After the College Preview students "warmed up" with Painter doing self-portraits, I gave them their actual illustration assignment: MYTH, LEGEND, or FABLE.
I usually give classes what I call "archetypal" projects, meaning that the theme will be something that almost anyone can relate to on some level.
I never try to dictate style. I usually have some majors other than illustrators. I begin with a presentation that shows images from many times and cultures, and examples in many media (film, print, fine art, etc.).
Then I assign them to do research, writing, and traditional sketches. I believe the process of creating an illustration is really more important than the execution of the final, as I've stated and shown in previous blog entries.
This is especially true for young artists starting out.
Making an illustration often is somewhat different from making a painting. While paintings can be narrative or symbolic, they don't have to be. They can be almost anything.
But to my way of thinking, an illustration is meant to communicate, and if it doesn't get its point across, it hasn't really succeeded. What that point is can be anything from the ridiculous to the sublime.
I think getting into a subject a bit deeper than just looking at forms and copying them is what can make an image really come to life. So while much time must be spent just learning to draw and paint, it really doesn't come together as an illustration until it tells a story.
A personal viewpoint is also something that I believe most artists aspire to, and that can really come from thinking as well as feeling and reacting. Research helps us to think. It can lead us to new ideas and make our work better.
I did a sample too, really just part of my ongoing series of monsters and strange things I love to make that I've shown here. I chose Medusa, and showed my research and bad initial doodles to the class.
Nothing new to say about my working methods in Painter, they were as noted in earlier posts here. I did do this piece entirely in Painter 11, although my students were still using 10. No real problems to report.
I pointed out to them the narrative details, such as having the snakes all have a bit of personality and doing "gags". The idea for the title, "Medusa's Caduceus
", comes from the twirling design seen in the famous medical symbol.
The plant is of course commonly called a snake plant. And the constellation with stars shooting towards her is Perseus. In Greek myth Perseus killed Medusa, and it is a fact that the Perseid meteor shower comes from this region each year, it's happening right now as I write this.
I had forgotten this until I did my research.
I love putting little things like this into my pictures - many will never notice them, but to my mind it makes them richer.
I made all the students do thumbnails and at least 2 full-sized drawings in pencil before scanning them into the computer. As always, I feel most students tend to start a final before they're ready.
While some students resist doing the extra work and are impatient to get right to the finish, many do come to see the benefits of the preparation. They had about a week of prep time, and approximately 9 hours to do the final images.
They had the option of writing their own myth, legend, or fable if they wanted, and several did.
Below are some of the results:
Rachel Betron - Japanese Islands Creation Myth
Bart Browne - Original fable character
Abigail Garcia - Original Fable characters
Colleen Lindelow - Italian fable
Charlie Malta - Hindu fable
Allyson O'Dell - The Three Fates
Josh Parkinson - Original Legend character
As with the portraits, I find some of these very young artists' solutions amazingly good. All of these were finished in Painter. I hope you enjoy them, and to any of my CP students who may see this, my thanks to you all for a really fun class - it was a pleasure working with you. Keep up the great work!
As I mentioned in my last post, I've just finished teaching an illustration class featuring Painter to students at Columbus College of Art & Design's College Preview Program.
This is an intensive 3-week experience for students who will be high school juniors or seniors in the fall. As I do with my college sophomores, I begin with a self-portrait to get them acquainted with the program.
Most just used the built-in camera and Photo Booth software on our classroom Macs to shoot a reference photo. From there I have them paint directly into the program using the Acrylic brushes and tracing paper if they wish.
Most of these students had never digitally painted before, and none had used Painter as I recall.
I was amazed at just how accomplished many of them were! They had approximately 6 hours to do these in 2 3-hour sessions. I want to share a few of the most successful ones here:
Finally, another of my infrequent posts. I'll never understand how people blog everyday -
I'm just not that disciplined or interesting! Again I've waited until I had the time to post something of a tutorial nature.
I've said many times that one of my favorite features of Painter is the easy-to-use interactive paper texture.
I almost always use texture to some degree, and the program ships with a very large selection of them, including libraries from earlier versions.
This time around I'll show you how easy it is to make your own using the CAPTURE PAPER command.
For this illustration about the current financial crisis I decided I wanted to emulate the old "gesso brush strokes" look that artists have used for years.
Since I wanted the overall feel of the background to be somewhat chaotic, it seemed like the perfect effect I was looking for.
The CAPTURE PAPER command is found on the PAPERS palette.
Here you can also MAKE PAPER, which basically lets you create paper textures
from a few preset geometric patterns.
But to really customize you will need to
use the capture method.
Paper textures are really just images that are “tiled”,
meaning put into repeating grid patterns. Capturing paper lets you take any
image and select all or part of it to become the tiled element.
If you desire a
more organic-looking texture, you can try to make very soft indistinct edges by
using the CROSSFADE command to blur the tiles, but I find the best way to get
an overall effect without showing the tiling is to select as large an image as
I’m fortunate to have a large format scanner, so I make my
textures around 11 x 17 inches. One thing I have learned from trial and error
is that the resolution of your scan should not be too high –
if the file size
you capture is too large it can slow down or even crash the program. “Screen
res” (72 ppi) will often do just fine.
Here I literally used gesso on some cardboard and a flat ½
inch brush to make my strokes. When they dried I put a wash of thin black
acrylic paint over them and sanded this lightly when it dried.
higher contrast to bring out the strokes – you want to have as high a contrast
You may want to enhance it even more when you scan. Later the
contrast can be adjusted in the PAPERS palette to be subtler if you like.
After scanning, I opened the image in Painter and made a
selection of most of it. Then it’s a simple matter of using the CAPTURE PAPER command.
When you save it you can name it, and it will appear at the bottom of the list
in the currently open papers library. You can save it there or move it to
another one or even its own new one if you wish.
That’s it! Now you can use it just like any other paper
Here I first used it as my background by scrubbing it in
with a large brush (SQUARE CHALK) set to GRAINY HARD COVER.
As I went along
using my usual techniques as described earlier in this blog, I kept the grain
visible in some of the foreground elements like the buildings and the monster’s
I had fun with this one and am pleased with the results.
It’s hardly a new idea, depicting greed as a green fat monster, but I wanted to
do my version
(the purple pants are of course an homage to the Hulk).
particularly like putting details into the environment to enhance the “story”,
such as the variation on the frieze above the New York Stock Exchange,
ironically enough is called "Integrity Protecting the Works of Men"!
I call this “Stock Breaker”. I hope some of you enjoy it and
find this information useful.
P.S. – While I post here infrequently, I do check out the
Factory chatter fairly often. I see many are having issues with Painter 11.
should say this piece was partially done in 11, and I’ve done one subsequent
large piece (400 + layers!) entirely in 11. I was a beta tester, and have to
say I’ve had no significant issues with it.
Of course I use the program in a very specific way, and
perhaps do not use many brushes and functions that others do.
illustrations I show here are very high-res files with ridiculous numbers of layers,
so in one sense I “push” the software a lot. If anyone’s interested, I still
use an older Mac G5 dual 2.5 GHz with a Power PC chip and OS 10.4.11.
an ancient Wacom Intuos 6x8 tablet that must be around 9 years old and has been
dropped more often than a cell phone call.
So I’m far from “state of the art” in terms of hardware
(perhaps this is a good thing at this point), but as I said, so far no problems
other than some older common ones –
not to sound like a total Painter Yes Man,
I do wish it was faster, didn’t have some of the issues with the transform
tool, etc., and it can be very glitchy on our Mac network server system at the
We’ll be switching to 11 this fall, and I hope it will do better, we
get a lot of “corrupt RIFF” messages when students try to save to a server
instead of the local drive.
But all-in-all I still prefer it to Photoshop for the very
specific kind of work I like to do, as well as for introducing young artists to
the computer –
I’m currently teaching it to a group of high school juniors and
seniors, and I find they take to it very quickly thanks to it’s “art supply”
I thought I’d post some work from my students this time around. I teach a class called Electronic Illustration Techniques at Columbus College of Art & Design in Ohio. In it we learn some basics of Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Corel Painter. Most of the students are second year Illustration or Fashion majors, although I have students of all majors from time to time.
I begin my introduction to Painter by having students do portraits. First I hand out black and white reference photos that they can practice copying to get a feel for the program and using graphics tablets. I always limit them to “dry” media such as pencils, chalk, charcoal, erasers and blenders for this exercise. They must draw straight into the program, not scanning or tracing the reference I give them.
Next I have them shoot their own photo reference of themselves or others and we do a “paint” media using the Acrylics brushes category. I find that it’s useful to limit the students at first – there’re so many things in Painter that they can get lost or confused and also I don’t want them to use certain special layer brushes such as Watercolor or Liquid ink here. I encourage them to use lighting and composition creatively when shooting their photos.
All along I’m giving handouts and lectures about various features in the program. For these portraits they can scan in their reference if they like and use the Tracing Paper feature for the sketch, but they must paint “from scratch” and not clone or paint on top of the photo. I’m always trying to encourage drawing skills, especially for Illustration majors. All these young artists are also taking traditional painting and drawing classes in addition to this course.
For some this is their first experience using tablets and with digital painting and drawing. I find most adapt to it very quickly. While not all prefer working digitally to “traditionally” many do come to love using these tools. The result is a nice diversity of styles. I’m proud of their work and want to share some of it with you here.
Kristin Anderson - Self Portrait
Katie Brenn - Self Portrait
Nicole Emenpour - Self Portrait
Margaret Hardy - Self Portrait
Jennifer Henry - Ali
Megan Krueger - Self Portrait
Leo Longalong - Self Portrait
Ron Rosa - Henry
Darian Shepherd - "Scary"
Dayna Smith - Self Portrait
Stevie Smith - Self Portrait
Zach Tyler - Self Portrait
It’s been a long time since my last post, but I’ve not had much new to say regarding my use of Painter. Not that I haven’t been using it – I teach it and use it almost every week. I use Painter pretty similarly in most of my pieces so a new one may not have anything different I can show. Also it takes extra effort to prepare images for a demo. As I said in the last entry, what I do here is post information I feel my students and anyone else interested might use.
I’m on winter break from teaching, and I’ve completed several personal pieces since summer, so in this entry I’ll talk about one. Still painting cartoon monsters, I’m afraid. I’d like to discuss the design process a little bit and then point out a technique for using Adobe Illustrator with Painter that I sometimes use when I want graphic precision.
The inspiration for this one came from seeing an amazing cloud pattern while walking my dog one day this last spring. They were perfectly radiating from the center of the horizon in one-point-perspective, long thin wispy cirrus clouds. Having been thinking about drawing these critters, I got the image of a giant happy pet-like creature contentedly sitting astride the world with hair that followed the pattern in the sky.
As always, images like this that spring from the imagination require sketching to get them going. My very first thumbnail was a quick doodle I drew on a Post-It note when I returned. I wanted to get the idea noted before it left me. Later I began the task of bringing the vision I had to life. I wish I was faster at this, but the truth is that I have to do a lot of preliminary work as I’ve shown before. These personal works that have no deadlines take me many hours.
I start by gathering reference, mostly on the Internet these days. I looked for clouds like I saw, and found some that were close but never did see anything quite like them. I also looked at pictures of houses of the classic suburban type. I won’t post any of them here so as not to violate anyone’s copyright, but of course I just use them for loose reference, I’m not copying anything directly in this style of picture. But I do want to point out that even in a very stylized image such as this, research and reference gathering are essential.
Here are just a few of my many variations and refinements. Since my style is very careful and design oriented, I have to make sure all my shapes are pretty well established and defined before I proceed with my final painting.
While digital painting allows easier corrections than ever before, it still can be time consuming and result in an “overworked” look if you make too many changes once you begin painting. Above is a more refined drawing
Here is the final line drawing that I scanned into the computer. This design is symmetrical, since its inspiration was a surprisingly symmetrical sky. As I scribbled along, I arrived at a design that was based on ovals and circles. I usually have what I call a dominant shape character in my personal stylized pictures. It’s a “semi-conscious” decision – I just struggle my way through lots of drawings, and at some point when it feels right I finally see the dominant shapes and then make conscious refinements to get them all working to my satisfaction. Most all the shapes here have a curvilinear feel, even the shingles on the roofs, the grass and bushes, the freckles on the creature. It gives unity to the work. It’s really an “approximate” symmetry, as I carefully balance a few similar size and weight elements that don’t exactly duplicate one another, like shifting the creature’s resting body to the left and differing the houses and trees on each side. You can see I made some final adjustments to these as I went along.
I do want to point out that in my experience often students and beginners at this type of picture making are in too big a hurry to get to the final without doing all the necessary prep work. I always call this “icing a cake you haven’t baked” as I mentioned in an earlier entry. But sometimes I fall victim to this as well. In this case I never really got the hair looking the way I wanted in the drawing phase, but I lied to myself and told myself it was good enough and I was ready to start. After I got into the painting I realized it wasn’t working.
My painting method was as described here before. One thing I did was use Painter’s grid to help me keep things square since this is such a formally balanced design. You can turn it on and off using the toggle switch in the upper right scroll bar. Using the digital airbrush set to grainy edge flat cover I made some straight line strokes to establish the edge of the sky – I had decided to use this “semi-vignette” style of design here rather than the more traditional “four corner” composition – I often do this, I like the added graphic dimension it adds to the pictures, making them their own little self contained worlds and furthering the look of cartoon vs. rendered I’m after.
I painted back to front using many layers (this one ended up with around 200). I usually have a color feel in mind; in this case I wanted it bright, happy and sunny. I knew the monster would be warm to contrast well against the cool blue sky; I had that in my very first “vision” as I was walking the dog. I spent as much time on the small background details as I did the character itself, for me it’s important that all the shapes be integrated - the environment and light are part of the “story”.
As I said, when I began to paint the hair, I saw it wasn’t feeling right. It needed a more formal structure to play off the clouds. At this point I lost many hours trying new variations. Finally I resorted to a method I use when I want very perfect shapes. I drew the hair in Adobe Illustrator. Why use this program instead of Painter’s Shapes tools?
Illustrator is a dedicated vector program and therefore has more methods for creating exact shapes – in this case I drew one stroke of hair and applied a filter to it that created a perfect wave. I then duplicated it and changed its length and arranged it using Illustrator’s grids and guides into a more or less perfect symmetry. If you’re interested in this kind of precise graphic drawing then Illustrator’s a program you might want to learn. But Painter can do many things Illustrator cannot, so I seldom use it alone, preferring to do most of my work in Painter.
Here’s where this technique gets a bit involved. Painter has long allowed you to bring in vector shapes from Illustrator that are still in the shape mode, that is they have strokes and fills and can be controlled in the Shapes menu as opposed to being a regular pixel based layer. As I showed previously, this is how I work, using shapes to become selections for my painting. In order to do this, you have to make sure you save the Illustrator file as an Illustrator 3 version. For some reason Painter has not supported any newer formats in the last 2 or 3 versions, at least not that I can get to consistently work on Macs. I should add that I’m currently beta testing Painter 11 and this still seems to be the case.
Once you have saved the Illustrator file, you can use it in Painter. But here again, you have to do it in a special way to get the result I’m after. If you just go to File>Open, Painter won’t recognize it, it will be grayed out. If you Copy the open Illustrator file and then go to Painter and Paste, it will become a regular pixel layer, which is not what I want. (I’ve read where this technique is supposed to allow you to paste vector shapes, but I can never get it to do so). Instead, you must go to File>Acquire>Adobe Illustrator File in the menu. This will allow you to select the saved file and will open it in its own new Painter document.
You will need to resize the file to the same resolution as your painting (Canvas>Resize), as it will be 72 dpi when it’s acquired. Illustrator is “resolution independent”, so you cannot set a resolution there. The shapes will come in as individual layers in a group. Raising the resolution will not cause “aliasing” or softness in this case because of the vector nature of the shapes. However you must resize the shapes before you do any conversion of them to selections or pixel layers, or bad edges will result. This group can then be dragged and dropped into your painting using the Layer Adjuster.
Once I have the acquired shapes in the right order (they always come in as the top layers when you drag them), I can proceed to paint them as I do selections drawn in Painter with the pen tool. Here I tweaked them a bit, ultimately adding hairs and customizing the ends. This look finally gave me what I was after, having more of the true oval rhythm that runs through the piece. Of course I also made other small adjustments, such as reducing the number of teeth to 3 and adding some birds – I usually make some changes no matter how tight my original drawing is.
Here’s the finished work – I call it Good Hair Day. Hope you have a good one too, and Happy New Year.
Hello again. I’m using this blog primarily as a way to supplement my teaching. So this time I’ll post just a few of my own influences here, and then talk a bit about how I incorporated one into a personal piece. I’ll also mention a couple of Painter related technical things not covered in the previous lengthy tutorial.
Today, the Internet makes researching fast and easy. There are dozens of sites where artists blog about influences as well as their own work. Current students are lucky to have such a wealth of riches at their disposal, although some don’t take enough advantage and do research as often or as well as they should. Successful artists know you have to look beyond the limitations of your own vision and ability.
Of course you also need to guard against just stealing directly – this is a big temptation that the huge number of images instantly available now can make all too easy. Digital artists are especially vulnerable to “sampling” the work of others without proper attribution or really making it their own in a fair and legal way. Students are often confused about what’s right and wrong. Even the law is unclear and ever changing regarding these things. Ultimately I think you have to look to your own conscience.
It is clear why I love monsters and cartoons – I grew up watching them on television and reading monster magazines and comics. They were the pop-culture soup I was born in. Wanting to capture these things in the days before home video led me to drawing and making models. Most kids do this, but a few of us, for better or worse, stick with it.
When I went to art school, I initially felt ashamed of my juvenile interests and pursued more “realistic” imagery. I have no regrets, because the training made me much better technically. But eventually I realized that you have to do what you love as an artist to really grow. So even though I’ve done lots of styles and subjects as a commercial illustrator, as I’ve gotten older I indulge my youthful interests whenever I can.
Just as today, lots of merchandise was sold to go with the television content of my youth, including books, many of them from Western Publishing in Racine, Wisconsin. They held licenses for many cartoon characters and published the Golden Books.
I loved Woody Woodpecker and Huckleberry Hound in particular. The EASY WAY TO DRAW BOOK was a big influence on me as I tried to make my own comic books out of folded up notebook paper.
Aurora Plastics put out a line of model kits based on Universal Pictures monster characters that were appearing on TV in the late 50’s and early 60’s. I loved these kits, and the box art in particular was wonderfully vivid. Imagine my delight when years later I learned that the artist who painted these, James Bama, went to school in New York with my college illustration professor.
When I was in high school, my aunt, an elementary art teacher, gave me an old college book of hers, 40 ILLUSTRATORS AND HOW THEY WORK, published in 1946. In it was the work of Boris Artzybasheff, one of the greatest “anthropormorphizers” of all time. I loved his carefully rendered bizarre characters. In graduate school I got to see many of his beautifully painted gouache originals.
It would be years later in art school that I actually learned many of these artist’s names by asking and reading. As I said, today it’s pretty easy to look these folks up. One book I had for years was this HUCKLEBERRY HOUND GIANT STORY BOOK. A little internet search revealed another surprise - the artists who did this, uncredited in the edition I have, were the same pair that did the EASY WAY book, Frank McSavage and Norm McGary.
As it turns out, these guys, as well as several others who often worked for Western such as Hawley Pratt, also worked in the animation business, so they were naturals at translating the flatter animated cartoon style into more rendered, dimensional versions for these books, especially for the covers. I loved them then, and I love them now!
For this latest monster, I was again trying to make a scene from my own cartoon. This one was a rejected sketch for a commercial job, but I liked the design and decided to have him walking a dog late at night, something I sometimes do. As I was playing around with a background environment to put him in, I remembered a favorite Huckleberry Hound cartoon with a giant monster wiener and mad scientist. This one was depicted in the story book, so I got my old copy out and found this image, probably drawn by McSavage.
I clearly “borrowed” it for my setting. (Also notice the similarity of the lightning to the electricity on the Bama BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN box.) I just sketched it in directly in Painter behind my scanned creature sketch until I had a layout I liked. Is this plagiarism? I like to think of it as a tribute. For one thing, I’m not trying to hide the source. For another, I did it for fun, not profit. I just wanted to make my own little story set in a world I fondly remember from my childhood.
Obviously my drawing style is derived from all these great cartoonists of the past. Hundreds of artists working today can say the same – other bloggers around my age mention the EASY WAY TO DRAW BOOK as an influence. All of us should have influences and heroes, but hopefully we’ll be able to add our own touches as we learn and grow.
I was also influenced by the painting style of the rendered Western covers. I still worked basically the same way as I always do, but specifically in the sky, I went for a more stroke- oriented approach and tried to get a slightly more “painterly” look instead of the airbrushed, uniform one on the previous piece. I find Painter did a pretty good job of getting this look, a kind of direct gouache style that uses dry-brush and textures to give richness to the cartoon form.
After I had my sketch, I began as always by working back to front, that is putting in the environment first. One different brush category I used here was the Digital Watercolor. This is another of my favorite Painter brushes – I like it better than the “regular” Watercolor brush because it’s faster. I also like the fact that it stays “wet” until you dry it, and the diffusion effect option that makes soft organic edges on strokes.
I have my own custom Variant that I made by “capturing” a brush tip. This is an easy way to make a shaped dab – one thing I don’t like about a lot of the Digital Watercolor Variants are their overly mechanical round tips. So I just drew a more organic shape and used the CAPTURE DAB command from the menu on the Brush Selector bar. The variant I started with was Diffuse Water. Using the SAVE VARIANT command from the same palette, I renamed my new one DIFFUSE WATER CAPTURED. The result is a more random, textured looking stroke.
I used this in the sky, as well as some of the Acrylic variants for linear strokes.
I continued along painting the various elements on their own layers, such as the castle and tree.
At one point, I tried making a custom “leaf brush” using the capture method, but I found the results too repetitive for the look I was after here – sometimes you have to edit yourself. Remember, often “it’s not what it does, it’s what it UNDOES”.
I used lots of different textures as I created the various objects, always trying to get that “fresh” look that the Western covers had – if something started to look over worked, I just deleted it and took another shot at it. Here’s a detail from another Golden Book cover, LIPPY THE LION by Pratt and McGary. Pratt probably drew this and McGary painted it. You can see the use of dry-brush texture.
One thing I did differently from their style was try to put more light and shadow into my piece – this is my favorite thing to do as an artist, along with creating mood through color. I wanted this to be very dark and atmospheric, so I went with a much cooler color scheme than in the telephone-pole piece.
Here the work is nearing completion, but as you can see it’s still lighter and lacking cast shadows. I love the way Artzybasheff rendered forms with a great sense of volume, and I tried to do that here. As I mentioned before, I use GEL layers to build up transparent values in a kind of glazing technique to bring the work to its final form.
The finished piece - I call it MIDNIGHT CONSTITUTIONAL.
I hope someone finds these tips useful, and I’ll post again when I think I have something worthwhile to share.
Moving forward to the monster, I continue the same basic methods, drawing shapes such as the eye, nostrils, mouth and teeth with the pen tool and rendering them in with the “grainy” airbrush. I turned off the grain for the teeth to keep them smooth looking. I used the Oval Selection tool for the eye and nostril masks.
One final technique variation I used here is Gel layer overlays to build up value on the monster. I just put flat color on a new layer set to the Gel composite method above the monster’s body layer. This will be transparent, and I can also increase or decrease the layer’s transparency to further control the value effect using the transparency slider on the Layers palette.
In this detail you can see how I put highlights back on top of the Gel layer on another regular opaque layer. These give a sense of form and reflected color and light.
I added the claws on still another layer above the monster’s body. I put final details on the telephone pole, hydrant, and water. For the straight lines of the wires I just set the brush to the straight line strokes option (button on Property bar or lower case v on the keyboard). I make final adjustments of color and value throughout the piece until I’m satisfied.
To sum up, I think one should remember that the real key to an illustration such as this is working on the drawing, style, and composition BEFORE you start to render it in on the computer, no matter what techniques you finally use. I often point out to my students that a common mistake beginners make is to rush to the finish too fast without doing preliminary planning. I call this “icing a cake before it’s baked”. A stylized image requires a different approach than a more expressive or reference-based picture.
I hope someone will find this information useful. I’ll try to post a new image and some pointers (although not such a long tutorial-whew!) monthly or so.
As I said earlier, one thing I like about Painter is how it can draw and import vector shapes. Not only do I use these to make my “friskets” or masks, but also to create clean graphic shapes.
An example in this illustration is the smoke coming out of the monster’s nostrils and behind him. I want these shapes to have a smooth, decorative curling, a look difficult to achieve and control with a regular brush. But once you’ve mastered the Pen tool, you can easily control and edit curves.
To start, I’ve set the tool to draw black strokes with no fills in the Set Shape Attributes menu.
Then I trace my sketch with the Pen tool as before, but in this case I leave the shapes with a stroke instead of converting them to selections.
However, I wish to soften these shapes as they are supposed to represent smoke. To do this I’ll need to convert them to one of Painter’s regular pixel layers rather than the vector Shape layer (indicated on the Layers palette by a circle and triangle rather than a stack of 3 rectangles). To do this you can click the icon on the Property Bar while in the Pen Tool or use the Convert To Layer command in the menu when the shape is selected.
Once I have done this I duplicate the shapes by clicking on them with the Layer Adjuster arrow while holding the Option Key (or going to Layer>Duplicate Layer in the menu). Now I have two of each smoke shape one on top of the other. I select the lower one and apply an Effect from the menu – in this case I use Focus>Soften to blur the shape.
The result is a soft haze around each smooth line.
I eventually color the lines and haze, and soften some of the lines above the blurred ones with the Photo Brush set to Blur and Diffuse Blur. This way I can just blur the parts of the top lines I want to rather than the entire line.
In the next part of this tutorial I’ll finish up the monster and foreground and make a few final points.
Once I have all the basic layers created, I start shading them in. Understanding shading and form are also things one must practice. This is my favorite part of image making. I usually imagine a light source, but I never get too obsessed with this – I have learned that the most important thing is to make a picture FEEL correct, especially a fantasy-oriented one like this. Edges need to stand out in the foreground and on important shapes, and can recede to create distance.
Here the obvious strong light source depicted by the fire has to be respected to a large degree, but you can still take liberties to make the overall mood and color harmony work for the good of the design and composition. It’s seldom a good idea to “zone isolate” colors to one part of a picture – they need to move throughout to create balance and unity, and to move the eye.
For instance, I use a lavender-blue color on the buildings in the distance, partly for design effect (I just like bright cartoony color!) and partly because city buildings are often cool colors, and cool colors tend to recede. Yet I also want to make sure they contrast well with the very warm flames behind them. I make sure to carry an accent of that blue into the pictorial foreground in the water squirting from the fire hydrant.
As I start to add details to layers such as the buildings, I make “sub-selections” again using the pen tool as detailed in Part 1. Many of these I DO save to channels so I can turn them on and off. I could continue to make layers, but the more layers you make, the more memory it requires, and the program can start to slow down. You can load selections and invert them for “positive and negative” masks, and combine them with other ones for various new masks.
As to the brushes I’ve used, I tend to keep things simple – I don’t use a large number of different brush categories in a single illustration – again, I think this can lead to disharmony and call too much attention to the method itself, rather than the subject at hand. I love texture, and as I’ve stated earlier, I think the way Painter uses the pressure sensitive paper textures is one of its very best features.
Much of this picture was painted with the basic Digital Airbrush, but I make one important modification – I make it paper texture-sensitive by changing its Method Subcategory from Soft Cover to Grainy Hard Cover in the Brush Controls>General palette. Now I can bring out the grain of the basic paper texture, which I’ve used here at 150% scale. I also used the Variable Splatter Airbrush variant for some larger “speckles” in the flames.
I continue working back to front, occasionally changing things as the picture develops (notice how I rethought the most distant buildings, simplifying them to make the hand stand out better). Next, I’ll show a couple of simple “tricks” I used to make the smoke coming out of the monster’s nostrils.
So here we go. I do hope someone finds this useful. All I ask is that you please don’t copy this tutorial verbatim and reproduce it elsewhere. I’m happy to share for free, but I wish to keep my copyright. I’ve also published a similar tutorial of a simpler image in Corel Painter Magazine, issue 8, called “An Introduction to Airbrushing” for those who might be interested.
I start by taking my scanned line drawing and copying it to its own new layer, which I make a GEL composite method layer.
This makes it transparent, and I can turn it on and off as a guide as my image develops. I also leave the original red scan as the Canvas layer.
I do a lot of work in this style using the Pen Tool. Drawing vector-based shapes takes practice, but there’s no better way to digitally create precise paths than this. Painter’s Pen Tool works pretty much the same way Illustrator’s and Photoshop’s does, placing straight-line points and allowing you to pull “handles” that control the curves.
What I’m really doing is the equivalent of “frisket” cutting for traditional airbrushing. I design these illustrations to be broken into a series of major shapes that will each be on its own layer.
Here you see the completed “Shape” path (look carefully - you can give these strokes and fills, but mine is just a path indicated in light blue with red points drawn to define the edges of the back-most flame shape). You can of course re-arrange layers easily, but I try to work logically “back-to-front” as I go.
Here I’ve converted the shape path to a selection. You can do this with a button on the Property Bar while the Pen Tool is selected , or from the Shapes Menu anytime the shape is selected. Selections are masks that control where digital “paint” or effects can go. The active selection is a moving dashed line sometimes called “marching ants”.
Now I fill the active selection with a flat color. You can use the Paint Bucket tool or go to Effects>Fill on the menu bar. At this point you can save the selection to the Channels palette, which I sometimes do, but often I don’t bother if the selection is ultimately going to be it’s own layer. This is because you can control where pixels go on a layer by using Preserve Transparency on the Layers Palette.
Here you see the filled shape layer and the Gel layer with the line drawing turned on. As I cover the Canvas layer, I can still see where I am by turning this on anytime I want. This will not be a part of the finished image.
Here I repeat the process for the next major area of flames. I don’t worry about the edges in common with the first shape, because I can load the selection to intersect with the transparency from the first shape’s layer. This gives a perfectly aligned edge when I fill it (as the second shot shows). I also don’t worry about edges that I know will be covered up by succeeding layers.
Here I’ve added a third shape layer over the last two.
I continue along using this method to establish the major elements of the illustration on layers. This is also a good way to begin creating your color scheme. Here is the progress with and without the Gel layer on. At this stage I already have 8 or 9 layers. Once I have this basic image, I’ll begin to add the details. We’ll talk about this in the next installment.
I knew when I started that I’d have trouble finding the time to keep this up properly. The only really good blogs are regular ones. Still, I don’t think there’s much point to posting just for the sake of it. The only reason someone might want to read this is for some useful information. I’m on spring break from my teaching this week and no pending freelance deadlines, so I swore to myself I’d get something posted here in between doing my taxes and painting my bathroom!
I’d like to start by answering a question I’m frequently asked: Why do I use Painter instead of Photoshop for my illustration work?
The answers are:
A. – Painter is the first program I learned to use on a computer, so I have a long familiarity with it.
B. – I like the interface that comes from traditional artist’s materials rather than photography (as I do!).
C. – I prefer the brush customization interface, and the pressure-sensitive paper texture feature.
D. - I often like to use Painter’s vector Shapes feature or import vector art from Adobe Illustrator. I prefer the way Painter handles this to Photoshop.
I know that much of what you can do in Painter you can do in Photoshop, so to each their own, but for me it’s Painter.
I’m a “jack of all trades” kind of illustrator, but my favorite things to do are cartoony humorous illustrations. Like many a little boy, I loved drawing monsters and rocket ships and the like. Like many an illustrator, I’ve never quite grown up. So I still love these things.
Here is a piece that’s actually posted elsewhere on this site in the ADAPT Expo gallery. I did it for a proposed show a friend of mine was trying to get off the ground. Since it was not a “real” job, I took the time to document the creation for possible teaching use.
I’ll share it with you here over the next few days.
The way I’ve made this piece is basically my favorite way of working in Painter. It’s not for everybody, because it’s rather indirect, labor intensive, and creates large files.
The style is what I’ve come to call “rendered cartoon”. I’m not really a great natural draughtsman, really more a designer. I need to carefully shape and plan things. If I have any gift it might be for color and lighting. So I love to take the stylized world of the cartoon and shade it into a sense of rounded form. I’m highly influenced by animated cartoons and often imagine I’m creating my own little self-contained scene from one when I’m making a picture such as this.
All my work starts with traditional drawing – lots of struggle with thumbnail sketches to find what I’m after – I like to paraphrase the writer Dorothy Parker by saying “I don’t like drawing, I like having drawn”. I work hard to get all the things I want right in the line drawing stage. I just use lots of sketching and tracing paper and go through lots of revisions, finally making a careful drawing in hard red pencil on vellum paper. I use this kind of pencil because I like the way it feels better than graphite. None of this has much to do with being “digital”, although I do use the computer at this stage to find reference, and to re-size and distort parts of drawings on occasion. I scan the finished drawing into the computer.
Once I have this, the real fun for me begins, because while I mostly “think” my way to this point, I “feel” my way through the color and light. And even though my approach is pretty technical, I still find it intuitive. I really enjoy making the image “come to life” with color and texture. This is what I love about Painter.
Next I’ll start the step by step of how I do this style. Hopefully I’ll get these up in a regular fashion.
I've both used and taught Painter for many years. As someone who spent the first years of his professional career using traditional media such as acrylics, watercolor, and airbrush, Painter was the first computer program I learned, even before a word processor. It immediately appealed to me with its natural media emulation, and clearly I was its target audience. It became the reason I bothered to learn how to use a computer.
I've taught it to hundreds of students over the years, although I don't so much "teach" it as introduce it. I work with art students who in many cases are looking to transfer their traditional skills to the computer. Of course these days many have grown up with digital media, but I still find students who dislike the computer because they feel it imposes it's own mechanical look on artwork.
In my opinion Painter remains the 2D graphics program that best overcomes this perceived limitation. In one session many folks who are accustomed to drawing with pencil or pen find they can begin to get their "look" quickly and without the sense of distance that one sometimes feels when working in say a vector graphics program.
I use a couple of other programs in my professional work, but Painter remains my favorite. Here is a pair of images I did to promote Saturday art classes for elementary and high school students at our college. The first one was painted traditionally with acrylics, while its sequel was done several years later primarily in Painter. As I like to point out to my students, the computer doesn't change who you are as an artist - it doesn't think for you, make design decisions, or necessarily dictate your sense of color or drawing style.
Here's a test post to see if this all works and to play with the look. I'm new to this (blogging), but a long-time Painter user, since 1994. It's the "art" program I use most often. I'll try to update this once a month at least, probably won't have time to do much more, but we'll see.