Every so often, I come across situations where I want to loosen up my illustrations and give them a more gestural quality. Growing up, I painted a lot and I have always experimented with ways to carry over the brush stroke into my digital architectural illustrations in an attempt to escape the machine generated look. There are plenty of filters in Photoshop that offer up painted styles but they all look too mechanical and clearly like a Photoshop filter. I prefer to do things manually giving me control with where and how I create the strokes. This also provides an opportunity to make unique and controlled gestures that work with the geometry of the illustration. For example, grass will have different brush strokes compared to trees and bushes. For the above illustration, I only applied the painted look to the landscape to develop a stronger contrast between the built form and the surrounding context.
The image that I am going to be starting with already is at a good place and I could just stop here. However, there is a lot of detail in the landscape and the painted effect will work to tone it down.
1. The first step oddly enough is applying a Photoshop filter. I do this to "rough up" the original image and prepare it for the smudging that will come later on. Choose "Filter>Brush Strokes>Angled Strokes".
2. The settings that I used in the angled stroke dialogue box may differ from image to image. My goal with the settings is to avoid aggressive and sharp brush strokes. Instead, I am trying to remove some of the detail and blur the edges of the geometry in the illustration.
3. Next, choose the "Smudge Tool" in the left tool bar. The settings are crucial here. Set the "strength" of the smudge tool to around 90%. Then select the drop down menu next to "Brush" and choose the "spatter" brush or something similar to the one chosen below with a diameter set to 45. This brush should come standard with all CS versions.
4. With the correct settings in place, begin smudging the image. Use short strokes in all directions. Think about how the image would be painted and use gestures accordingly.
The final result is a illustration with a lot of depth and character that is hard to get with computer generated renderings. It's not a technique that I use often, but one that I have a lot of fun experimenting with and one that steals a lot of attention.