Disclaimer - No one works the same way all the time. We continue to learn, evolve and experiment. Though I may bluntly lay down laws for the purposes of this tutorial, I reserve the right to throw out all the rules on my next painting.
I work flat. I like having a light, uncluttered file. I like that in a flat painting, the background atmosphere can intuitively bleed over closer objects and foreground elements can easily smear into the background. My experiments with heavily layered pieces have led to my computer and my brain bogging down until they both stop working. I save selections in the channel palette as I work, so I've never felt handicapped for lack of layers when it comes to making quick adjustments.
My workflow consists of one cycle of steps that I repeat maybe a hundred times until the painting is done:
1) duplicate the base image (the drawing at the beginning)
2) apply paint
3) erase out details or unwanted overflow
4) flatten back down
You can see Ryan Church doing this in his Gnomon DVDs (he's working in Painter, I do the same thing in Photoshop). If you didn't paint on a duplicated base, you wouldn't be able to erase out of your paint while preserving the previous state underneath. Also It's nice having the option of deleting the new layer if the changes didn't work the way you wanted them to.
So really, the whole question becomes "what do you mean by apply paint in step 2." It can mean an infinite number of things and this tutorial will attempt to show you some of the ways I "apply paint."
But first, back to the beginning. All example images are about 60% of the size I was working at.
I was asked to do a tutorial before I had any idea what I was going to paint. I did tighter thumbnails than usual because I was feeling the pressure! The six below are the main ones I was considering. You can tell the only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to use a lot of eye patterns.
A friendly neighborhood moderator helped me in choosing a thumbnail and suggested that victims would be a good addition. The thumb below resulted after sketching in a quick background and rough color idea.
I took the thumbnail, doubled the resolution from 72 to 150ppi, turned off the color layer and added a white paper layer above. Turning the white layer opacity down to about 85%, some of the sketch shows through and I'm ready to begin the tight drawing.
I have one of those Wacom 6D art pens - the kind that tracks rotation along the long axis to simulate a flat brush or chisel tipped marker. I don't paint with the art pen as much as I thought I would, but it's a pleasure to draw with. It makes me not mind the fact that you can't yet rotate the canvas in Photoshop.
The watercolory look of my "highly explosive, double shelled, slug thing" seemed to generate the most interest of all my recent posts. So for this demonstration I decided to work the same way. Now that I have my final drawing I do a few quick steps to prepare a base for painting. I adjust the line of the drawing and make it lighter and greener so that it will be easier to blend in later (black can be hard to get rid of). I apply a washed watercolor texture (from a standard Photoshop pattern in "artists surfaces") to a multiply layer and merge it down. To get another tiny head start, I turned my original thumbnail color layer back on, pulled the opacity WAAAAY back and merged it down. My final flattened base is below. I'm ready to paint.
Apply Paint - Transparent Darks, Opaque Lights
The technique of glazing on dark values transparently and building up lights opaquely began, in oil, with the old masters and still works very effectively in the digital realm. Of course, now we're talking about simulated transparency and simulated opacity - but so what, the paint and canvas aren't real either.
First, glaze on some darks. Simply put, to apply transparent pigment in Photoshop you set the blending mode to Multiply on either your brush tip or a new blank layer. For this demo, I want the watercolor look, so I also turn on texture in the brush palette and choose a texture from PS's standard "artists surfaces" folder. Next, in big broad sweeps, I begin to lay down my first pass of soft dark colors. In the beginning of a painting, I let soft edges bleed into each other, so I don't erase out much overflow before merging back down.
I may repeat this cycle of glazing on transparent darks until I feel like I've pushed the values down enough to begin applying highlights. Also, I've flipped the image horizontally to shock my brain out of being comfortable with the painting and hopefully make any problems stand out. I usually flip so often that I forget which way the original was.
Next, I do a pass of opaque highlights. I've pushed the general values down, now it's time to pull some highlights back up - modeling form as I go. I keep a lot of fancy brushes in the tools palette, but for the detailing in this painting I mostly used just one: a standard round with pressure set on both size and opacity. When I apply pressure the opaque line covers any underlying drawing or texture. I painted a cool ambient light hitting edges on one side and a warmer light from a coming sunbeam and torch on the other side.
Having done a transparent darkening pass and on opaque lightening pass, I repeat by washing on some more darks. The colors get richer, the values deepen. In this step you can also see that I punched up the sky in back by painting some blue set to color dodge (now I'm reversing my rule by doing transparent lights, sorry).
Next I added more canvas on the left (you can see duplicated leaves if you look close). I was afraid that the torch flame might hit the edge of the image if I didn't make adjustments now. I started adding opaque fleshtones on the figures, though they're way too saturated at this point. Also the "x" shaped Kermit pupils on the big bug eyes were starting to seem too silly to me, so I changed them.
Flipped again. More transparent darks, more opaque highlights. The lights are really where I get a lot of details and pleasing crisp edges to contrast the underlying softness. The torch is flaming now, the figures look better, and I've reworked the snake head at the bottom. Instead of drawing every leaf and plant, I take a short cut here by making some brushes from photo reference. In a few strokes I have vegetation.
Then I integrated the leaf shortcut by going over every plant by hand to give them a manual edge.
Transparent darks, opaque highlights. By this point it's a never ending hunt for any little detail that doesn't seem quite right. This stage will only end when a deadline arrives. I added a scaly moth texture to the feather/wings. I added berries on the vines on the ground. I added warmer dirt colors to the bare patch of ground. I'm still flipping like mad.
The final little effects are the sunbeam coming in from the top left and some glowy eye action. I have to stop fiddling with the painting here if I'm going to have time to write a tutorial about it. That makes this the climactic ending.
I compulsively zoom in and out and I compulsively duplicate layers and merge down. The standard hot keys for these actions are two fingered spreads that cause a lot of stress on my hands when I do them often. My free hand is on the right side of the keyboard because I draw with my left, so I set my own hot keys so that I'd only need to tap a single finger :
F8 Flip canvas horizontal
F9 Merge Down
F10 Duplicate layer
F11 Zoom out
F12 Zoom in
Thank you and good night
I had planned to include some WIPs from a few earlier activities as bonus material, but I realizes this is already a bit lengthy and I'm out of time. I'll keep an eye on the thread incase there are any questions about something I missed.
Last edited by Chuck Wadey; October 11th, 2006 at 07:27 PM.
Holy smokes! Great tutorial...I love that folks are doing these, and reviewing the entries for 'Hypnotising' I was hoping you had a tutorial up your sleeve. Thanks for doing this! (and to Tyranx and JakkaS on theirs too.) I really have to take the time and go over them all.
deeeeeeeeluxe! Thank you very much for sharing, I was especially interested in the early steps. It's sometimes so hard to establish a picture before one can start going mad about all the details, the insight on this one is amzing.
This is by far my favorite tutorial so far. Your process looks like it brings out nice results, and just as importantly, it looks fun. I think I'll use this approach on my next piece.
Thanks for sharing your methods!
Great Tutorial Chuck! Its completely opposite of my style, but thats ok! It just proves that everyone has their own way of doin things. I'm a layer , but I'll have to experiment with this approach sometime.
Thanks! Here is a drink on me! Swedish quality stuff.
I will never get that flipping part that everyone seems to be doing. Unless the painting is to be seen only through a mirror it still seem weird to me. I like the fact that left is different to right, and that most people read pictures from left to right. And if you all keep flipping them, why do I never see up-side down flips in these tutorials? Don't get me wrong here, I've been painting a long time and I do theoretically see why you do it. I just never noticed the benefits of it myself.