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How do I make an image look like vector art, as in the IOS 14 default background images?

I would like to make landscape images look like they are vector-styled. Artistic perfection isn't needed, my goal is just to capture the style. I don't know how to use Adobe illustrator or Inkscape, so I expect that some kind of AI tool may exist for this purpose.

I already tried two online tools befunky and vanceai with several landscape images, like this desert picture:

enter image description here

But the results don't simplify edges and reduce the number of colors. They seem to increase them. The best AI tool I know is DALL.E-2 but it is not yet available. I would be happy with a photoshop/GIMP filter that simplifies colors and edges.

Below are some examples of (IOS 14) vector art landscapes that I would like to reproduce:

enter image description here

How can I achieve this look?

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    Well, you could draw art in a vector application.
    – Scott
    Jun 16 at 21:25
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    These images seem to be the result of hours of work by a person who spent thousands of hours practicing. Although you might find some AI filter mimicking this effect, I doubt that they are yet able to create something as refined as this. As far as I know, these kinds of AI tools are not really something designers use a lot. They are mostly seen as fun toys. What have you found yourself so far? And why are they failing? What image are you trying to apply the effect to?
    – Wolff
    Jun 16 at 21:28
  • Hi @Wolff, I tried two online tools befunky and vanceai with several landscape images line this desert picture but the results don't simplify edges and reduce the number of colors. They seem to increase them. The best AI tool I know is DALL.E-2 but it is not yet available. I would be happy with a photoshop/GIMP filter that simplifies colors and edges.
    – nickh
    Jun 17 at 11:30
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    OK, you already know more about this than I do. You should add all this information to your question. It narrows it down a bit and shows some effort. There are ways in Photoshop to simplify colors and edges, like for example Cutout filter. But as you the result is nowhere near the images you post as examples. It just looks at colors in the image. Doesn't analyze shapes or stylize in any way like a human can. Doesn't add gradients either. Perhaps learning how to draw vector will be faster than waiting for programming magicians to provide you with an AI?
    – Wolff
    Jun 17 at 14:54
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    I didn't think you would like the effect. I'll post it as an answer then.
    – Wolff
    Jun 17 at 16:21

2 Answers 2

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An effect in Photoshop that sort of resembles what you want is the Cutout filter.

You find it in Filter > Filter Gallery > Artistic > Cutout.

Original

After applying Cutout filter

The result lacks the refinement of the two example images you post. Photoshop only looks at the colors of the image. It doesn't analyze shapes or stylize in any way like a human can. It doesn't add gradients either.

But it's a quick and dirty method. It can perhaps serve as inspiration to stylizing the image yourself.

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I guess you want to try basic GIMP with no extensions at first. There you can reduce small details, but keep long sharp borders by applying Filter > Blur > Median. With a low resolution image like your desert attachment try only 2...3 px median radius. Here's the caravan zoomed in after filtering:

enter image description here

The loss of detail is substantial. Try different median settings to find a good one.

You may want to handle the colorization of the sky separately. To make it possible select the sky with the fuzzy selection tool or by lassoing it and paste it to a separate layer. The fuzzy selection tool handles it well in composite mode because there's a good contrast and color border:

enter image description here

Apply to both layers Color > Colorize. It keeps brightness variations, but change everything in a layer to the same hue and saturation.

enter image description here

Note that the colorfulness depends on the brightness. 50% bright pixels get most color. That's a limitation of the whole RGB system. You may need to trim the brightness scale with curves before the colorization to get the wanted areas most colorful. Some items very likely must be selected and copied to new layers to get wanted colors to them. I gave this treatment only to the sky.

Note that you can also give a gradient color to a separated item an paint or wipe off some details. The sky in your wanted example has a gradient + stars.

It's easy to think that posterization could simplify the result even more. It reduces the number of levels, but generates new complex borders, so I didn't use it. But try it to see do you like it.

A good free GIMP (and Photoshop, Krita and Paint.NET) extension with numerous fiters which can maybe help you is the G'MIC collection. If you are lucky, someone shows with it a better result than my simplistic approach. But, as already said by others, photo filtering is a poor replacement for manual crafting done by a talented artist.

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  • Thank you very much! The G'MIC cutout filter combined with the colorization method yielded fantastic results.
    – nickh
    Jun 18 at 9:59

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