Posted by: Julie Duell | December 5, 2008




Hello again!

Whether you are an artist or not, you are sure to have lots of fun playing with DIGITAL tools – either in programs like Photoshop Elements, Corel or others.  Some of these examples are created by altering my original photographs & others by playing with images of past paintings.   I use Photoshop Elements 5.0 which has been superseded a number of times since, but it suits my purpose.  Maybe down the track I might update and have even more magical tools at my fingertips!  I use my program in conjunction with a Wacom tablet and pen but this is not necessary unless you wish to paint and draw using touch sensitive “brushes” in the computer.    A conventional mouse is fine for the image alterations made below.

Most people who use Photoshop use the programme to enhance their photographs by cropping, altering contrast or colour, or changing the number of pixels in the image to reduce the file size (e.g. 580 pixels width is ideal for emailing).   However by duplicating your image in the EDITOR you then have some spare images to play around with by using the image altering tools in the FILTER MENU. This is what I have done in this post.

Below are examples of working with a few digital photographs of natural patterns  plus a couple of home subjects (flowers in the studio and Tony’s dinner plate!).  I scanned them in to my computer, opened them with Photoshop Elements  & played with the tools  to alter them.  This is an exciting and time consuming pastime and stretches the imagination incredibly!   You can be as creative as you wish, turning your photographs into art!  

In the interests of sharing with you then, here is the first of the versions sets I created. .. my initial picture taken of  a few fallen  gum leaves on a tarred road in nearby Bouddi National Park. It was raining, so the leaves and road were wet.

Here is the original photograph:


Now here are some of the altered images.   I was following the lines of interesting pattern making in choosing these results and intend to use one or two to print out for reference to paint from.  In this way it is a wonderful tool for artists, helping to develop ideas and pursue choices before beginning to actually paint.   

This first tool is called Cutout and it simplifies the photograph thus… 


From there I altered the cutout image with the watercolour tool…


Then some methods of twirling the image to make a more contained pattern…


Now some different background colours…


Back to slight twirling…


From here on, I am a bit vague about which tools I used – but it will give you an idea of the directions you can take in altering the image…






I’m going to find it very hard to choose one to paint from those – there are so many I like. How about you?   Just imagine the natural patterns around you that could be photographed and transformed!  Rusty iron, or an old weathered wall, bark on a tree – so many subjects everywhere!

Next I scanned in a photograph of some leaves in a puddle on the same road.  Here is the original picture. You can see the gum trees reflected upside down in the water.


Now I play with this image.  I decided to turn the above picture upside down to work on it. This rendition has a mystical quality about it.  I think I would love to paint from this as reference.


The directional shading below gives an atmosphere of rain and wind don’t you think? It’s very artistic and decorative.   I like it very much. It would suit a painting done in pastels.


Before I left this image, I cropped part of it and made it more abstract…


This next photograph is of lichen on a rock in the Australian bush:


Now here are some results produced by playing with this image on Photoshop…


What a lovely pattern it makes!  This would be a great way to produce fabric designs! I think it will give it ink edges to see how that looks…


Next, I cropped part of the above and pushed some of the shapes which already suggested animals!   You can see how imagination can carry you away – its a bit like cloud watching!


Speaking of clouds, I wonder if I can make the above image more cloud-like…


Yes I think it is more like clouds don’t you?  Now what about trying something really crazy! This next one looks a bit like the patterns you see in beautiful slabs of agate polished and held against the light!   I can’t believe all these wonderful effects and I hope some of you might be inspired to enter into this creative field – if you haven’t already!


This next photo was one taken by Tony of the back view of a still life (vase of big artificial poppies) set up for our art class.  As you can see, everything was just left as it was – art materials on the table etc.  no attempt to “tidy it up” as a painting subject. I’m using this because it shows that you don’t need to set up anything special to photograph and just about any picture can be altered to be more interesting, as long as it has a variety of shapes and colours.


Having scanned the photo into the computer and opened it with Photoshop Elements, I decided to get rid of some of the shapes in the background to simplify the image.  I did this using the paint pot filler and a neutral colour. This was so that the flower shapes could be seen more clearly.


Next I used a filter tool called Posterise…


Next I tried delicate watercolour…


Then neon glow!!!


Now how would it look rendered in pastels?


or maybe just chalk and charcoal…


This next one highlights the edges of the shapes with a diffused glow…


These versions are all so different and varied, its hard to believe this last set all began with the one flower photograph isn’t it?

Now here is a bit of light-hearted fun!  … Tony’s colourful dinner before he ate it!  He’s been a vegetarian for over 50 years. 


Lets see what artistic changes can be made to this photograph…


Not bad. I wonder what it would look like with glowing edges?


The cut out tool is good for simplifying…


How about if I twirl it a bit…


How about ink edges?


or maybe try pointellism?


Or how about just a nice rich abstract design…


By changing some of the shapes to blue, I played again with the posterise tool which gives black edges in whatever width you choose…


Finally, just to be outrageous, NEON!


Oh yes – this isn’t really a suitable subject but there is a tool which turns your pictures into tapesty designs too!



Next, I would just like to share with you 2 photos I took recently of the beautiful patterns on the trunks of Australian scribbly gums.  The “scribbles” are caused by small insects wriggling around under the bark and when the bark is shed, the pattern they make is revealed.  I chose not to use filter tools on these 2 images – I don’t think I could improve on Nature in this instance!



Aren’t they wonderful? Nature’s abstracts – so unique!+

I did use a filter on this next photo featuring another beautiful gum tree -it’s called ‘coloured pencil’ and seems to suit this subject.

Here is yet another, this time using a ‘plastic wrap’ filter:


 So there you are – just a few digital photographs altered in a small number of the countless ways available through Photoshop Elements!   Incidentally, I am not employed by Adobe or on any commission in promoting this – it’s just something fun to share – another approach to creativity and a marvelous tool for Artists expanding their horizons.  

NOTE: Because each filter tool has several slide rules giving infinitely varied results it is almost impossible to convey any kind of “recipe” to you.   Its just a matter of  “throwing away the recipe book” and experimenting.    Different filter tools suit different pictures best so you just need to try them out and allow your own personal tastes to guide you. IMPORTANT! Before you start, don’t forget to make duplicates of your image to alter so that you keep your original intact!   (Once you are in the Photoshop Editor, just go to EDIT and click on DUPLICATE THIS IMAGE.) 

Some say you need lessons for using Photoshop, but I just jumped in the deep end and played and I think you would learn just as well that way too with this type of program, writing down what you do as you go and learning one tool at a time.  I find the help section where you type in a question very good too though I think that has been dropped from the latest Photoshop programme versions (which is one of the reasons I like to stick with my 3.0 version).

Now switching from digitally altered photographs to digital art, I would like to share with you some work created entirely on the computer by artist Bev Langby, who uses Corel painter program with tools like ‘Artists Oils’ and ‘Palette Knife’, which she says to her is  like working with real paints! Like myself, Bev uses a Wacom tablet and pen.

They are entitled 1. Pink rose 2. Latin beauty 3. Tango passion and 4. Kaylee…

pink rose _bev_2007 sm 















Latin Beauty_bevlangby_09.JPG sm
















Tango Passion_bevlangby_08 small













Thank you for sending these examples in to share Bev. You certainly use digital tools in a very painterly way.



Just before I close this Post, I will share with you a new discovery I just made within Photoshop Elements.  Some versions have a facility for elementary ANIMATION using gif files (Guidance on this can be found on the web by typing in “Photoshop Elements 3 Tutorial Animation”) . This may work with later versions also. 

Well! You can see how one thing leads to another! Thanks for viewing this post about digital art.  If it interests you, you can view more in the post ” Landscape options”.  

Cheers,  Julie


  1. i just like the way you play around with digital painting, and art drawing effects on your artworks. What digital art program you used on your after effects?
    I got inspired by your digital artwork style.
    Keep it up that creativity!!

    Best Regards.

    • I use Adobe Photoshop Elements, an early version 3.0 which has just ceased to function after 11 years! I am about to install version 5.0 which will probably have different filters and effects. Happy Arting!

  2. Well done Julie………I’m thoroughly enjoying browsing all the marvellous information!!! Thanks.


  3. This is wonderful Julie a great introduction for those thinking about trying digital art , the possibilities are endless and its a great hobby and also a great tool for artists planing a work ..

    Thank u so much for including my work on your wonderful informative site……


  4. Thankyou Julie, I am just begining to explore your exciting web site. I am trying to tap into my creative being, and it so
    inspirational to have a web site like yours.
    thankyou . kate

  5. Thank you Julie, I’m hooked!
    Not on the tapestry one but on trying again to use my photoshop programme. I’ll let you know how I go. With your new format it is so much easier to download. You must do this instead of sleeping! Love Jan

    • Hi Jan! No no no – I love my sleep! Ah what a wonderful tool to artists is Photoshop! Enjoy! I’m glad you are “hooked”.

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