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This is just one of the ways you can make easy backgrounds for your painted or cartoon-like images. Of course, this isn't perfect and probably isn't even one of the easiest ways. ;) It's just the way that I do things.
Open your background image in Photoshop. I chose an outdoor, foresty-type image. Of course this will work with varying outcomes with almost any background image you choose.
Duplicate the background layer.
On the duplicate layer, go to Filter/Stylize/Find Edges. There are no options to set, this just find's the edges for us.
Change the duplicate layer's blend mode to overlay.
Now we want to desaturate the duplicate layer. The colors just aren't right for what we're going for.
Next, go to Image/Adjust/Brightness and Contrast. These are just the settings I used, yours may be different depending on the look you're going for.
The image still looks a bit harsh, so I changed the layers Opacity to 80%. This helps soften the duplicate layer's effects a bit.
Now duplicate the original background layer again and do Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur set to about 4.4 (will vary depending on your image size and detail.)
Set the layer opacity to 70%
Still on the last duplicated layer, let's go to Filter/Brush Strokes/Angled Strokes. This adds a slightly more painted effect.
Finally, and optionally, you may wish to change the color balance of one of the layers. I chose mine on the same layer we've been working on, for other images you may chose to do the original background layer.
I like to use the Color Balance (Image/Adjust/Color Balance) it gives me more control.
And this is what the final image looks like all together.