Artistic Filters: Reviewing the Possibilities.

If someone were to ask you what art was, what would you say? It’s not the easiest thing to define is it? I suspect it’s accurate enough to say that art is whatever you make it out to be but that is quite vague. To try and formalize the definition, here is what I found by searching the dictionary: Art is “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.” Of course, “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder is it not? And who decides what is “more than ordinary significance?” Well whatever, lets stick with the notion of what is beautiful. Is photography then, by these terms, a form of art?” The short answer is, Yes! Photographers apply aesthetic principles to produce, either on film or digital sensor, what they see as beautiful, appealing, or of great significance. What’s more, we have a vast number of options (traditional paper, metal, slate, canvas) when considering how to output the images we capture. With today’s technological advancements in software, we can now turn a traditional print into a beautiful oil painting, watercolor, or image with unusual textures. Recently, I started experimenting with artistic filters in Photoshop and in this writeup I want to share a brief review of some of those options, beginning with the built-in filters and then reviewing a Photoshop plugin.

Photoshop’s Built In Artistic Filters

There are many built-in filters that come with Photoshop. I’m not providing a full review of those here but I will share some of the ones I like the most, along with an image showcasing the filter effect. Click on the images to view a higher-resolution file.

Plastic Wrap. As the name suggests, this filter makes it appear as if you wrapped plastic around your subject. You can control the highlight strength, detail, and smoothness settings. Adjusting the highlight strength slider produced a nice white glow behind the flower and superimposed a 5-pt star behind the flower.

Grand Crinum Lily. Canon 1DMkII, 24-70/2.8 | Artistic Filter: Plastic Wrap2.

Rough Pastels.  This filter allows you to control Stroke length and detail, apply various textures (canvas, sandstone, burlap, brick), and determine the direction of light. In this image I used a medium stroke length, detail setting of 7, on a sandstone texture with light from the top left.

Shrimp Boats. Olympus E-PL2 m4/3 camera | Artistic Filter: Rough Pastels.

Bas Relief: This is a neat filter that does not work with every image but where the subject is fairly isolated on a clean background, it produces a cool effect. This filter allows you to control detail, smoothness and light direction. Here I used a detail setting of 12 (high), smoothness setting of 2, and bottom light direction.

Green Jay. Canon 1DMkII | 500/4.5 | Artistic Filter: Bas Relief

Crosshatch: I have shown this filter effect in a prior post, but it’s worth sharing again as it is a cool filter that helped save a slightly out of focus image by converting it into an art piece. To see that review, search “Making Lemondae” in this blog.

Green Jay. Canon 1DMkII | 500/4.5 | Artistic Filter-Crosshatch

Photoshop Plugin: Snap Art3

Now here is a filter I really like. It couldn’t be easier to use and the results are…well, see for yourself. Snap Art3 can be installed as a plugin in either Photoshop or Lightroom. You can download a 14-day trial version but be forewarned, you will want to buy the software and it is not exactly cheap at $199. Still, it is certainly fun to use and though my trial has now expired, I think I may be saving up to buy it. I’m anxious to get some of the images below printed on canvas.

Sunset On Laguna Madre: Oil Painting Effect.

Northern Cardinal Oil Abstract.

Llano Town Square: Colored Crayon.

Wildflowers In Watercolor.

Texas Bluebonnet Watercolor Effect.

Cottontail Reflection.

Brush Country Wildflowers: Impasto Art Filter.

Snowy Egret With Impasto Effect.

Historical Buildings At LBJ State Park In Oil.

So there you have it, fun with Photoshop filters. Let me stress the key operative in that last comment…fun. While I still favor the traditional print, I must admit that I enjoyed creating these artistic effects. I should have printed one of them on canvas during the trial period but either way, I was sold on Snap Art3. I’d like to purchase the software in the near future but I guess the question is, Are the effects worth the cost? You tell me.

Until next time, keep shooting and remember to share the outdoors with your kids.  — KEVIN

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