The Impressionist Brush tool adds a painterly look to any photographic image. Although similar in effect to some of the Artistic and Brush Stroke filters, the Impressionist Brush tool allows you to be much more selective about which areas of an image it's applied to. That's because it uses the same scaleable, editable brushes as the Brush tool. You can use the Impressionist Brush tool to create compelling works of art from even the most mundane of photographs.
To paint with the Impressionist Brush tool
Open the image to which you want to apply the Impressionist Brush effect.
Select the Impressionist Brush tool from beneath the Brush tool in the toolbox (Figure 8.65).
Figure 8.65. The Impressionist Brush tool.
Alternatively, you can press B to select the Brush tool and then press B again to toggle to the Impressionist Brush tool.
On the options bar, select a brush from the Brush Presets palette.
You can, of course, use any brush with the Impressionist Brush tool, but the round, soft-sided brush that Photoshop Elements picks as the default works especially well.
Again on the options bar, select a size with the brush Size slider (Figure 8.66).
Figure 8.66. The brush size can have quite an impact on the way the Impressionist Brush tool affects your photograph. In the photo on the left, I painted with a brushstroke of 10 pixels. In the photo on the right, I changed the brushstroke to 20 pixels.
You can also select a mode and an opacity option, although in most cases the defaults of Normal and 100 percent are fine.
Still on the options bar, click the More Options button to open the Impressionist Brush Options palette (Figure 8.67).
Figure 8.67. The Impressionist Brush Options palette has controls for different brush styles and the amount of image area they affect with each brushstroke.
From the Style drop-down menu, select a brush style (Figure 8.68).
Figure 8.68. Brush styles vary from subtle (Dab) to extravagant (Loose Curl Long).
I tend not to stray much beyond the top three Styles (Tight Short, Medium, and Long), although the Dab style also creates some pretty effects.
In the Area text box, enter a value, in pixels, for the amount of area you want to affect with each stroke of the brush.
For example, let's say you start with a brush that makes a single brush mark 10 pixels wide, and then select an Area value of 80 pixels. As you move the brush through the imageand depending on the brush style you choseit will swoosh around an area of 80 x 80 pixels, distributing the paint in 10-pixel dollops.
If desired, select a Tolerance setting to determine the range of pixels affected.
You may want to keep the Tolerance slider set at 0 percent and leave it alone. In use with the Impressionist brush, this setting seems wildly erratic and not worth the trouble.
In the image window, drag the brush through your image.
The image takes on a painterly look wherever the Impressionist Brush tool is drawn through it (Figure 8.69).
Figure 8.69. Simply drag the brush through your photo to create a work of art.
Images with resolutions of 150 pixels per inch and higher make the best candidates for the Impressionist Brush tool, because the higher resolution helps to preserve detail when the effect is applied.
Stick to using smaller brush sizes, particularly on low-resolution images. Although any rules of thumb vary from image to image, a good starting place is a brush size between 6 and 10 pixels and an Area setting of between 30 and 50.