Skill level: Beginner to intermediate. Created in Photoshop CS6. This tutorial requires Photoshop CS6 or higher.
Download the exercise files to follow along with this Photoshop Oil Painting tutorial. Once downloaded, unzip the file to view the contents within the folder. The folder for this exercise contains a 200mb PSD and one jpeg. Download

Photoshop Oil Painting

If you retouch your own images, at some point you may have had a bad experience with your subject’s hair. Fixing stray and coarse hair isn’t always fun, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. There are many ways to fix hair in Photoshop. This time I’ll focus on Oil Paint, which you can find under Filter > Oil Paint or by pressing Ctrl+F (Win) Cmd+F (Mac). Let’s learn how to paint hair using the Photoshop oil painting technique in Photoshop CS6 or Photoshop CC.

1. Duplicate the Layer

We are going to clean up some hair. Open an image in Photoshop CS6 or CC, and duplicate the background by hitting Ctrl+J (Win) or Cmd+J (Mac). You can also right click on the background layer and select Duplicate Layer.

Photoshop Oil  Painting

2. Load the Oil Paint Dialog Box

Go to Filter > Oil Paint. There is no one size fits all when it comes to the values for each slider under Brush and Lighting. The values will depend on the quality and the size of your image. You can see the values I chose for this image. Play around until you discover what values will work for your picture.

Photoshop Oil  Painting

3. Hide All with a Layer Mask

The Oil Paint filter will cover the entire image. However,  we want to apply it to a subject’s hair only. To do that we’ll ensure that our layer is still selected, then go to Layer >Layer Mask > Hide All. If  you prefer shortcuts hold the Alt key and click on the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. This will hide the effect which we need to paint back using the Brush tool.

Select the Brush tool, or hit the B key and select a desired Brush opacity. Then set the foreground color to white and the background color to black. With the Brush tool set to white, we’ll paint the Oil Paint effect into our model’s hair. Switch the color to black in order to erase, just in case you mess up. To toggle between white and black, use the X key.

Photoshop Oil  Painting

3. Readjust the Opacity of the Oil Paint Effect

Here are the results. I exaggerated the effect so that you can see the difference between this image and the one above. Notice how dry her hair is in the previous image.  If you’re using the layer masks technique you can soften the Oil Paint effect by decreasing the opacity value and painting out a specific area.

Photoshop Oil  Painting

Optional: Paint the Town!

Now that you know how to use the Oil Paint filter, you can take this to another level. Create multiple layers, apply different styles of Oil Paint to each layer, throw in some filters, and remove what you don’t want, just like we did above. It took me about 15 minutes to create the simple example below. Imagine what you can do with more time. If you’re a D&M Imaging customer, our finishing department can add brush strokes to your final print, or even better, a canvas wrap. You can have your own masterpiece!

Photoshop Oil  Painting

Share Your Thoughts

How do you fix hair? Have you ever applied any of the Oil Paint techniques mentioned above? Be the first to share your thoughts, options and techniques in the comments area below. See you next week.

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