Betsy Finn, M.Photog.,Cr., CPP
If you’re interested in doing simple photo-to-painting or other art media effects to add a fun touch to one of your products, you don’t have to invest in a professional application that’s used to create fine-art pieces and does far more than what you need. You just need an application that creates realistic art effects and that's easy to use. To that end, Snap Art 4 delivers.
While the early versions of SnapArt were only usable as a plug-in for Photoshop, Snap Art 4 can be launched as a standalone program or from within your image editing software (Photoshop, Aperture, Lightroom, etc).
The interface is also much improved, with many more customizations.
You’ll notice that there are a number of different effects in the left panel (click on the image for a large view). I’ve expanded the effects tour section so you can see some of the different styles that can be rendered. The selections are Color Pencil, Comics, Crayon, Impasto, Oil Paint, Pastel, Pen & Ink, Pencil Sketch, Pointillism, Recently Used, Stylize, and Watercolor. Each effect has a submenu of preset settings you can begin with. For example, the watercolor presets are Abstract, Colorful, Detailed, Large Brush, Low Coverage, and Vignette.
The right panel has six sections: Navigator, Background, Detail Masking, Colors, Canvas, and Lighting. Each of these has sliders and other options that you can adjust to tweak the appearance of your rendereding. You can save your custom settings as presets for later use if you'd like to use a certain formula often.
Detail Masking is an important section for rendering portraits. This section allows you to retain detail in certain areas of your image, such as the faces. You can paint the mask onto the image with an adjustable brush—the masked areas do not need to be adjacent—and partially mask areas, for instance if you want 50 percent of the effect to be applied on the faces so that you maintain the paint effect but retain some of the photo realism. Keep in mind, though, that the effect applied in this manner is obviously a computer-blended effect.
Here’s a before and after comparison of a flower photograph-to-painting conversion. I used the thick paint oil paint effect with the thick, textured brush stroke look.
Overall, I was quite happy with Snap Art 4 and how it performed. I’d previously used Snap Art 2, and there have been vast improvements in the interface and customization options have increased. I love that you can use it with batches of images to help speed up workflow—after all, most of us probably have a few go-to presets we rely on for our photographs, so batching painted renditions makes sense once you have your customizations figured out. I can easily see choosing a set of background accent photos in a certain color palette to render for an album in the same painting style.
Obviously this software isn’t meant to be a manual painting program, so if you’re aiming for a fine-art market, Snap Art 4 won’t fit your needs. But if you want to quickly render paintings with consistent results, then Snap Art 4 is definitely worth trying.
Fully automated rendering of paintings
Standalone software can also be launched from Photoshop, Lightroom
Realistic brush and media looks
No option for manual strokes
Some effects are not geared to photographers (Comics)
Snap Art 4 is currently available for $64.35 (normally $99), a free trial is available.
Betsy Finn, M.Photog.,Cr., CPP, is a portrait artist in Michigan.