Photoshop Stylize

Photoshop stylize filters are “works of art” that can be applied to text, objects, vector shapes, illustrations or photos.

Several years ago, I came across Photoshop stylize filters but didn’t think much of them. However, Adobe has been working hard over the years to perfect its filters which, I must say, do appear more realistic.

As a photographic artist, I like to portray my work in various styles, such as low light, minimalist, abstract etc., rather than be that “same old – same old photographer” that shoots the same subjects and genres in the same style.

Adobe Photoshop Stylize Filter | Credit: J. J. Williamson

I like to apply Photoshop stylize filters to specific images to enhance the image’s detail or to create a talking point among viewers.

One of my favourite Photoshop stylize filters is the oil painting filter. The oil painting filter turns an image into what looks like an oil painting.

In my opinion, the oil painting filter works best with images, such as:

  • Minimalist coastal seascapes
  • Golden hour landscapes
  • Riverscapes that illustrate antique boats and bridges
  • Cityscape
  • Still life that illustrates decaying fruits, dying flowers, etc
  • Costume portrait photography
  • Flora

I prefer applying Photoshop’s oil painting filter to low light, moody and long exposure images because it enhances texture, clarity, mood and storytelling.

Credit: J. J. Williamson – Side-by-Side Filter Comparison

The image above illustrates Saint Mary’s Basilica in the old market square of Krakow, Poland. Without Photoshop’s stylize oil painting filter, the picture looks soft and lacks texture and sharpness.

With the oil painting filter applied, the image comes alive, with increased texture and sharpness, and doesn’t look as soft as the original. The sky and the top of the buildings also contrast nicely with one another too. It’s not perfect, but the filter has added more interest which was my objective.

Credit: J. J. Williamson – Side-by-Side Filter Comparison

The image above was photographed recently in my home county of Norfolk at Thurne on the Norfolk Broads and illustrates two Broads Sailing Cruisers.

This image was shot on the Sony A7ii, with a 24-105mm G lens. I used a Hoya Pro 10-stop filter to which I applied a 15-second exposure to add a soft sheen to the water’s surface.

I prefer the original image (on the left) without Photoshop’s stylize oil painting filter, but I wanted to add more mood, colour texture and detail in the sky.

The oil painting filter works well here, adding a subtle classic and contemporary feel to the main subjects.

Adobe Photoshop Stylize Filter | Credit: J. J. Williamson

With that said, there’s minimal movement in the water, which I didn’t want anyway; however, with Photoshop’s stylize settings slightly adjusted (as seen in the image below), the water now appears to be meandering gently downstream.

Norfolk Regatta | Credit: J.J Williamson

One disadvantage of using the Photoshop stylize oil painting filter is that there are no options to tone colours or sharpness using that filter on its own. Although the filter subtly increases colour texture, clarity and sharpness, it’s often insufficient.

The image comparison below illustrates Cley Windmill in Holt, North Norfolk. I like the overall composition, foreground and main subject, that of Cley Mill and this image is a popular purchase with locals.

Unfortunately, there’s a lack of detail in the sky, i.e. clouds. The hues are also off, and the mill’s sails don’t stand out. This is where Photoshop filters come into play and a subtle colour and sharpness edit, which any novice can do.

First, I opened the image in Adobe Photoshop; from there, I clicked on the ‘image’ menu bar and clicked auto tone and colour. Next, I clicked on the ‘filter menu’, scrolled down to sharpen and clicked ‘sharpen edges’.

The hues are now on par with the Jpeg I shot, and the sails stand out more. Finishing, I went back into the filter menu, clicked stylize, oil painting, and added very subtle brush strokes with an increased shine.

I now have a landscape image that looks like an oil painting, the mill’s sails stand out, and the reeds in the foreground appear to be blowing in the wind. The colours of the Norfolk red bricks and white sails on the mill also contrast nicely with the background.

Credit: J. J. Williamson – Side-by-Side Filter Comparison

The image could do with some improvements in Adobe Lightroom Classic, i.e. increasing dark and shadows, but for now, it will do.

As mentioned, and in my opinion, Photoshop stylize oil painting filter works well with specific images rather than all. For example, I wouldn’t apply the filter to images of modernised settings, people walking in the street, or fast-moving subjects like cars and motorbikes.

That doesn’t mean you should not try; by all means, do, but as explained, I think the filter works best with images depicting still life, colourful landscapes, old buildings, flora etc.

My favourite genre of photography is low light, still life flora photography which I’ve practised for years, but I often find that applying too much clarity and texture in Lightroom can do more harm than good.

This is where the Photoshop stylize filter is helpful, especially with black and white images of flora shot in front of a black background. Last year, I shot the image below using one softbox light and a reflector. There’s a problem with the image, though; it looks too soft, despite the fact I had sharpened it.

The overall picture looked nice and was liked by thousands of people on social media, but what would happen if I applied a little more texture in the form of an oil painting filter?

Ballerina | Credit: J. J. Williamson

After applying subtle changes to the image with Adobe Photoshop’s stylize filter, the flower comes alive; the applied brushstrokes add more depth, mood and a more wrinkled effect. It almost appears the flower has been drawn with a pencil rather than altered with an oil painting styliser.

Credit: J. J. Williamson – Side-by-Side Filter Comparison

Photoshop’s stylize oil painting filter works exceptionally well with colourful cityscapes and moody landscape images. The image below illustrates the Sir Garnet Public House and Norwich Market.

However, what would the picture look like if we added some movement in the clouds using the stylize filter, a little sharpness, and fixed the colours and tone? Let’s take a look.

Credit: J. J. Williamson – Side-by-Side Filter Comparison

And what about a landscape image to finish off?

Credit: J. J. Williamson – Side-by-Side Filter Comparison


Creative photography is a technique by which you combine different styles, shapes, colours, and forms of ordinary moments and turn them into creative art using your photography skills.

This type of photography demands a unique way of seeing things and projecting an innovative image altered from reality. Further, it allows you to experiment with new ideas and helps you produce impressive imagery.

Photoshop’s stylize oil painting filter lets you transform a photo into an image with the visual appearance of a classic oil painting.

The filter does have its faults, though; with improvements on the way, I can see it becoming more of a hit with photographic artists that shoot low-light still life, cityscape and flora images.

Unlike the filters we use on our phones or social media platforms, Photoshop’s stylize oil painting filter does not pixelate your images; the stylize filter does not affect image size or print quality either.

Adobe Photoshop is not everyone’s cup of tea, and it can seem quite daunting and intimidating to new users. With that said, the images above took me no more than ten minutes to stylize, colour, contrast, sharpen and tone correct.

The stylize filter is excellent for amateur and professional photographers looking to improve their creative photography skills; however, it’s not an editing tool I would recommend for daily use. It would be unwise to fill your portfolio with edited images using the stylize filter because not everyone likes that style of photography.

To find out more, please check out the link here.

J. J. Williamson | The Norfolk Photographer

My name is Jon Williamson; I’m an ethical photographer and writer with fifteen years of experience in the industry. I shoot landscapes, seascapes, riverscapes, fine art, and portraits. I also run workshops, run tours, and offer one-on-one photography feedback.

Published by J. J. Williamson

Prints, frames, stock images and portrait services.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: