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How to Make Digital Art From Photos Without Drawing

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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.

Converted a photo of my dog to a sketch without drawing.

Converted a photo of my dog to a sketch without drawing.

Digital Art

Traditional art is done manually using a pencil and paper or paintbrushes and a canvas. Modern art can be made with a computer pen or a mouse and a computer screen. You create a series of lines to form shapes and patterns.

The goal is usually to produce unreal images. Either they are from the artist's imagination, or they are an unrealistic representation of something real.

When you use a computer, it is referred to as digital art. Some paint and drawing programs make it easy for you to draw lines and strokes, but creating good-looking pictures requires skill. Other programs automatically do it for you.

The sketch of my dog is AI-generated art. It was produced by a computer program.

Image Converter App

I could not draw or paint well enough to make good-looking art. So I made an image converter app that turned photos into drawings and paintings. It changes the form by changing the color values.

Digital camera photos can contain millions of colors, and they provide a very accurate 2D representation of real life. They almost match reality. My goal was to end up with an image that did not look like it was from a camera.

The computer program does the hard work—no drawing or painting required. If you can choose a picture and press some buttons, then you can convert a digital camera picture into something else.

Transforming a photograph into a new image is one of the easiest and quickest ways to make art. It is like commissioning a super fast artist to produce the artwork for you.

After mixing and reducing the colors in a photo to make it look like handmade artwork, I kept experimenting to see what else I could do. The image below looks like it was made by an artist, but it was made with some computer code. I wrote a program to convert pixel images to text.

Parrot photo to colored ASCII text image.

Parrot photo to colored ASCII text image.

Photorealism

Painting or drawing an accurate copy of a photo is referred to as photorealism. Making photorealistic artwork takes a lot of time and skill. Most artists are not capable of making super-realistic paintings by hand.

If you notice that it is not a photo, it is very impressive and interesting to look at. I was impressed when I made a photorealistic image using keyboard symbols. It was a fairly accurate copy of the original.

The advantage to making imperfect copies is that people don't assume it is just a photograph. It looks like it was made by a highly skilled artist.

Make a slightly less accurate copy for a more compelling image.

The Wow Factor

The biggest wow factor comes from making the pictures less life-like. They look impressive because they look like they were handmade. When you produce a fairly accurate copy, it looks like it was made by a professional.

In reality, the images on this page were fairly easy to make, but they still look impressive. How they were made does not matter as much as how they look. Most of the time, people decide if they like an image before they read about it.

Styles

A copy is a duplication of something that already exists. It is usually worth less than the original. When you convert a photograph, you are turning it into something new.

People can make things up and create original images that are not based on reality. They can draw things that don't exist. Computer programs lack imagination, but they can quickly remake a picture using different styles.

The style is how the subject is depicted. Most art is made using a style that already exists. The artist is inspired by or trying to copy the style of another artist.

If you want to turn a photograph into an oil painting or crayon drawing, there is an app for that. Computer programs can be made to duplicate almost any painting or drawing style. You can produce images that look like they were made by a professional artist or a child.

Changing the style allows you to generate a non-photorealistic copy of a photo. I like writing computer programs and then using them to create images that look like handmade art.

Digital camera picture to realistic drawing using color reduction.

Digital camera picture to realistic drawing using color reduction.

How to Make Art Without Drawing

The phrase "at a touch of a button" means it is fast and easy. Pressing the button on a camera or phone is an easy way to create realistic pictures. The easiest way to make a digital painting is to press a button in a photo-to-painting app.

Make art from photographs. With a few mouse clicks, you load a photo and choose a style. Then you click the start button and wait. The app goes through all of the RGB values in the original and produces a new image.

You are making copies of photographs in different styles. One downside is that you need a good picture to copy. If you don't have a lot of unique photos, then you may need to go out and take some. Finding new things to photograph can be difficult.

Digital art that is made by pressing a button is only as unique as the picture you start with and the choices you make. Start by taking interesting photographs. Then experiment with different styles.

  1. Open the photo-to-art app.
  2. Load a photo or two.
  3. Choose the options you want.
  4. Click or tap the start button.
  5. Wait for the program to finish.
  6. Save the image.

My Results

Since I lack the skill to make good-looking handmade art I would need to practice for hours every day. It could take two years to become skilled enough to get the results I wanted.

After I acquired the skill, it could take hours, days, or weeks to finish one piece of artwork. If I made non-digital art, I would also need to pay for the materials

Now that I have programs to do it for me, I can quickly transform ordinary photos into extradentary images. The art I made without drawing or painting is better than anything I could make by hand without years of practice, and most of it took less than 60 seconds to create.

I don't consider myself a real artist, but I created real art by pressing a button. It looks great to me. My problem is that I need more photographs to convert.

The images on this page were all made automatically using different methods.

Selfie to AI art.

Selfie to AI art.

Methods

  • Turn a Photo Into a Painting or Drawing
    Take a picture with your camera then make it look like a drawing or painting using color filters. Paintings and drawings can be more interesting to look at than regular photos.
  • Make Text Drawings by Converting Images to ASCII Art
    Learn how to make great text images. ASCII art allows you to create pictures that don't look like anything else you have made. Pixel colors are represented by keyboard characters.
  • Create 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.

Digital Art From Photos

When converting camera pictures into art, you are limited by the photographs you have and the available styles. You don't need to draw or paint. So you are not limited by your drawing skills.

Generating non-photorealistic images by pressing a button takes very little time and effort after you take the original picture. Taking the photo could require a lot of time, effort, and luck. To get the best results, you may need to keep making variations of the original.

Computer-generated art can be interesting to look at, so it is good for sharing. The pictures you made from a photograph could get more views and likes than the original. You may even be able to sell it as an NFT.

Converting photos into art is a good way to quickly produce compelling images. My handmade art does not look very good, but I think some of the pictures created with my apps are amazing. If you are a skilled artist, then you should still try it.

The main reason to create art by pressing a button is that it allows you to produce images that you could not make by yourself.

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

Comments

DreamerMeg from Northern Ireland on September 18, 2021:

I went right through your article and then to the AI image creation page. That was fantastic. I had an avatar I created some time ago but couldn't find the program again. It had a pink background which wasn't always suitable for where I placed it, so I used a darker book cover as the style and now have a very Halloween type avatar that looks rather like Morticia from the Adams family. Great fun. Well done on producing that.

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