How to Create Impressionist Art From Photographs

Original Photo

How to Create Impressionist Art From Photographs. Claude Monet (1840 to 1926) is credited with being the father of the Impressionist school of painting. Some say that his unique style comes from the fact that he was severely near sighted and his vanity prevented him from wearing glasses. His critics say he was merely painting what he saw. In any case, he was a genius and probably turned over in his grave when GIMP included their GiIMPressionist tool with GIMP 2.6. This unique application allows the user to turn any photograph into an impressionistic piece of art. The tool is very robust, however, and requires some patience and practice to create a piece of art. That said, it allows people with no painting talent like me to create an impressionistic piece. Print it on canvas paper, sign it, frame it and who is the wiser? Let's see.

Select a photo to experiment with. I chose a pure scenic view in the tradition of Monet. Once you have selected an image, open it in GIMP and select the GIMPressionist tool under the FILTERS/ART menu.

There are eight tabs of editing choices you can make to create your art work. I said this wasn't easy, right? Each editing choice has multiple adjustments you can make. There are literally thousands of editing choices to make when creating your artwork. Once you start stepping through all of your choices, you may consider picking up a paintbrush and canvas instead. Although it is complex, it is not that difficult, so don't be intimidated by all the choices. Let's step through some of the basic adjustments.

The first choice you are going to be presented with is the selection of a preset. This may be the only choice you have to make. Each preset has a brush, paper, orientation, size and placement associated with it. As soon as you select a preset, click UPDATE to see the impact in the preview window. If you like what you see, click OK and your image will be rendered in the editing window. Save it under a new name and you are done. Try all the presets before you select one. If you want to fine-tune your preset, click on the PAPER tab.

The preset I have selected has nine different paper choices. Each paper selection will change the image after you UPDATE the preview. Notice that you can also adjust the relief and scale of the paper by using the sliders on the bottom. The paper selection is critical in painting and critical here to create the sort of image you want.

The BRUSH tab allows you to change the brush associated with the preset. It also allows you to change the GAMMA, aspect ratio and relief of each brush. UPDATE after making changes to see the impact in the preview. These changes will impact the color brush marks on the painting. It is the same as selecting a brush if you were painting. The brush choice has a great impact on the rendered output.

The orientation allows you to change the angle of the brush and the flow of the color through the rendered painting. You can adjust the start point of the rendering, the angle and the angle span of the rendering. Remember that all these choices will determine how your image will be rendered when you click OK. There are a lot of choices to make and each one will impact the final artwork.

You can also change color, size and placement of the image on the canvas. I must confess that I have not fully explored all of the options. It takes some time to learn how to use this tool, which is actually an application within an application. When you have made all of your choices, click OK and your image will be rendered. Remember to save the rendered image under a new name, since it is a new piece of artwork. The final piece looks like an impressionistic painting. Would Monet be jealous? I don't think so-but for a painting spastic like me-it looks like art.

Open OriginalGIMPressionist PanelSelect PresetSelect PaperSelect BrushAdjust OrientationFinal Image


Print your piece on canvas or linen paper to make it look more like a painting. Sign and frame your piece and tell your friends you painted it.


Remember to save under a new file name to protect the integrity of your image archive.

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