2.12 Pixel Painting

I have to admit that I have had more fun that I’d anticipated with this exercise, and in the process learned quite a lot more about layers, custom brushes and actions.

I’ve created many images, some good, some less so, some little more than doodles. One thing I’ve enjoyed since the days I used slide film is creating double exposures, so that is where I started.

Using a photograph of a misty River Mole from Part 1, I added a low light self portrait as a new layer. Erasing using a very ‘soft’ brush to expose the background layer resulted in a merger of the two. I also used the blending mode between the layers to achieve a more subtle effect. This isn’t something I’ll do often – though I do have a similar on-going project based on my earlier Dungeness photos – but in this result I do like the way the shape of the tree mimics hair. The general mistiness helps as well.

Misty Morning - River Mole - Pixel Painting

For the remaining images to present here I decided to stay with the self portrait. It’s a nice simple photograph so the edits are nice and clear to see.

In the example below I have used Photoshop’s own filter capabilities to produce a fairly subtle watercolour effect, and then an Action that creates an effect like a water reflection. It’s possibly a bit subtle as sized here, but it’s quite spooky when displayed on a large monitor!

Low Light 2 - Pixel Painting - watery blur

Returning to the original but keeping the watercolour effect, I’ve added a B&W adjustment layer mimicking a red filter. I’ve then used a brush to lighten the iris to give me the sort of steely don’t-mess-with-me stare I don’t possess in real life!

Low Light 2 - Pixel Painting - Infra BW

Here’s where it starts to get a bit crazy, and the next two are effect that, as much as I like the drama – could be seriously over-used. I downloaded an Action and an accompanying set of brushes which allow you to create a shatter effect. Again, the effect in this particular image is a maybe bit too subtle at this size – I also erased the adjustment layer to bring back the iris colour and boosted the saturation – Game Of Thrones anyone?

Low Light 2 - Pixel Painting v5

If the last one was a bit crazy, this is off the scale! Another action, this time like smashing fragments of glass. I doubt I’ll be using it much in the future, but this kind of reflects how work feels at this point in time.

Low Light 2 - Pixel Painting - Fragment 1

And lastly, becoming Braveheart…


Here I’ve painted the blue colour onto a layer with the opacity reduced, and used one of the custom brushes I’ve acquired to rub it away in a random pattern like it’s been worn all day, perhaps at Murrayfield. Given the lighting used in the original shot I also had an excuse to add a fake light source and lens flair.

I’ll try Adam Ant next time…

13 thoughts on “2.12 Pixel Painting

    1. Thank you Archna, I have to give a lot of credit to the Action for the hard work! I think the skills with the actions I have seen are in the image selection and then modifying the outcome.

      I can recommend downloading something complex, it’s a real eye-opener into the complexities of layers. This fragmentation one uses dozens!



  1. Mike these are wonderful. Stunning. I like them all but especially game of thrones. Those brush down loads sound wonderful , and it sounds like you have that eraser tool mastered. Respect. I struggle to get the results I want with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Richard! I’ve discovered there are many, many brushes, filters and actions out there to download. Some are still pretty complex to use, but they give a real insight into the power of Photoshop.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve used ‘GraphicRiver.Net’, search their site for “Photoshop Action” and you will find thousands. Most cost a small amount, but you do get a help file and with many a link to a YouTube tutorial on their use.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I really like the strong light contrasts in the self portrait you have started with, it’s an excellent base for experimentation. My favourite is the one merged with the River Mole photo, there is such a contrast between the softness of the landscape and the harshness of the portrait, (both the lighting and your forbidding gaze) that gives it a very chilling atmosphere. Very interesting photo!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome (to borrow from the grandchildren’s vocabulary!). Spring and long daylight hours mean it will be some time before I follow this photoshop path I think, but what superb results Mike. I really like your “off the scale” fragments image … which surprised me. I am sorry work feels like this at present for you, but it is a super piece of work. Thank you for the guidance about how to do this.

    Liked by 1 person

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