Over the years, I’ve filed away a lot of images I liked that weren’t really great photos. The sky was unremarkable, the shadows were too muddy, the background too cluttered, the focus or composition was off, or whatever. No amount of tweaking could help; it just lay there, limp and lifeless.
Recently, I discovered a way to rehabilitate a picture that CAN make it more interesting.
“Photo-realism” is an American art form that began in the 1960s, taking photography as its inspiration. Sometimes this technique involves projecting the image of a photograph onto canvas where a copy is painted onto the surface – Britannica.com.
There are a slew of software applications that take a computerized approach to Photo-realism; working with a digital photograph, they transmogrify it into an image that looks like a sketch, cartoon, drawing or painting. A few give good results; some just make the objects look melted. Others over saturate, crosshatch, blur and shift the colors of the picture, common effects that can be achieved with almost any image editor.
A comparison of five apps in iPhonePhotographySchool.com, calls this technique “Painterly”. (Internet search: “photo to sketch apps compared”)
This post shows before and after examples using one of my favorite apps, Brushstroke for iOS. It is a $5 app, although offered for free through iTunes in August, 2016. Brushstroke has a large number of painting transformation styles, and some create sketches when the saturation is adjusted to zero. (Internet search: “photo to sketch app review” or “best photo to sketch app”)
Obviously, there was a lot of clean-up work done to this 35-year old slide before doing any conversion.
I have downloaded and tried many apps to sketch and paint my photos. I have kept a few and discarded most. Removing most of the color and texture from a photo, and emphasizing the outlines, gives it a whole new perspective. Converting an image to a sketch also allows you to rub out different parts of the photo, giving it an irregular border, and remove distracting objects without obvious artifacts.
I typically download apps that are free, or free with In-App Purchases to test them before considering a purchase. Most let you use the device’s camera to import a live image, or get one from stored photos. Few of the apps work in landscape mode. Many do not save the altered image in the full resolution of the original. And several of the apps have exactly the same conversion filter sets packaged with different interfaces. Many free versions have the most obtrusive ads I have ever seen. Even others will unlock more effects for an iTunes review. I avoid any app that has a subscription.
Some of these apps give the user no control over the image before or after conversion, the software makes all the decisions. Those I prefer have controls to adjust various image attributes before, during or after transformation. A very few of the apps allow you to apply multiple effects or apply an effect to only part of the image.
Be sure to check the “Updated” date in the description. Many of these apps have not been modernized in years. Some are so old, my iPad warns me it may slow down if I use the software.
For those out there who want to convert photos themselves, there are Internet tutorials using Photoshop to create sketch effects, like this link in MacWorld. (Internet search: “photoshop tutorial photo to sketch”)
I use Comic Life 3 to create my Animal Humor cartoons. It comes as desktop and iOS software to convert photographs into cartoons for graphic novels or comic strips. It can also convert individual images into artistic formats.
I have not found one app or technique that works best on all photos. It has taken repeated tries, using different styles, in different apps, to find the best technique for each photo.
Some photos convert easily, with a push of the digital button. Others take tweaking saturation, contrast, brightness and other settings – sometimes before and after conversion – to get the image just right.
But then, “just right” is in the eye of the beholder.
What are your thoughts about this technique?