Charcoal and Chalk

Another one in the series of  “I saw something hand painted/drawn today, let’s see, can we do something similar with PostworkShop filters?”


Check out the construction details in the attached video (click HD and Full Screen in the player).

Black and White and Red

Black and White and Red

See the construction details in this video (click the HD and Full Screen buttons on the player):


Retro-grunge photo effect

If you feel the urgent need to post something with a trendy retro photo effect, but you don’t have any of those popular applications available …

Retro-grunge photo effect


You are not completely out of luck, you can create something similar in PostworkShop, but it will take hours of work and guru knowledge. OK, just kidding, it is a very simple, five minute hack in PWS :) And you can save the style for your future retro-grunge episodes.

Retro-grunge screen capture


The Texturizers use grunge and paper textures. The Color Generator and the Plasma Cloud are blended with Soft Light / 40%. The Frame responsible for the vignette effect is followed by two box blurs (almost the same as a Gaussian, but much faster) and blended with Multiply / 50 %. Finally the white border is another Frame filter, this one is blended in Screen mode.

Bande dessinée franco-belge

A humble attempt to create an image that looks like the French comics, especially like the images of the grand master and all-time favorite, Moebius (Jean Giraud).


The style setup is quite straightforward, the only thing that you may not guess from the screen capture is that the original image (Layer #2) is blended on the Simple Watercolor layer with the Color blending mode.

Motorino Screen Capture

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

I saw a (traditionally painted) image today that inspired me to try something similar in PostworkShop, exclusively with auto-painting.

Wild painting

Wild Painting GUI Capture

We have a base layer, a simple default Random Painter.

The next layer is simulating large strokes or maybe running paint if you select the appropriate brush for that effect. The trick is setting Strokes Directions = 1 and Direction
Rotation = 90 (degrees). The blending mode is Lighten because with this image I found that the dark make-up provoked strong black strokes that ruined the face. You may
find another blending mode working better with your image.

On top of that, a detail layer, where we generate a thick outline with Sketch 2, fatten it with Min Value, use this as a mask on the original and then random paint the result. So
basically we paint where there are details in the image (i.e. where the Skecth 2 detected edges).

The top layer is very similar, only here we don’t even paint it, just mask the original with a Sketch, to draw the fine details into the image. You may need to apply a Median
filter before the Sketch if your original is too noisy.

Wild Painting Style Editor Capture

Ink lines

Just messing around … but I really like the quality of the black lines in this one.

I already wrote a blog post about using Max Value to change the look of the Sketch 2 lines. This time the raw sketch is based on another idea, see the Style Editor screen capture for the details.

Mosaic sad girl

Mosaic sad girl style editor

Photoshop CC compatibility

If you ever wondered whether the PostworkShop plug-in works with the new Creative Cloud version of Photoshop, don’t worry about it anymore, we tested it for you and it works. Just copy the the PostworkShop.8bf file into the plug-in folder of Photoshop CC.

BTW, the style on the image is a new pencil drawing style I played with recently, mixing the usual pencil sketch filter layers with a new approach using scanned pencil textures. Click for full size view.


New styles in PostworkShop 3 SR2

In the upcoming Service Release 2 (beside the bug fixes) you will find more than 40 new built-in styles. Some of them will be one-click solutions, others will be more useful as building blocks of more complex styles. Let’s see a few samples of what’s coming.

Pencil study – You can produce different color pencil effects by changing the number of strokes and the brush size.

Granite – A simple monochrome style. You may remember this from an earlier blog post.

Innocence – It looks like a child painting, hence the name Innocence.

Iodine – If you are old enough, you surely remember the childhood accidents and your mother approaching with the bottle … This is a more pleasant utilization of the substance ;)

Gradient watercolor – Another style that you already saw on this blog; that time as a style creation tutorial, now it will become a one-click solution.

Left handed charcoal – The direction of the shading strokes indicates a left handed artist.

Paint on glass – Also something already seen on this blog. It may be wild, but sometimes that’s just what you need.

Crosshatch on yellow paper – Actually a very simple style, only two building blocks. Let’s say it is included to encourage you to create and save similar setups and build your own style collection.

Malbec – This complex style was named after a purple grape variety used in making red wine. It works best on skin tones.

Extreme simplification – Another one from the blog tutorials

Heavy painting – Dense and dark strokes

Add details to your painting

The level of details in your painting projects depends on the artistic style that you want to simulate with PostworkShop. Sometimes large, free-flowing strokes are the
best to describe a concept or a mood, in other projects a detailed image is absolutely necessary (e.g. if there is a customer who wants to recognize a face, a pet or some other objects in the final product).

The most frequently used building block to create painting styles is the Random Painter filter. We generally add a number of other filters to build a style, but let’s see now what Random Painter can do all alone. The default settings produce a quite relaxed image, so in this blog post we will see how to add details to your painting.

1 – The default settings

This is how our test image looks like just after having applied Random Painter. It will be the same for small or large images, because PostworkShop resizes the default brush automatically, to match the size of your image.

2 – More layers

Here we moved the “Number of layers” slider from the default 3 to 5. In every additional layer PostworkShop compares your original image to the already painted image and adds smaller brush strokes where the difference is too big. (Note: although this is not our goal in this tutorial, try to move the slider to 2 or 1 to see how “artistic freedom” can move the Random Painter’s hand.)

3 – Changing the brush width

The default brush family (“Paint Brush 01″) produces relatively wide strokes. That makes your job difficult if you need details. You can select another brush family or if you like the brush you are currently using, you can try the “Brush Width (% of original)” slider. It starts at 100%, so something like 50% will produce significantly thinner strokes.

Because the thin strokes cover less of the image area, you will probably need to add more strokes with the “Number of strokes” slider. Attention: this slider is non-linear; as you move right the number of strokes starts to get high quickly. Here you will only need something  like 5.000 strokes.

4 – Smaller brush

You want more details, so you use a smaller brush, right? Yes, but if you start with a smaller brush, then ALL the brush strokes will be smaller, even those in the areas that don’t need that much detail. That’s why we started with the “Number of layers” slider, but sometimes there is really no other solution and you have to play with the “Min Brush Size” and “Max Brush Size” sliders.

5 – Sampling radius

PostworkShop takes into account all the original pixels laying inside the sampling radius, so the actually painted brush color will be an average. This is generally a good idea, you don’t want random strokes standing out of a homogeneous area, just because they fell on a blemish or simply some noise in the original image. But this also hides the really small details of the original, so you can try to lower the “Sampling radius” slider, even to the extreme value of 1.

6 – Smaller brush and smaller width

You can of course apply multiple tricks in the same time.

7 – The High Pass overlay

Here we start to cheat, because this image was not produced by the Random Painter alone, but that’s what most styles do, they combine the effects of multiple filters. We added a High Pass filter in a second layer (with a Radius of 1 or 2) and blended it on the Random Painter layer with Overlay.

Similarly you can use a layer of the original image (or a gray-scale version of it) in an additional layer with Soft Light or Overlay.

+1 idea – Filling the holes

Your brush strokes may not cover the canvas completely. If you don’t like these transparent or white holes, you can use more strokes (with a price: slower rendering) or very simply keep a layer of the source image at the bottom. Nobody will tell the few pixels of the original image from your Random Painter produced strokes.

PostworkShop user interface layouts

In PostworkShop 3 there are three different user interface layouts: Simple, Classic and Advanced.

They all have their distinct advantages; certain tasks are easier to do in one layout than in another. Although you probably started using PostworkShop with the default layout provided by the first program edition you met, do not get stuck with the first one you found, learn to use them all and streamline your workflow.

Simple Layout: PostworkShop for beginners

First-time users were often overwhelmed by the complexity of the default Advanced Layout of PostworkShop 2. We introduced the Simple Layout in PostworkShop 3, to make the first steps easier.


  • Easy to learn
  • Visual selection of styles with preview
  • Pre/Post Processing and basic Masking available in a single view


  • No layered effects
  • Cannot paint masks
  • No access to the node based style editor


  • When you set up the basic elliptical mask available in this layout, start to work with full strength and zero blur. It makes easier to find the size and position of the mask. Then adjust the blur and the strength of the mask. To make things faster, it is also a good idea to set up the mask in preview and switch to full size (1:1) when you are almost ready to save your image.
  • Although you cannot layer effects in the Simple Layout (any new style selection will replace the current one), you can fine tune layered styles in the Simple Layout. First set up your styles in the Classic or Advanced mode. Then come back to Simple for a larger work area and simultaneous access to the style properties and the pre/post processing settings. It is a great way to find the final balance between dark or light, monochrome or saturated, artistic or photorealistic.

Classic Layout: Multi-layer flexibility with a single image

In the Classic Layout you generally work with a single image, but you have access to almost all the features of the Advanced Layout.


  • More place for the description of long filter chains in a single layer
  • You can make more place for the Properties + Preview area (by dragging the vertical divider bar), for fine-tuning the individual effects


  • Cannot easily access the image properties and pre/post processing settings


  • If you work with multiple images but need the extra place of the Classic layout, you can switch back and forth between the Advanced and the Classic layout to select and edit your current image
  • In the Properties + Preview area the preview always displays the output of the last selected item. It can be a layer or the currently edited filter/style inside the current layer.

Advanced Layout: Full compositing power

The Advanced Layout is how PostworkShop was originally designed, it gives you all the available features and options.


  • Load multiple image objects (e.g. background and foreground), apply independent (or the same) styles to them, position them and blend them together
  • Blend in textures like canvas, grunge, film grain, etc.


  • There are a lot of things on the screen in the same time, it may not fit small monitors or laptops


  • You can click the Image Object (in the Objects list) to get access to the pre/post processing settings of that image
  • You always edit the effect layers of the last selected Image Object. Then click an effect layer to replace the image properties by the style properties in the property editor area
  • Hold down the Ctrl key (and change the cursor to a four-way arrow) to move the different Image Objects relative to the canvas. The default hand cursor just pans the whole composited image in the work area.
  • If you have two monitors, you can detach the Projects/Styles/Properties tabs (with the Options/Separate Projects/Styles/Properties Panel menu point) and put them on the second monitor to leave more place for the image area and the layers.

Legacy styles

Veteran PostworkShop users know that – for performance reasons – a number of PWS 2 styles are not present in PWS 3. We know from your emails and forum messages that you want them back.

The PWS 3 Service Release 2 will bring back these legacy styles. They are not less complex than before, so they will be clearly marked as “slow”.

A quick preview of a few styles that you will get (back):

Photoshop actions

In this guest post we present images created by John Stevenson. John uses PostworkShop as a Photoshop plug-in, looking for artistic and impressionistic effects that can be recorded and played back as Actions. This way, he can benefit from the features of both PostworkShop and Photoshop.

Sketch 2 enhancement

The “Sketch 2″ filter often renders bulky outlines that does not look very good on a girl’s portrait.

We can make it more interesting (may I say more elegant?) with a “Max value” filter dropped after “Sketch 2″. In a next step you can clean it up with a few white stokes on the Freehand Painting tab, but we won’t go there now.

You can complete the image with a Simple Watercolor background layer (copying the settings from the previous tutorial) and add a paper texture with a Texturizer.

Finally you can boost the contrast with the Post processing step to get this image.

Simple Watercolor

Do you use the Simple Watercolor filter (in the Building Blocks category)? If you just drop it on an image it may look a bit boring.

But what about this version?

This is also very easy. We just tweak a little the filter parameters, add a Texturizer for the paint texture, another Texturizer for the paper texture and a Brightness/Contrast filter at the beginning of the chain.

The layer setup and the filter parameters:

You can save this as a new style and export a few properties:

Finally a few images created with this style:

The “Dance” style

Alex Wilson asked how the “Dance” image (one of the demo images on the PostworkShop site) was created.

You can’t do it in the Simple Layout and even if you switch to Advanced, you can’t do it only with the Compositing tab. But you can start in the Compositing mode, creating the following layers (from top to bottom):

Simple Watercolor > Hue Saturation Lightness
Sketch 2
Color Generator > Texturizer

When it is ready, you switch to the Style Editor tab and add a Set Alpha filter node.

We use the output of Sketch 2 filter as a mask to keep only thick outlines of the Simple Watercolor. You will have to check the Invert check box of the Set Alpha filter, because the black of the Sketch 2 lines means transparent by default.

The remaining two Blend nodes just mix the layers.

Now you can save this as a style and reuse it with other images.

Or you can combine it with an additional layer of the original image (Color blending mode) and an additional Sketch layer (to set the black threshold and fill any noisy areas).