Mary Campbell

Joined January 2008

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Digital Painting Tutorial

Digital Painting Tutorial

• A Camera (pictures need to be digitalized if your using film).
• Photo Shop (or similar program – with layers) I use Photoshop CS2.
• A Computer
• (Optional is a tablet input pad – Nice but not necessary)

  • You’ll need some knowledge of your Photoshop tools (or a reference source) or the program you use that replaces it. If you don’t have this just get a good book. Tom Ing has a fabulous book (Photoshop CS2 for Photographers), and I’m sure there are plenty of other ones.

Creating “Maiden of the Moon”

(click image to view larger)

Step 1: Go take some photographs of people, things objects, atmospheric conditions etc. these are your sketches.. if you want to translate this to traditional painting terminology.

Step 2: Select the elements you want in your picture (Oh I forgot one important element: turn off the TV and turn on your stereo or MP3 player, I choose a nice mellow Van Morrison album.. Believe me mellow music helps with the creative side!)

Ok now back to the picture..
In this instance it started with a picture I took of my friends daughter many years ago when we at a balloon festival. Her hair was blowing in the wind, and his bald head was in front of her face. But her look was what I wanted.. that stare into oblivion. The wild hair blowing in the wind (perfect)…

Now the creative side kicks in. Ok what can I do with this picture. First attempt, was to abstract it some by running it through a watercolor filter in PS. Next was to adjust the saturation colors in the filtered print using Image→Adjustments→ Hue and Saturation. I used it like this for a while, it was OK as a digital watercolor. I call this enhanced photography. Why? Because basically it was a photograph that I enhanced with my photo program.

Step 3: Next I find another element that would merge with the picture. In this instance it was a shot of the Moon I took this the other night when the moon was full and glowing thru my bedroom window (mind you this image was taken at 2 am, thru a window screen, with a hand held camera with a zoom lens on it. Moon not bad, if I do say so myself.. no it wasn’t perfect, but no problem, PS to the rescue..

You see the edge was not crisp… So first, I used the Circle selection tool. Select the moon in a perfect circle, then go to the menu SELECT→Inverse This selects everything in the layer except the moon which is now a perfect circle. Click delete. Now you have just the perfectly circled moon in your layer.

Step 4: Ok now you have 2 separate pictures, one of the abstracted girl, one of the moon.
The objects you want to put together. So first, make sure you also set the color profiles to be the same (Edit→Assign profile) and make them the same.. I used Kodak Interexchange RGB for this picture. Why because I print on Kodak Paper usually and I like the color brightness of that profile. The normal profile is pretty dull when it prints.

Next thing to consider is size and depth of the images. I want both images to have the same pixel dimensions. They are not at first as the girl was taken with my 4 meg pixel point and shoot, the moon with my Canon 5D (13 meg pixels camera). Also, I want the girl larger, and the moon smaller than the girl so I need to adjust the size and dimension of both.

Ok so now I resize the girl to the approximate size I want her. How you ask without making her into a bunch of digital squares? Because if I just made a 16X20 print of her using normal size increase in PS that’s what she would become. So what is one to do? Well, Tom Ing (great book by the way) taught me a trick, in PS if you increase pixel size by no more than 10% and use bi-cubic smoother you will not change the resolution by much. Key is getting it to the resolution you want first (perhaps by making the image smaller). I like to make it 300 mpx incase I want to print it very large later (but you can select any resolution you like as long as it’s the same in all three pictures) Unclick all the boxes in size, and enter resolution of 300 mpx. In this case it made the girl smaller. Rule: if you increase the meg pixels and keep everything else the same, without re-sampling it, the picture becomes smaller (sometimes very small) not to worry we will make it larger after. So I do that, all are now 300 mpx.

Next, I repetitively, increase it size to the size you want, with two boxes checked constrain proportions, and scale style, and resample image unchecked. Do it by no more than 10% until you get to the image size you want. (PS short cut, set up an action to do it for you).

Now do the same for the moon picture make it the size you want it to be in the end. Ok all of that was just getting so you could merge the two pictures together nicely.

Next I open up a new picture base the size I want the end picture to be (my blank canvas so to speak.) With all three pictures open, I go to the Layer toolbox select the layer containing the picture of the girl and drop it on my blank canvas, I do the same with the moon picture. Both will become new layers on my blank canvas.

Step 5: OK now this is where the PS becomes your paintbrush and the Canvas you prepared with your sketches (images from your collection) and it is ready for painting with whatever your creative talent dictates.

For me I knew I wanted the moon covering where my friend’s bald head was. And oh, I loved her hair.. flying in the wind I want that effect in my final image. One layer had this bluish/green colored background. The moon layer had nothing (as I removed it before the merge) but there was still some black around the moon, So I colored the canvas layer black to start with.

I decided that was too harsh and decided I liked the blue green swirl around her so I needed to replicate it into the black areas. Using the clone tool and repetitive clones strokes, I did this (so it wouldn’t look mechanical, I used a soft edged brush shape and varied the shape and directions. To match the directions I wanted in the dimensions of the picture. Just like painting consider the end effect, the direction of your brush stroke, the intensity of your colors, and shadows and light. I created the sky elements, using this technique (I liked the yellow behind her (an accident) so I replicated that too to form a sky effect.

Next extend her yellow hair pain stakingly, just like I would if I was painting with a real brush. I use several tools, the clone tool brush of various sizes, and the regular paint brush tool again vary the size and intensity. It took several hours to get the hair effect I liked.

I wanted to make sure the moon was integrated with her hair and face. So one technique I used was to paint her hair behind and in front of the moon. You can do this by painting on each layer separately, then reducing the opaqueness of the moon layer in this case to 90% opaque. This gave me the effect I wanted.

Then I painted in around the moon with the background on the under layer. I also add an inner glow to the edge of the moon (in the options on the moon layer just select the option of Inner Glow.

Finally – I merged the layers (first the girl and the background) by clicking off the moon layer and Using Merge Visible under the Layer Menu I merged the girl and the background layer 1st, then the moon layer. Saving in between incase I didn’t like it.

  • Two important PS tools I couldn’t live without is the History log (so I can undo anything I do I don’t like in groups or reapply it) and edit step backwards (another way to delete one move at a time). The history log disappears when you close the image so don’t close until you’re happy.

So now I have my final picture which I save with all its layers (who know when I’ll want to use them again! And I digitally update the file info with my copyright notice, and I sign the picture in a color that blends with the picture. Why? This is the digital age and you need to protect yourself and they are changing US copyright laws, limiting your protection. So do that for you! One last hint
for all those out there wanting to try digital painting, try printing on non traditional papers, canvases, linen.. You can get fabulous results if you experiment.

OK so we’ve reached the end of my lame digital painting tutorial.. I thought it might help some get started, and others to realize digital art is just like painting. Only your medium is different, and your tools are different.

End Note:
For many years I have painted oils, watercolors and also traditional photography. I’m a computer scientist by vocation, an Artist and a photographer by passion,.. I have shown work in galleries in the US, as well as selling on the internet. When I use to show digital art and enhanced photography, in galleries with traditional artists I would hear lots of stuff about photography and digital art not being real art.

I want to make a case here that digital art, is just as “labor intense” as painting oils or watercolors with paint and brushes. It takes me as long to create this as it does a traditional watercolor or oil (only oils take a long time to dry). And no the tools don’t do it for you, they are just that tools like a good sable brush is a tool.

The prejudice against digital art (and yes there is a prejudice out there), I believe comes from two things: Artist afraid of competition by an art form they do not understand and artists who do not realize that programs (digital paint brushes and other tools) are just another form of the traditional tools (paintbrushes, paint, canvas or paper) they use.

Just owning a sable paint brush doesn’t mean you can paint, nor does owning a program like Photoshop or a computer make Art. It is the creativity within both Artists that does that.

I believe the art world has just expanded into a new dimension and a new medium. The new artists understand that and are trying to maximize it. I hope all of you who have the tools will give the medium a try. I tell you I love it and what it has done for the art world and for traditional photography.

On Redbubble here, there are so many talented digital artists. I get inspired by their work and I’m no where as experience with this as some. So go out and expand the “Art World” and fight negativity you get from traditionalist that do not understand the medium or are afraid of the competition. Including some that should know better. You’re just the Monet of your time, introducing a new art form that one day will be accepted and valued.



PS: I’ve just recently seen this work Reddish Egret by the redbubble artist named DilettantO. Go check out his magnificent digital paintings and portfolio (he only uses a photograph as a reference point) and hand paints with Corel Painter now this is someone so way beyond my talent and expertise. See we can all grow here on RB…

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