I had trouble coming up with a title for this tutorial. It isn’t about any one particular thing, really, and the title I ended up with is only partially accurate. The post was inspired by paint-by-number kits, particularly Van Gogh’s Sun Flowers and DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. I bought the Van Gogh paint-by-number kit from Amazon and was immediately taken by the idea of making my own. After all, it seems simple, right? Wouldn’t it just amount to decreasing the color set to a manageable few, grouping those colors together, and then outlining them with a stroke? Aaaaah, these schemes start off so simply in my head. I began doing this and that and then a bit more this and less of that, etc., etc., etc. To make a long story short, it was a mess! Although I didn’t come up with an actual paint-by-numbers tutorial, I did learn about some new (easy!) Photoshop techniques and I want to share them with you.
After admitting that my paint-by-number solution sucked, I finally succumbed to searching for a viable method via Google and I found some pretty cool tutorials. They varied quite a bit in their techniques:
So, I cherry-picked the techniques I liked from each tutorial (cut-out and posterize) and then I combined them. To top it off, I added a gradient map to the result (another technique I learned from Adobe’s Support Forum) to make images like those above. Though I intended this to be a paint-by-numbers tutorial, it ended up having a mind of its own and evolved into a posterize/cut-out/gradient map Photoshop show and tell. In any case, I hope you enjoy this post!
Choose an image you want to experiment with and if at all possible, keep it at its original size and resize for the web at the end. I only mention this because I tried these steps with a photo of lower resolution and the final image didn’t turn out crisp.
Convert the image to grayscale
(Image >> Mode >> Grayscale) and then apply a Gaussian Blur
(Filter >> Blur >> Gaussian Blur).
Next, posterize it
(Image >> Adjustments >> Posterize) For this example, I used this setting: 4.
Cut out Filter in CS3 to CS5
Apply the Cutout filter
(Filter >> Artistic >> Cutout). For this example, I used these settings:
8, 5, 1.
Cut out Filter in CS6
And, last but not least, apply a Gradient Map
(Image >> Adjustments >> Gradient Map). The Gradient Map works similar to the gradient adjustment layer we used in the Ombre Effects tutorial. Adobe explains Gradient Maps this way:
“Each color will be mapped to one of the gray values in the posterized image, depending on its placement in the gradient stop. For a more realistic image, try assigning a darker color to the gradient stops on the left, and lighter ones for the stops towards the right. The advantage to using a gradient is that changes in the color stops will change the colors that are added to the posterized image, making different color combinations easy to try.”