I've just spent the day using Topaz Impression, a US$99.00 Mac app that can totally and convincingly transform your photos into works of art that look like paintings, pencil or charcoal sketches, or just about any style that you can imagine.
I've seen apps that do this before, either in the form of Photoshop plug-ins or even in iOS apps, but nothing else offers this amount of quality or range of control.
Using the app is dead easy: Drag a photo onto the Impression palette, and choose from any of 112 pre-sets to see your photo in a variety of styles. You can select 'looks' by type (pencil sketch, modern, charcoal) or even create and save your own personal transformation. The app creators say Impression mimics the techniques of real artists by analyzing a photo's inherent contours and then applying each brushstroke one at a time. Results will never look computer-generated because each marking is custom-built by scanning and digitizing real strokes. By pairing this unique approach with GPU acceleration, Impression is able to paint more than 10,000 brushstrokes in less than a second.
The truth is, it works, and works beautifully. Each individual preset can be adjusted to your taste with different brushes, brush stroke length, color cast and even the light direction. I tried several landscape photos with the app and the results were really beyond my expectations. With all the settings, the variations you can apply are almost limitless. I tried the app on a variety of landscape pictures in my files, and the results never failed to please. You can see some samples in the slide show.
When I was using the app I thought how nice it would be to have this as a Photoshop or Lightroom plug-in, and in fact, the plug-in is included with Impression if you buy direct from Topaz, rather than the App Store. Apple rules prevent the plug-in to be included in their downloads.
Topaz Impression is not an inexpensive piece of software. It's for the professional or serious amateur, but for what it does it is certainly not overpriced. Topaz Labs has an excellent reputation among photographers for its collections of top-rated plug-ins. Impression is no exception. You can create dramatic results with very little effort, and the final product won't look like some digital monstrosity.
Impression is available in the Mac app store, works on OS X 10.6 or later and worked fine under Yosemite.