PI6 Soft Art Photo Effect

This glamorous photo effect is surprisingly easy to achieve by varying Merge method and using a tone map tweak.

The technique works best for larger portrait-type images with good contrast, few colors and without a lot of background detail. It's not a good choice for, say, a landscape.

The trick to making the technique work is to emphasize dark areas, bleach out light areas, and minimize midtones, leaving only the strongest edges within the image visible. So some adjustments to the values shown in this tutorial may be necessary, depending on your image.

I started off with the image shown below. It's a good choice because there is no background, the color scheme is fairly monochromatic and the facial features are very clearly defined.

original image

Open the image you wish to use and hit Ctrl+C to copy it into the Clipboard. Hit Ctrl+V to paste it back into the image. Right click and choose Properties. When the Properties dialog box opens, from the General tab, edit the Merge method to Darken (only available if you downloaded the PI6 patch).

Darken merge method

Choose Effect, Blur & Sharpen, Gaussian Blur. When the Gaussian Blur dialog box opens, leave the default thumbnail selected and click OK. Your image will look softer and slightly blurry, similar to what I've seen referred to as the "milk glass" look.

Hit Ctrl+C to copy this object into the Clipboard, then hit Ctrl+V to paste it back into the image. While this object is active, select Effect, Special, Emboss. When the dialog box opens, accepts the defaults (including the dark gray coating color) and click OK. It'll look pretty horrible, but don't worry. Right click on the object and choose Properties. This time when the Properties dialog box opens, select Saturation Only from the Merge dropdown list. Now you have a pretty, pencil sketch kind of look. If you don't want color, you might even be happy with it just like this.

Hit the space bar to deactivate all objects. Hit Ctrl+C to copy the base image into your Clipboard. Don't worry, even if the base image is covered up with objects, it's still being copied. You will be pasting the Clipboard contents back into the image later, but not just yet. Right click and Merge All.

To beef up the darks and lighten the lighter spots in the image, choose Format, Tone Map (Ctrl+Shift+T). From the Highlight Midtone Shadow tab, enter the values shown at left. You might want to click Add to save these settings to your EasyPalette's My Gallery for the next step, then click OK.

highlight midtone shadow values

Hit Ctrl+V to paste the color image from the Clipboard into the image. Right click on it and choose Properties. Edit the Merge method to Colorize, and the Transparency to 50, then click OK. Right click and Merge All. Choose Format, Tone Map again and apply the exact same settings used in the step prior to this one. And you're done!

Depending on the colors in your image, you might want to experiment with different Highlight Midtone Shadow values when you use the Tone Map command. You might also want to try other Merge methods in the last step. Inverse of Multiply, Overlay, Hard Light and Soft Light can create equally beautiful, ethereal results. Here's two others, the first done with Hard Light and the second done with Soft Light.

This tutorial uploaded 10/12/01

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