Make Enchanting Digital Paintings with Painterly Photo Apps


Make Enchanting Digital Paintings with Painterly Photo Apps

The look of visible and expressive brushstrokes rendered in richly colored layers of paint, india ink outlines, watercolor drips and drops, distressed paper, the texture of linen canvas… these are some of the elements that have been unique to the art of painting, carried out in the actual brick-and-mortar studio… well, that is… until now… What if I told you, you could take one of your favorite, everyday mobile photos and convert it into a vibrant, realistic-looking painting, just by applying a few filters with some of the best painterly apps on the market? The more that technology advances, the better these painterly apps become. Keep in mind that not all painterly apps are created equally, and some do stand out from the crowd when it comes to quality and realistic effects.

Some of my Favorite Painterly Apps that Stand Out from the Rest:

PhotoViva, Photo Artista Haiku, Photo Artista Oil, Glaze, Waterlogue, Gloomlogue, Brushstroke, Aquarella, Artist’s Touch, Artista Impress, and Corel’s Paint it! Now

Don’t Limit Yourself…

Sometimes a single filter from a single app does the trick, but other times a combination of multiple filters/apps can create surprisingly intricate, beautiful results, and is definitely a more exciting and satisfying creative process. Try adding multiple painterly filters with one app, or use a combination of two or more painterly apps. You can extend your project further by making some final basic editing tweaks and by adding subtle texture(s) for interest.

I’m excited to share with you some of my digital paintings that were created using a variety of the painterly apps aforementioned. I hope it opens your eyes to the endless amount of possibilities and encourages you to explore and create many painterly versions of the same image. You might even consider combining two of your favorite versions with the app Image Blender. Experiment with this app’s Blend Mode capability and the opacity slider.

What Kinds of Photos Make Appealing Digital Paintings?:

  • still life scenes with simple, clean backgrounds: A few ideas include a vase of flowers, the proverbial bowl of fruit, a bowl of gourds, a cup of coffee paired with a book, a cake on a fancy plate accompanied by antique silverware and a cloth napkin, a cup of steaming tea paired with a glass jar of honey and honey-adorned dipper, or a vintage clock on a mantle near a bundle of roses and a small pile of vintage books. For a plethora of ideas to draw from you can search the Internet for ‘master still life painters’. Tip: Try putting complimentary items together in a scene. Keep in mind that the eye prefers to view an odd number of objects as opposed to an even number.
  • lush landscape scenes: Scenes that include a valley, mountain, and blue sky are interesting. Utilize the ‘rule of thirds’ when shooting these types of photographs. Imagine a tic-tac-toe board placed over your scene. Try putting the valley in the lower third, the mountain range in the middle, and the sky in the upper third. Tip: If photographing a field, make sure there is a point of interest; perhaps an apple tree or an antique tractor.
  • portraits against a plain background: Single portraits, group portraits, captures of adults, children, or pets are all possibilities. Keep the background simple, devoid of distracting elements that take away from the subject. The painterly app Glaze has special ‘portrait’ filters that are a good match.
  • General Tip: Experiment! Experiment! You will find that some images convert well, while others do not. It’s a bit of a mystery, really. 

Ideas for Display:

Envision yourself with an album on your phone that is full of your favorite digital paintings. Sure, they make great wallpaper, are fun to share on IG and FB, but please don’t stop there. Take your creations to the next level by having them professionally printed, then adorn your walls with them to transform your living space. Consider having a giclee made (printed on canvas), maybe a print on metal, or have a final piece printed, matted and framed. Why not print a “watercolor” on watercolor paper!? Magnets, mugs and other homegoods are further possibilities.


Peonies Version 1: I did some finger painting over the scene in PhotoViva and then applied multiple texture filters in Stackables (you can play with blend modes and opacity).

Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset

Peonies Version 2: Here is a second version of the peonies image, rendered in Brushstroke. Once you apply the painterly filter, you can draw from many features to tweak it, customize it, and ultimately make it uniquely your own.


Cappuccino: I was satisfied with the minimal look that appeared with only one filter application in Haiku.


Apple tree: This landscape with apple tree was converted in Haiku. I particularly like the distressed texture.


Antler: Glaze was used for the painterly effect, followed by Stackables for multiple applications of subtle texture layers.

Painted in Waterlogue

Mallow: Waterlogue mesmerized me with this conversion to a “watercolor” painting that looks quite realistic.


Columbine: This Haiku conversion captured some marvelous detail. Not bad for a painterly app.


Stormy atmosphere: I went solo with Glaze to transform this stormy atmosphere into a dramatic “painting.”


Roses: I like the inky outlines, splotchy watercolor look, and distressed crumpled paper substrate, all of which were applied in Haiku. I tweaked saturation in the general editing app Leonardo.

Susan Tuttle

Award winning iPhoneographer and DSLR photographer from Maine, USA. She is the author of four instruction-based books (published in the US and abroad by F+W Media, North Light Books) on the subject matter of digital art with Photoshop, mobile photography and DSLR photography, and mixed-media art. Her latest book, Art of Everyday Photography: Move Toward Manual and Make Creative Photos (about DSLR photography and mobile photography) was recently released by North Light Books and has been a best-seller in its category on Amazon.

Susan currently offers two online photography courses — The Art of iPhoneography Self-Portraiturehttp://fineartgrunge.com/iphonecoursespecial/?orid=4849&opid=2 and Co-Lab: Paint, Paper and iPhoneography Magic http://www.colabartistry.com/ (co-taught with best-selling author and mixed-media artist Alena Hennessy). Susan is currently the Technical Advisor for Somerset Digital Studio Magazine. You can view more of her work, explore her blog, and find workshop details at her website SusanTuttlePhotography.com Instagram: susantuttle Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/susan.tuttle.144

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