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Thread: general painting help

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Detroit, MI/Rochester, NY
    Thanked 21 Times in 20 Posts

    general painting help

    so yeah I've been struggling with painting, I feel like I might be approaching it wrong or something. I see different ways of doing it, but i just don't know what works best, I've been through many mediums, pastels, watercolor, oil and acrylic. But lately in photoshop when I paint, it's not the same as traditional, obviously. When I start working I do a sketch, gestural, lay in shapes (nice and big representing the form), but when I get into the details it just doesn't look quite right. dunno about it being flat or so. I lay in tones first then rough details, then drop in the values. then tighten it up with the rest of the work.

    I seem to have trouble controlling my palette of colors. I put too much in.

    I guess I have a quite a lot to learn...

    Feel free to share your tips and methods.
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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Hamburg, Germany
    Thanked 448 Times in 245 Posts
    How I make a digital painting:

    I have found that I make the best pictures when I've already sketched them in my mind. When I start a painting without any idea about how I want colors, composition, etc. to be, it gets frustrating because I try out many things without knowing what I want. It's better to have a clear idea of your painting in your head, so you only have to "copy" that picture. It's mostly the color scheme and mood I'm imagining first.
    Looking at other people's art has helped me tremendously being able to paint pictures in my mind. When you look at pictures often, you will have a big "vocabulary" that can help you make your own, unique phrases - in this case, pictures.

    I always start with a colored canvas. The color of the canvas will be one that dominates the picture's color scheme or contrasts with it (both can yield nice results).
    This is better than starting with a white or black canvas, because it helps you choosing the right colors for your scene, and because you can paint both darker and lighter on it. So this is actually very important!
    On that colored canvas, I make a sketch of everything - mostly a small concept sketch, no wider than 500 pixels. In that concept sketch, I try out my idea. I want to test if it actually works - composition, light, shadow, color, everything has to be there because this determinates the picture's final outcome. Just very roughly sketched in.

    (Had I lived in the 19th century, I'd have been a follower of Delacroix and his "color-is-most-important"-dogma, as opposed to Ingres who was convinced that line and drawing were crucial XD It's a very old debate about what's more important in a painting, line or color).

    As soon as I feel it's working, I make a quite exact line drawing on a bigger canvas (about 2000-3000 pixels wide) of the same color. The line drawing is done partly from reference photos and partly freehand; I try to get proportions and anatomy as correct as possible.
    On a new layer, I block in all colors, light and shadow. Here in this very early sketchy stage I already try to determine all light and shadow and color composition, because as mentioned, they are very important! They cannot be taken care of too early.

    To illustrate this: Some years back, I used to paint midtones only, then add highlights and shadows until the picture was finished. Now, on the contrary, I sketch all of those in, and everything else is simply refining and adding detail. I can spend a lot of time on that, because shading and highlight has been done already.
    This requires of course some careful planning, especially in terms of light, shadow and composition.

    Well, now everything is but refining and detailing. Folds in clothing, facial details, the background, clothes patterns... everything is worked out. Gradients are made more smooth, harsh edges of sketched-in shadows are broken up and dissolved where necessary. Touches of colors are added whereever they can enhance another color (especially when it comes to skintones). Anatomy and proportion errors are corrected. I often repaint some parts, big or small, when I think they don't work the way they should.

    I always paint with the brush size and opacity set to the pen pressure of my graphics tablet (otherwise there would be no point in having a tablet). The three brushes I use most are: hard round, soft round and a bristle brush.
    I have a ton of other brushes too but those are not used often; only if I want to experiment with some ways how to make grungy or oil-painting-like surfaces or textures. Some I made myself, some are from other artists (Enayla, Tascha, Peachysticks and kayness).
    Opacity is always set to 100%, the flow is mostly between 25% and 100%.
    Sometimes I set the brush to the "soft light" mode; this will make the color darker and more saturated. But this shouldn't be overused.
    Generally I can say that I paint with a rather light hand and often paint over the same area several times until I get the color I want. This also adds texture to a painting, as does erasing in a similar way.

    The initial line drawing I erase more and more, as the painting advances. In the end, there will be no lines left - either they've been erased or painted over. Form has evolved from the lines through the means of color.

    - I always have two windows opened in Photoshop 7 while painting: on the left, one window with a very big (original size) canvas - I can only see part of it, since it's bigger than my monitor. On the right, I can see the whole canvas in a smaller view. This is great since it saves me the trouble of having to zoom in and out all the time. In Photoshop, you can open a new window of your painting if you select "Windows"-->"Document"--->"New Window" (my PS7 is German, but it should be the same for English versions)
    - I always have my finger over the "Alt" key while painting, because this gets you the color picker, much faster than having to click on it. I always need the color picker so I press on that "Alt" key pretty often.
    - If you want to make soft gradients, you have to use more than just two colors! Paint the gradient color in between also - use the color picker to pick the color at the transition you're trying to paint.
    - I try to use as few layers as possible, since too many of them will make my computer go crazy. As for layers, less is more.
    - Use reference. I can't stress the importance of that enough: if you have problems drawing something from your imagination so that it looks real and convincing, chances are it'll be messed up. So if something seems not to work, or if you don't know how to make it look real... or if you cannot draw figures like Andrew Loomis (almost nobody can)... go get some reference. You can find a great many reference photos among the Deviantart stock artists (always check their rules) but it's best to use your own ones. For some stock artists are so famous, or some stock photos are used so often that they're easily recognizable. Example: I see a photomanip where a stock image of :devlockstock: has been used... and my first impression is "Oh, it's lockstock!", before or/instead of "oh, how beautiful". (Dear lockstock, please forgive me for using your name as an example... I've used your photos for reference too)
    - Read the workshops at . There are some kick ass tutorials, totally free - also one by Linda Bergkvist.
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  5. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Detroit, MI/Rochester, NY
    Thanked 21 Times in 20 Posts
    Thanks a lot, I noticed a lot now that you mention it, I still start with mid tones and I guess that doesn't really help it much. It's just putting in silhouette and then painting over it. Yeah, that's my problem right there, I guess I'll start off with a new approach like what your doing. Putting in the values to shape the basic form. Sounds like how it's supposed to be done.

    Some people just do a grayscale painting and then just slap a color layer on top of it with some sort of color blend or multiply.

    composition is definitely another thing I need o straighten out.

    Thanks for the helpful info.
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