Realtime impasto effects using layers! 🖌

Hello! Take a seat, put on your reading glasses and prepare thyself! :nerd_face:

I’ve not seen anyone reference this approach before – so hopefully I’m not repeating what someone else has already done. To be honest I’ve been meaning to share this for a long time – the earliest file I have using this technique is dated May 2015!

I did start writing a tutorial in 2016 to post on the KDE Krita forum but it proved quite challenging to explain and well… I never finished it! :confused:

So - sorry it’s taken this long! I’ve seen recently that quite a few people are interested in emulating impasto paint strokes, so I’ve been quite frustrated with myself for not doing this sooner!

I haven’t tried the new brushes being developed here (as demonstrated by Ramon), but they look promising, and from what I can see they should produce better results in the long run than this technique.

That being said; I think this approach may still have some advantages - the main one being that the effect is non-destructive:

  • It exists separately to the paint layer and can be turned on or off.

  • It can be used in real-time (if your hardware allows), or applied as a post effect.

  • The settings can be adjusted at any time (with a huge range of variables).

  • It will also work with any brush that has a texture (bristly colour-smudge brushes are best for impasto).

  • It could potentially be applied in other scenarios where you want to add dimension to a texture.

I’ve created some templates for you to download and try because it’s easier to demonstrate that to explain in a beginner-friendly way.

Having said that - here’s an overview for advanced users:

  • You start with a paint layer and create a clone above it, then apply filter masks to the clone. I originally used a ‘phong bumpmap’, but have found others that can also work, such as ‘height to normal map’.

  • The clone is set to a layer type which applies the effects visually to the paint layer below.

  • An adjustment filter (i.e. HSL) may be applied to the clone to correct any colour or value shifts caused by the applied effects.

I’ve tried to include sufficient information in the templates so everyone will understand. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded, but give them a try and see what you think…

Link to templates (zip file on dropbox)

Have fun! :partying_face:


Oh yeah! - just remembered I did a quick sketch a couple of days ago to demonstrate…

None of the templates have this particular setting as it’s not a good starting point (tailored to the brush settings I was using) - but it’s gives a rough idea what’s possible.


Do you have the skills to make a timelapse video demonstrating the process? I’d like to know if this method can replicate effects seen in many Van Gogh paintings, especially “Starry Night” and his Auveurs Village Street series of paintings.

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Thanks! It does look interesting :slight_smile:


I’m getting a nice effect with Chalk Grainy and Chalk Soft, both pixel engine brushes, it’s probably the texture that does that. I’ve been playing with the light source angles on the phong bumpmap, so yes I’m having fun.

You’ve provided everything that’s needed and a good explanation too so thank you :slight_smile:

Quick tip: for a Dropbox link, edit the end so that it says …dl=1 instead of …dl=0.
This will bypass all the site artwork and attemps to sign you up to Dropbox and will go directly to a download offer.

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I edited the original post so that it downloads it right away

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I think you could achieve something similar with the right brushes and layer settings. Have you had a play with the templates? You’d probably want an oily brush with a thick bristle and a limited stroke length.

I’ll have a think about the video, but not promising - I’m very fussy so it takes me a disproportionate amount of effort to do things like this! I’ll try to have another play and add some pics at least.

Thanks for the tip! - It was a bit annoying… :+1:

Thanks! :slight_smile:


Just been having a play with settings and a quick scribble - seeing if I can get something vaguely van gough-ish… :yum:


I went back to that image yesterday so I could do some more experimentation. I saved a couple more variations; the first was using smear-based brushes (colour smudge engine), which work quite well with the lighting effect. I don’t just mean the look of it - it also has an effect on the feel; something about the visual feedback as you paint that’s hard to explain.

The second was using a clone brush to see if I could get more of a natural dirty-brush effect; following the discussion in another thread. I’ve actually been very pleasantly surprised so far - especially after doing some proper sketching with it last night. :wink:


it’s a amazing resourse, thanks for share it!!

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Just what I was looking for! thanks for the tip!

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Have fun! :slight_smile: :+1:

We can also use RGBA brush tips now for an alternative approach to impasto effects. I’ve had interesting results with the limited tests I’ve done, but I think Ramon and wojtryb are both working on brush sets.


I’ll have a go with this thanks. This reminds me of a video I saw the other day by Brien Dieterle and his tests with a volume/thickness channel combined with some real-time bump mapping in MyPaint.


That’s interesting! - it does look very similar to this effect. I wonder if it would be transferable with the Mypaint engine integration in Krita? :thinking:

Feel free to post your experiments in here! :slight_smile:

I like the real time aspect and the third template in particular.

In the past I used a copied layer of the finished work put through a bump map type filter (I found 2 but don’t recall which I used) and set that layer to overlay. It would highlight and shade any area that wasn’t perfectly smooth and give the impression of brush strokes. Perhaps a method to consider for less powerful hardware.

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It’s Brien Dieterle’s experiments- I’m just sharing the video here from his YouTube channel, but I would love it if it was somehow integrated into Krita with MyPaint, that would be cool. I’ll try your templates out when I have time and share my pictures :smile:

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For bringing out textures or/and brush strokes, I often use an edge detection filter layer set to overlay. Use one of the top/bottom/left/right options, control strength with the radius setting and add a HSV filter mask for some fine control.

The more contrast there is in the structures, the more pronounced the effect will be. Strongly textured brushes work well for this. like in this one:

Sometimes I will duplicate (parts of) the image and apply an oil-paint filter to the overlay before edge detection, in order to break up the edges a bit. Lots of possibilities…