Mar 222015

You can do some amazing stuff in Photoshop Elements, including creating “Oil Paintings”.  I absolutely love dabbling in PhotoShop Elements  (PSE) and the things you can do with are endless.   I am totally self taught but I own numerous how-to books and have sat through many many how-to videos.   I have tried so many things but to be honest, when you are not immersed in it, you can easily forget the steps. 

About 7 years ago, when my daughter was very involved in a competitive dance program, I started a little “business”.  I should really call it a labour of love of dance because there was no profit.   When there were studio performances where I could take photos, I rented a long, fast lens.   At most competitions, we were not allowed to photograph performances but we could purchase the photos on CD.  In both cases, I used my Photoshop skills to create unique collages or clean up photos for myself and other parents.  Although I made no profit,  I made many a dance mom happy with my creations.

Today I want to share one of my most treasured creations using PSE.  The original photo was purchased on CD at one of the competitions.  In a group ballet picture, my daughter commented to me “Look Mom, I am doing a perfect arabesque!” For her to actually say something positive about a dance photo was pretty rare so I thought I would take a stab at seeing what I could do with it.  She is one of many and I knew  if I “extracted” her from the photo, it would be grainy but  I decided to work on it anyway, just for fun.

Here is the original photo:

Ballet_background copy

There’s Miss Nice in the middle doing a “perfect arabesque” (apparently)


Using the tools in PSE, I “extracted” her to a new file.  First, I made a rough selection, similar to the one above and erased all the other dancers.  I then further defined the selection by using the following tools

  • Magic Wand
  • Quick Selection
  • Magnetic Lasso
  • Zoom

Once I had the “cutout”  I was sure to SAVE the selection.  It can be a tedious process to have to re-do.  Trust me I have forgotten to save selections many times.

Because everything in PSE is in layers, I was then able to make copies of the cutout and apply filters as well as experiment with adding various backgrounds.  I must admit, I am far from being an  EXPERT but the more you read up on techniques and experiment, the more you learn. 

A Simple Preliminary Version

The photo below is a simple, preliminary version using a background created using a cloud pattern found in PSE and a fill colour layer.

Paint effect with a cloud background created in Photoshop


Screen shot of the layers used.



Final Version

At the time, I was editing dozens of dance photos for dance parents and I had purchased some interesting backgrounds.  Using the same picture, and a purchased background, I came up with this final version.

Final version printed on canvas


The various layers used


  In the photo above,

  • Layer 3 is the purchased background. 
  • The layer “Floor” is a copy of the floor from the original picture set at an opacity of 50%.  This allows the reflection on the floor to show through.
  • “Merged layers”  is just that, a layer of all the layers below merged together.  I then made copies of the merged layer to apply various artistic effects.  By making copies, you never ruin or lose your work.
  • For this print, I only used a filter called “Dry Brush”.  I also tried “Underpainting” but as you can see there is no eye symbol next to it so it is not visible.

Before and After Comparison

Below is a comparison of the original and the final with the adjustments made.  The look is very subtle but it looks smooth and not grainy.

A close-up cropped from the original photo: grainy


A close up of the finished photo with background removed and “oil paint” filter applied. Hides the graininess.

Once finished, I dropped it off at Costco to be printed on a stretched 12″ x 18″canvas.  I also had it framed with a simple narrow black frame.  It hangs in the hallway next to the guest bath where it often admired by all who see it. 

My Beautiful Ballerina



I too stop and admire it often. 

Not only am I proud of my work, I am proud of my beautiful daughter who was all of 12 years old at the time.  I have many, many other “creations” of photos taken of various  routines but for some reason, this one really touches my heart.  Even though ballet was not her favourite dance style, she still loved it.   For me this creation really portrays the joy dance gives her.  I will treasure it forever.

Now Miss Nice is at university and still takes dance classes and finds opportunities to perform but it is a far cry from the hours she put in during those 12 years of competitive dance.  April is the beginning of dance competition season.  I don’t miss the craziness of it all but I do miss watching her perform. 

So for now, I will stop in front of this “painting” and reminisce.  

Have you dabbled in Photoshop? 

Photoshop Elements is relatively inexpensive compared to the full version.  There are so many great “how-to” books out there.  I usually get mine from the library.  Toronto has an amazing library system.  Some of the books are even available on line, for free,  from the library.  If I really like the book, I may purchase it and add it to my reference library.

So many effects can be created in Photoshop. 
What have you tried? 
I would love to here about your experiments.



  15 Responses to “Creating an Oil Painting Effect Using Photoshop Elements”

  1. This is a great way to get a lovely photo! And that is a beautiful arabesque, by the way 😉 My daughter also did competitive dance for many years, majored in Dance Performance in college and now dances in Chicago. I know that you and I have spent many similar hours enjoying watching our dancers!

    • Hi Julie! Thanks for the comment and the compliment! Ah… the life of a dance mom! You need to have been one to really get it! Like the smell of hair spray in a small change area and all the bobby pins! A big congrats to your daughter and her continued interest and career in dance. So few carry on once they go off to university. My daughter has only two friends who are pursuing dance: one is on a Canadian dance show, “The Next Step” and the other is studying dance in NYC at Marymount. My daughter is more of a triple threat than a top notch dancer. Her love of theatrics helped her have amazing stage presence and judges loved her. At university she studies Commerce but still seeks opportunities to perform. Thanks again for dropping by and sharing… Dance Mom to Dance Mom

  2. What a beautiful and elegant ballerina! They always stun me with their moves. I used to use Photoshop, but I found it too complicated. Now I just use Picmonkey. I like all their features, and they’re very user friendly for those of us not as technically-inclined as you!

    • Thank you Brenda for the lovely compliment. I agree Photoshop is complicated but I think that is what makes it a very robust program. I have looked at Pic Monkey but after spending hours and days learning Photoshop, I am too old and too tired to learn another program. 😉 Have a great week.

  3. Hi, I’m stopping by from nifty thrifty sunday. Your picture is absolutely stunning. I’m sure you will get many compliments of admiration.

    • Thanks Darlene. We do get compliments and it takes people a moment or two to realize it is my daughter! Stop by again!

  4. Wow! Incredible work. I don’t use Photoshop, but someday. The work that you did is awesome, what a great photo to keep and pass on to your daughter. Or to keep yourself it is precious.

  5. This is so neat! 🙂

    Thanks for joining the Link Up this week! Don’t forget to enter the $5 Starbucks Giftcard Giveaway!

  6. I just found your post via Turn it up Tuesday. I love your post. I am just in the middle of learning all about the adobe suit.

    • Libraries are a great source for reference books on Photoshop etc. It takes a lot of practice and learning to understand all the layers, layer effects, filters, levels, etc. It is quite complex but really fun once you get the hang of it. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I hope to see you again soon and be sure to follow me!

  7. I love it! Thank you for linking up with Idea Box!

  8. I had no idea about these effects – that looks fab! I think I will look into photoshop a bit more than what sticking with the elements I always seem to use. Thanks for linking up at Mum-bo Monday

  9. Wow! This is a fantastic lesson in Photoshop! Thanks so much for teaching us how to do this – your photo looks amazing!

  10. Congrats! You were featured on Friday’s Five Features over on DIY Vintage Chic. Stop by and grab yourself a button!

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