Artistic Photo Effects

Artistic Photo Effects image by All images (c) 2009 by Tom King


Digital photography simplifies basic photo effects that once took a lot of skill and a well-equipped darkroom to pull off. Now, with most photo software, you can create a variety of effects to make your pictures more interesting. Starting with the simple portrait above, let's take a look at some of the ways we can jazz up a picture and make it a unique bit of digital art.


The first effect we're going to look at combines two processes. I first turned the color photo into a black and white one by changing the "mode" from CMYK color to grayscale. A filter called "half-tone" was then applied. This produces an effect similar to what photos used to look like in newspapers.

Colored Pencils

This effect uses a filter called "colored pencils." For Adobe Photoshop users, go to the filters tab and select "artistic" and "colored pencils" as the filter. This filter also asks you to choose a pencil width, stroke pressure, and paper brightness. All these filters effect how the photo is altered. There's even a preview window so you can see what changing details does to the picture. Most photo software has something similar to this feature.


This effect simplifies the colors and edges to create a cartoon-like quality. In Photoshop you can choose how complex or simple your colors will be, how accurate the edges, and how simple the lines.

Dry Brush

The dry brush filter mimics the way an artist would paint using minimal paint -- an almost dry brush if you will. Again, this filter is selected from the "artistic" menu in Adobe Photoshop.

Paint Daubs

This filter imitates a technique used by painter where paint is dabbed on in blotches. The filter turns pixels into paint blotches.


With this filter, you can simulate the look of an image pounded into a sheet of metal. You can adjust the angle of indention, depth, and heaviness of the embossing effect.

Note Paper

The effect known as "note paper" produces a monochrome etching that can be adjusted for depth, graininess and image balance -- a very striking effect when printed on parchment paper. Working with filters and tools that can cut and paste, clone and copy, a relatively simple program can produce really spectacular photo effects. Experiment with your software a bit and you'll discover it can do some pretty remarkable things. Check for add-on filter plug-ins for your software package. There are often lots of freebie downloadable ones, but paying a few bucks for some really good special effect filter is well worth it.

Keywords: photo effects, photographic special effects, working with photographic filters, Do it yourself photo effects, photo software effects

About this Author

Tom King published his first paid story in 1976. His book, "Going for the Green: An Insider's Guide to Raising Money With Charity Golf," was published in 2008. He received gold awards for screenwriting at the 1994 Worldfest Charleston and 1995 Worldfest Houston International Film Festivals. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Southwestern Adventist College.

Photo by: All images (c) 2009 by Tom King

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