Brush Stroke Problem with Edges, Blending and Opacity

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    Brush Stroke Problem with Edges, Blending and Opacity

    I'm having trouble with digital painting, particularily with environments and the source of my problem comes from the brush strokes. I'm not sure if my process is wrong, but I watched a few video tutorials and I'm doing it the same as they are, yet their paintings look way more finished than mine do.

    I think I'm doing good at blocking in the colors with large brush strokes, but it's the finer details that are confusing me. Basically what I do is block in the color with opacity at 100%, then I set opacity to pen pressure and put in the highlights/shadows. From there I paint over stuff until I can't think of anything else to do. It gets to the point where the more I paint over, the more the painting loses it's contrast and form. Maybe you can tell in the example...

    It's confusing because a lot of people say to use the default brush with opacity set to pen pressure, but when I use the brush with opacity on there are all sorts of problems with the edges and blending. It's hard to explain with words, so I have included a photo study I did today as well as the process I used and some images to highlight the problems I have with brush strokes.

    It would help a lot if someone could tell me what I'm doing wrong and if you have a solution for the opacity problem, or advice, please tell me! Thanks!

    Here is the example:

    Attachment 924015

    This is the process I used:

    Attachment 924016

    An example of the problem with edges and blending is circled:

    Attachment 924018

    The last Image is important because it highlights the opacity problem with the Photoshop brush:

    Attachment 924020

    Last edited by RickyS; May 14th, 2011 at 07:32 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RickyS View Post
    I'm not sure if my process is wrong, but I watched a few video tutorials and I'm doing it the same as they are, yet their paintings look way more finished than mine do.
    This is probably terribly inaccurate. You may think you're doing it the same as them, but there's a key difference. They're doing what they're doing with years of study and experience beneath their belts. You're doing it after a fifteen minute video tutorial under your belt. Knowing why you're doing what you're doing is key to being efficient and effective, in matters such as this. Their reasons for why are a result of many, many failures and observations. Your reasons for doing are because you saw someone else do it.

    In digital painting, there's almost always more than one way to go about things. Here's a quick little image to help illustrate some examples that might help you out a bit. There's tons of tools at your disposal, it doesn't seem like you're utilizing too many of them. The problems you're describing are not problems with photoshop, they are problems with your understanding of photoshop. Of course two hard brush strokes are going to have value overlap! They're not at 100% opacity. You're putting down say...40% opacity in one stroke, and then another 50% on top of part of the area - resulting in 90% opacity for that area only where they overlap.

    Hope this helps.

    Edit: Oh, and just to help you out a bit further. It's almost ALWAYS more than it looks like it is, with paintings. I just picked up Zhanglu's female portraits video. Awesome stuff. I remember looking at his finished products and thinking "He must've whipped these up in 10 minutes." It looked like so few strokes, so simple. But then I watched the hour long video and saw the TONS of brush strokes and I was like "WAT?"

    Yeah, it's almost always more than it looks like it is.

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    Last edited by Two Listen; March 7th, 2010 at 07:22 PM.
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    Wow, thanks a lot Two Listen for the help and the demo! I tried soft brushes before and they didn't work, but I tried them as you suggested and it blends really smooth!


    You're right, I'm probably rushing things however this particular painting was a 1 hour+ photo referenced study and I was figuring it out on my own, so I'm not just copying someone else's process. I was just confused because I have been doing digital painting for a while and I've always had problems with the brushes. But what you said about Zhanglu's videos makes sense!


    I painted over the bottom half of the image with a 50% soft brush. It already looks better. It takes a lot longer to render though and I have to use a smaller brush...

    So another question that popped up is, does it matter how messy the brush strokes are at the beginning of the painting? For example, this painting was pretty messy and the values were overlapping all over the place in the beginning, but I managed to clean it up good with the soft brush. So should I just focus on blocking in the large values and shapes first and focusing on cleaning the edges and blending everything later?

    Attachment 924107

    Attachment 924108

    Last edited by RickyS; May 14th, 2011 at 07:32 PM.
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    No problem mate. Oh, and to answer your question - starting off messy is very reasonable depending on your style and workflow. Some people start off super clean, super simple. Some people start off just going nuts with the brushes to get down some shapes, color, and texture.

    I would say more important than something being simple, complicated - messy, or neat, is making sure whatever you're doing is efficient. If it's not adding to the painting in some meaningful, useful, or significant way - then why is it there? A good thing to do a lot of times is to get your idea down, and then flatten it all down and simplify it prior to moving on. From my experience, anyway.

    Take a look at this progress shot, I believe from Dennis Chan. I'd saved it to my reference/inspiration folder about a year ago. It will probably answer your question as to whether or not starting off messy with blocking shapes is...acceptable.

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    Holy crap that's amazing! That image clear up everything I was wondering about! Thanks a lot.

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    Sure thing. It's not very often I find myself in a position to offer some real solid, specific advice... So it was a pleasure.

    Good luck with it. I'll check in on your sketchbook every so often and see how you're making out.

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