What's a good program to practice / improve actual painting skills ?
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    What's a good program to practice / improve actual painting skills ?

    I've tried Photoshop, Art Rage (almost what I want but still not quite) and I was just wondering, is there anything that would get really close to real painting ?

    Corel Painter X perhaps ? Or are there others ? What do you use ?

    I'd like to be able to sort of "plan" my paintings on something digital, work on 1 layer, figure out the steps, in some program that resembles real painting as much as possible. This is to be done as preparation before the actual paintings.

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    From what I hear, Painter is the closest to the "real thing." But, really, digital and traditional are two completely different mediums. Kind of like asking if there's a way to paint watercolor like acrylic or vice versa (yes, yes, I know, there are opaque watercolors and you can water down your acrylics, but they are fundamentally different, painting with light/painting with pigment and all that).

    I mean, if you're really worried and just want to do some prelim stuff, get some cheap crap paint and just paint on a board some planning stages. Otherwise, I can't imagine what specific thing you're looking for out of a digital program other than "color and value areas go here."

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    I painted in real media (predominantly watercolour) for 20 years before going totally digital, and it was Painter that got my attention first - but now I find ArtRage provides the closer experience. As Karmaclychee says - real and digital are two very different media and for the moment, the experience is always going to be different as well. Just as painting with acrylics and watercolour is different.

    If you are determined to try Painter and I would recommend you do - I have found 10 still works better for me than the later version 11, but I've heard others sing the praises of that as the best they've tried. We all like different things. I still don't like the watercolour experience in either Painter version. Coming from a trad watercolour background (and if that's what you are looking for) Corel's flagship struggles bravely to do the math and emulate all the variables of paint, water, paper texture, gravity and grain size, along with brush size and pressure - but the result is so lagging and unspontaneous that the experience is a million miles away from the real thing - That said the look can be very convincing.

    ArtRage's much simpler approach to all their tools, actually offers a much closer experience to real media, because you have to work harder with what you've got. I've found their watercolour to be the best I've come across so far and at times it does almost feel like the real thing in the way it behaves. That's not to say it's perfect. But if you find the settings you like, save them as preset brushes for easy access, and then combine the tool with the wet blender for softened effects, you can come up with some very watercoloury images and come close to feeling like you are painting in real media at times too. For me what works best is painting across several layers set to multiply (I prefer it to the dedicated watercolour blend mode for some reason), like laying various washes. Then collapse them when you are happy with the stage and add new ones atop to build up depth.

    Then there's the oil brush with its un-thinned paint, that you can combine with variable paper textures layer by layer if you wish . . .. But you already know this as you have AR (the Studio Pro version I hope - as it offer a ton more stuff under the bonnet to really open up your options). You do have all this depth in Painter of course, with ten thousand controls, in the Artist Oils and Impasto brushes. Again best to save (drag out) your favourites to a floating palette for easy access once you find settings you like.

    If you are just talking about drawing with a pencil, although it does have very capable other brushes, Sketchbook Pro 2011 is very good and another favourite of mine. Wonderfully responsive touch. The inclusion of some blending modes on layers has extended its potential lot. Yet the fact that it does not employ layer or canvas texture, relying rather on the ability to create custom brushes that can look like texture means it feels less like real media, although able to deliver a real media look.

    Then there are SAI, Open Canvas, ArtWeaver and Twisted Brush - all very capable tools in the right hands. I've looked at all of them but would still contest that of what I've tried AR is the closest. It's as much the thinking behind the interface and tool options as anything else. Using 'stencils' instead of layer masks for instance. That is 'real media thinking'.

    Do please let me know if you come across something even more real media in feel. I'll be delighted to try it. I wish you well in your quest.

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    As has been pointed out - the media are so completely different I don't feel you can improve your painting much trying to paint digitally - planning and composition somewhat - and even a bit of editing can be done digitally but it seems you're putting the cart before the horse. Learn to paint first...then see what digital can do for you.

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    What's a good program to practice / improve actual painting skills ?
    This is kind of like trying to use a Wii to become better at tennis.

    Last edited by Elwell; January 3rd, 2011 at 07:15 PM.

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    It's mentioned that digital and traditional are two different media.

    You should be trying out traditional methods and seeing what program you can adapt to the most with those skills. Everyone is different and will find something in each program that is closer to what he/she wants.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    This is kind of like trying to using a Wii to become better at tennis.
    Is there an App that will let me become better with Wii tennis so I can eventually play real tennis?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arshes Nei View Post
    Is there an App that will let me become better with Wii tennis so I can eventually play real tennis?
    I think there is something called a tennis racket. Strap the wii control to it and move all the vases.

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    And that was the analogy I was looking for!

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    Thanks for the replies, and yes I do know that canvas and digital are completely different things.

    I've noticed that having played with ArtRage and Photoshop before, this has helped me when I picked up a real brush for the first time. So now I'm just looking to do things like studies, in color, without wasting paint and creating a mess. From what I can tell the observation and understanding shape/colors is pretty much the same, only the rendering is different. And being a beginner that's what I want - going through the stages at the faster pace that digital allows.

    I'll definitely give ArtRage another go, and find out more about the settings.

    This is something I did yesterday, but I eventually gave up in frustration as I don't have the Photoshop brushes to resemble real ones. Getting cloud brushes will defeat the purpose, as it will not tell me anything about how to render clouds with a real brush. The final painting will be in oils.

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    Please note RGB is not the equivalent of Paint Pigment mixing. So you still have a lot to learn.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tribe View Post
    This is something I did yesterday, but I eventually gave up in frustration as I don't have the Photoshop brushes to resemble real ones.
    I just want to note that is a lie.

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    "Getting cloud brushes will defeat the purpose, as it will not tell me anything about how to render clouds with a real brush. The final painting will be in oils."

    Welllll....you're kind of missing the point, tribe. Digital tools/media will not teach you anything about rendering clouds with a real brush...or anything else for that matter.
    They are too different. You actually draw fairly well...keep that up and transition into painting. Don't be in a big rush...it takes a great deal of time.

    The time you are spending working digitally is a waste and is only slowing your progress. It sounds, and based on your still life setups, looks like you have a very good teacher and school/classes near you - I would spend every spare minute there learning everything your teacher has to offer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arshes Nei View Post
    I just want to note that is a lie.
    Alright, fair enough. I'm sure they're in Photoshop somewhere and I just don't know which ones they are or what settings I need for them.

    Note that I said I don't have the brushes, not that Photoshop doesn't have them

    On the Wii / tennis remark, I know what you're saying, as you can see my sketchbook also has real paintings inside, and few as they are, they were enough to notice the differences between mixing real colors and RGB.

    My question was which program comes the closest, although none will actually translate completely to a real canvas.

    I will try ArtRage and experiment more with Photoshop, working on one layer alone, with no filters and effects.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    The time you are spending working digitally is a waste and is only slowing your progress. It sounds, and based on your still life setups, looks like you have a very good teacher and school/classes near you - I would spend every spare minute there learning everything your teacher has to offer.
    I'm going to slightly disagree. It's fine if someone works traditionally and digitally, but that person is going to have to understand different things translate over.

    The reason I quoted part of the post saying it was a lie is that the person is trying to create a look, and really should learn the basics in methods for digital painting.

    You simply need a hard round brush with pressure sensitivity. You don't even need photoshop to do this. A simple program like Open Canvas works just fine. http://www.conceptart.org/forums/sho...d.php?t=107217

    Bumskee's thread which works in the basics with about any program with these settings, same with Painter too.

    I'm not dismissing the value of working traditionally - in fact I've seen it help immensely when transitioning over because that person learned foundations, and skipped the fancy tools.

    So my advice for this user, if you want to do this digitally stop looking for a brush or trying to make it look like "oils" or such. Learn both traditional and digital weakpoints and strengths.

    So stop using Photoshop for the time being and recreate a drawing using Open Canvas. Don't worry about it looking like a pencil or fine oils.

    http://wistinga.online.fr/opencanvas/ There you go, it's free.

    Protip: K.I.S.S.
    (keep it simple, stupid). - this is where Open Canvas excels.

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    If you're just doing value/color studies, use the plainest brush you can, and focus on color and shape. None of the brushwork specifics will carry over anyway, just like they wouldn't if you were doing a watercolor study for an oil painting. Use different mediums for their own strengths, not to to emulate others.


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    No problem Arshes - and I agree with your follow-up. My point is that the OP seems like they are searching for a shortcut that doesn't exist - some way to "learn how to paint" using digital tools instead of just, well...learning how to paint. My best advice tribe, is if you want to learn how to paint in oils...the easisest, fastest, best way to do it is to, yep, paint in oils. Get out there and paint if it is a landscape...observe...study...work hard.

    You can't just make stuff up as you are with the moon/cloud thing...you need to really observe that directly...photos would be worse than useless in such a situation as well. K.I.S.S. is exactly the right approach with this stuff.

    Anyway, you seem determined to plow ahead so good luck...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    If you're just doing value/color studies, use the plainest brush you can, and focus on color and shape. None of the brushwork specifics will carry over anyway, just like they wouldn't if you were doing a watercolor study for an oil painting. Use different mediums for their own strengths, not to to emulate others.
    See, this was what I was thinking about re the OP's focus:

    Couldn't quick digital studies replace or augment what was once done in watercolor or wash in prep for oil?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kamber Parrk View Post
    See, this was what I was thinking about re the OP's focus:

    Couldn't quick digital studies replace or augment what was once done in watercolor or wash in prep for oil?
    Sure, as long as you can paint and aren't getting distracted by the logistics of the medium.


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    Quote Originally Posted by tribe View Post
    So now I'm just looking to do things like studies, in color, without wasting paint and creating a mess.
    So wait... you don't like abusing paint and you don't want to make a mess. So what is it about oil painting that you DO like?

    Anyway. You're just going to use great heaping heaps of paint learning how to mix colours. There is no way to avoid this because there is no digital equivalent to having six blobs of glop on your palette and trying to get autumn sky blue out of them. Get over that "I'm wasting art materials!" mental block and get on with things.

    If you're set on experimenting with this then I say stick with ArtRage. Photoshop painting techniques will mostly teach you how to love fast-drying acrylics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kamber Parrk View Post
    See, this was what I was thinking about re the OP's focus:

    Couldn't quick digital studies replace or augment what was once done in watercolor or wash in prep for oil?
    Yeah this is exactly what I was going for, something for quick digital studies that are not meant to replace the actual painting later on.

    So wait... you don't like abusing paint and you don't want to make a mess. So what is it about oil painting that you DO like?
    Well frankly from what I've seen to be possible with real paint I actually like acrylics the best, but being new to real paint and having done a few split-tests it seems oils are better for learning, since they dry slower.

    That being said mixing real colors and painting in oils are one thing, and observing the subject, understanding the shape and colors are another. For this last part alone I'd like to use some digital, not for the first one.

    Finally, I realize ideally I'd just do some plein-air painting in oils until I get it right. Now this next landscape I'm working on happens to be at night, I've seen a few nights and places I like and took all the ref photos I could, and now the winter clouds cover the sky, so all I have is some memories and ref photos.

    In addition to that I don't have everything I need for plein-air yet, and also it's freezing outside, especially at night.

    ...and that's how I came to ask about these digital solutions, knowing they are far from perfect and that real painting in oils is still required after the digital studies are done.

    Thanks everyone for replying

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    Quote Originally Posted by tribe View Post

    That being said mixing real colors and painting in oils are one thing, and observing the subject, understanding the shape and colors are another. For this last part alone I'd like to use some digital, not for the first one.
    Then you realize your entire topic has become unnecessary? Go with Open Canvas.

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