now merge all the layers together. Hold Control-J two times to create two new duplicates. Select one of the duplicates and go to Filter > Stylize > Diffuse. Select Darken Only to create a nice texture similar to brush strokes. Repeat this step for a darker, more intense effect.

Step 6

Select the second duplicate to apply another filter. For that painterly look, go to Filter > Stylize > Diffuse. Select Anisotropic and hit OK. When you’re finished, set the blend mode of this layer to Screen.

Final Adjustments

Step 7

Add another new adjustment layer for Curves to continue tweaking the colors. To create that aged effect, adjust the RGB and Blue channels to add more golden and reddish undertones into the photo.

Step 8

On a new layer set to Overlay, use a bright yellow color (#) to paint a soft golden light all around the photo using the Brush Tool (B). Focus this color on the model for added emphasis on her just like a traditional Victorian painting.

Step 9

Continue to adjust the colors of this photo by using a new adjustment layer of Color Balance. Set the Shadows to Red +13, Green 0, Blue -14, and the Highlights to Red -13, Green 0, Blue +40.


You have now completed your own master piece. Show off you oil painting skills to all your friends and try out these techniques on more photos! I hope you’ve enjoyed creating this fun tutorial, let us know your results in the comments below!

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