Posted by: Julie Duell | December 3, 2008



At the risk of leading you into a highly addictive realm of creativity, I would like to share with you some of the options of altering an image using the computer program “Photoshop Elements”.  If this is new to you, I have a feeling it might be like opening up a real surprise packet! I have an older version of Photoshop (no. 3) and use it in conjunction with a Wacom tablet and pen which allow me to draw and paint with infinitely more control than using a mouse.  (In fact I would equate drawing with a mouse to something like drawing with a brick by comparison.)

However, if you just wish to scan in an existing photograph or painting, then play with options in the computer,  it is not essential to have the tablet and pen.  My partner, Tony, uses a mouse only and has a wonderful time creating altered images.

We use these sampled options to help visualise the best way to developing a particular painting – trying out rendering, lighting and colour effects, cropping, simplifying. We then print out  our favourite rendition to use as reference to paint from.  

 No doubt everyone will find their own ways to use the Photoshop Elements program and there are other paint programs  that offer similar tools such as & Corel.

The example  I am using in this Post is based on the small painting below which I painted on site at Tallow Beach many years ago.  I would now like to paint a larger work broadly based on this and will use Photoshop to help me decide how best to do it.   My plan is to paint in an atmospheric way using some strong design elements.

Firstly, I scan in a digital photograph of the painting – and here it is…


Next I started to play with it, creating a warmer less fussy version as well. I first altered the colouring on Quickfix and then applied the Cutout tool to simplify the image...


Now – time to play with these two images in various ways…first using the watercolour tool…


Hmmm beautiful,  but a bit busy for what I am after.  I wonder how it would look simplified


or even simplified further!  It’s fun to push the barriers, responding to your own likes and dislikes…


How about a bit of pattern making thrown in using cooler colours – I think this was achieved using a tool called “define edges”…


Then I tried using the Liquifying tool….Mmmmm I feel as though I AM the water – pushing the image around in swirls! This is a very exciting tool. Its like painting the energy in the atmosphere (like Van Gogh!)…



Now it was Tony’s turn to have a go with the liquifying tool.  As you can see, we had a different touch…


There are slider bars for infinite variations with each tool, so to duplicate a result would be very difficult. When you get a result you like, I suggest you save it and then work on another duplicated copy.  That way you can save a number of varied results in a folder to compare next ot each other.

This next one was created using the cross hatch tool…


The next utilises a tool called Pastel…


Then I had fun with ink edges…


and Posterising…another way of creating dark edges


Maybe if I used dark edges and pushed it towards more abstraction…


or even white edges!  How would that look?


Wow! There are so many options!  I can’t believe it! The trouble is, I like too many of them.  It will be so hard to choose which to use as reference to paint from, but I will!

I like this next one (Ocean ripple tool ) – it really captures an ocean whipped up by the wind doesn’t it!


OK – time to try some crazy ones before I finish, just for fun!  I could go on forever and there are other images I want to play with as well!

This next one is mosaic…


and now craqueline…


Now film grain…


and finally, the embossing tool…


That is just a tiny glimpse of just a few of the options available in altering digital images with Photoshop Elements.  No, I am not a sales agent for them, I just fell in love with this amazing program that stretches the imagination.  

Whether you are an artist or not, I think most people would have a wonderful time playing with images (photos or artwork) scanned in and opened with Photoshop!  Just think of the wonderful original cards and images you could make!  In the next Post I will use a few photographs of natural bush patterns and gradually abstract them into designs.  It makes creativity so much easier and I just wanted to share these discoveries with you.

Hoping you have been inspired!



PS Just a tip: some tablet/pen sets may have the Photoshop Elements program included so check before you buy it separately if you intend to get both. I found this out the hard way by buying the program first and then the tablet, ending up with two programs.





  1. Can I say straight away I have learned so much already i am going to follow you and read each page and try out what I have learned this is soooo accessible … thank you

  2. very nice.i like.thnks 🙂

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