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How to Make Abstract Art From a Photo

I wanted to create some art, but I lacked the skill, time, and materials to make it. So I wrote computer programs that could do it for me.

Abstract realism using AI style transfer.

Abstract realism using AI style transfer.

What Is Abstract Art?

Abstract art does not contain recognizable shapes and patterns. Instead of copying what they see, the artist uses colors to express feelings and emotions. It does not look like anything, but it makes you feel something.

Most people don't understand it. The results often seem random, and a painting that looks like it could have been made by a child, random art generator or chimpanzee may sell for millions of dollars.

Splattering paint onto a canvas is easy. The hard part is choosing the colors and the shapes. When it is not based on reality, you are starting from scratch. How do you paint a feeling?

Painting a sunset is easier than painting the way you feel when you see a sunset. Realism is copying. The colors and shapes are based on real life. I like starting with photorealistic images and making them more abstract.

How to Make a Digital Painting More Abstract

  • Alter the colors. Use common filters to alter the contrast, saturation, and hue.
  • Reduce the number of colors. Use the closest color match from a color list.
  • Leave it unfinished like a sketch. Stop adding dots, lines or strokes.
  • Draw the image using circles, squiggles or symbols.
  • Switch the colors. Use colors from another picture.
  • Pixelate the painting. Use larger dots or strokes.
  • Recreate the picture in another style.
  • Erase parts of the painting.
  • Blur or stretch the image.
  • Simplify it.

I reduce the realism in photos to make them look more like handmade art. When I make the picture more abstract, it stops looking like a photograph that was taken by pressing a button on a camera.

Converted a photo to a simple semi abstract painting.

Converted a photo to a simple semi abstract painting.

Abstract Realism

Realism is the opposite of abstract art. An artist tries to make a fairly accurate representation of real life. You pick the colors based on the closest match and do your best to recreate the lines and shapes with the tools you have.

A photorealistic painting looks like a photograph. You could spend 40 hours making a deer painting that looks almost the same as a picture from a digital camera. Usually, you don't want people to think your painting is a photo. Reducing the realism makes it look more artistic.

Abstract realism combines two styles. It is a false or distorted representation of real life. The artwork looks like something, but it does not look realistic. Think of it as art based on real life that was changed to make it more interesting or unique.

I made a painting of my dog using colors from a stained glass window. Abstract realism is easier to understand and enjoy than nonrepresentational art. It is also easier to make because it is partly based on reality.

Combine the two styles to make cool-looking images.

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Image Color Changer Filters

The most basic color filters can alter the contrast, saturation or lighting to make a more realistic-looking copy. A simple color changer app can switch the colors in a picture, create 3D images that come out of the screen or allow you to become invisible on camera. Others can turn a photograph into art.

There are lots of ways to turn a digital picture into art using color filters for photos. You start with a realistic-looking photograph. Then you reduce the realism to make it look like a drawing or painting.

Digital pictures can be separated into pixels with RGB color values. A color filter can quickly change those values. Change the colors a little and a photo can look like a realistic oil painting or crayon drawing.

Simplify or distort the image enough, and it becomes unrealistic. It stops looking like it was based on a photograph. I turned a picture that contained thousands of colors into a white chalk drawing. The colors were altered in the image below to make it look unnatural.

Used color filters on an old photo to reduce the realism.

Used color filters on an old photo to reduce the realism.

Photo to Abstract Art

Start with a digital image and alter it. Increase the effect until you end up with a picture that is loosely based on the original. Stop distorting the image before it becomes unrecognizable.

When you transform a photo to semi-abstract art, you are creating something new. Since it is loosely based on a real life you end up with abstract realism or semi-abstract art. You see real objects mixed in with the colors and shapes that came from the artist's imagination or from another picture.

Converting a picture means you have a starting point. Distorting realistic images is easier than starting from nothing. I transformed a single selfie into 20 different abstract realism paintings.

Don't limit yourself to one filter or one program. After turning a photograph into art, you could use other color filters and effects to change the artwork. Experiment to see what you can create.

I think of it as messing with the photo. You are adding chaos to order

Abstract realism using AI style transfer.

Abstract realism using AI style transfer.

Is It Good?

Art is subjective. This is especially true for abstract art. One person thinks it is a masterpiece, and another thinks it is rubbish. Sometimes it seems that a person pretends to understand an abstract painting or feel something when they look at it.

Do I like it? You know what you like most of the time. Other times you are not sure. Share it when you think it might be good. Post it online so other people can enjoy it.

Since it is subjective, a drawing or painting can be good and bad. Most of the great paintings and the most expensive paintings I saw did not look good to me. They obviously looked good to somebody. People have different tastes. You don't need everyone to like your artwork.

I choose the images on this page based on what I like. If you don't like them then you can still use the information to make your own original paintings and drawings.

Most people prefer realism or semi-abstract art. Like the weird gourmet food some expensive restaurants serve, pure abstract art is not for everyone, but a small number of people are willing to pay a lot of money for it.

I Can Do That

You can make semi-abstract art with a computer or by hand. I did it by checking boxes and pressing buttons. It is easy if you get a computer program to do the hard work for you.

The most important thing to remember is that it should be unique. When possible, start with your own photos. Experiment with different filters and effects. Use your imagination and randomness.

What If

I drew a photograph using black circles to see what it would look like. Ask "What if" questions and then answer them. See what would happen if you tried something.

Using simple filters to alter the colors can change the mood. The first and last paintings are the same with one small difference. I changed the value on the hue rotate filter to see what would happen.

When it only takes a few minutes, you can use a try-and-see approach.

Resources

  • How to Make AI-Generated Art With Style Transfer
    Create non-photorealistic images by combining the subject of the first picture with the style of the second. Making AI-generated art is fun, and the results are impressive and interesting to look at.
  • How to Make Digital Art From Photos Without Drawing
    Convert photos to digital art at the touch of a button. You don't need to manually draw, paint, or type to create the artwork—a computer program can do the hard work for you.
  • Best Photo Filters
    Make cool pictures using photo filters. Change the colors to make them look more interesting. Transform your old pictures into new ones. You can do a lot with a digital image.

My Semi-Abstract Art

I created my first abstract realism art using a blur effect while making ASCII art. It looked interesting, so I tried using style transfer. An AI art generator recreated the first image in the style of the second. You could recognize the subject, but the colors and patterns were unnatural.

Most of the semi-abstract art I made was created using two pictures. The rest were created while I was experimenting with different effects. Instead of trying to paint an emotion by splattering paint onto a canvas, I tried to create an interesting image. If it looked good to me, then I did a good job.

People want large HD TVs and cameras that capture millions of colors. Two of the most popular filters turn colored photos into black and white. Tiny GIFs that are limited to 256 colors may get more views and likes than the original HD video. Unrealistic paintings and drawings are often more valuable than a photograph.

After taking a photo with a camera that does a really good job of capturing the moment, you may want to mess with the image. Transform it into something new that is loosely based on reality.

A picture of my dog standing on a log turned into semi abstract art.

A picture of my dog standing on a log turned into semi abstract art.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Michael H

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