a few notes about my methods

I was asked by one individual about what techniques I was using to create my portrait paintings from photos, and here are a few of the things I do to get interesting results.  Hopefully, they will be of some use to some of you who are interested.  The challenge most of us who attempt to make an oil or watercolor from a photo faces is avoiding having the result look too much like an actual photo.  The trace paper makes it very easy to clone exactly the original picture, but what we want is a sketch or painting.

With this in mind, here are a few things I do (and I am always learning more, this is merely a few ideas that seem to work).  It's all about choices, and there are a wondrous slew of choices available in Essentials.

The first choice is the photo itself.  What is the quality of the photo?  If it is slightly blurry, should I sharpen the details before attempting to trace?  And when I trace, what kind of media will I be using (pencil, waxy crayon?)

This is also the point where I decide whether I want to make a stark sketch, a watercolor, or an oil.  Once I have settled that in my mind, I like to make sure that my canvas is sized properly to the proportions I want it.  Also, I personally always make sure to uncheck the "constrain proportions" box and set the dpi to 300 per inch.  This will make the resulting graphics be high quality.  Also, I save my working file as a .tif

(.riff is good if you are working in layers with photoshop, but I don't bother with it most of the time)

I firstly use the tracepaper to sketch the outline of my artwork.  When I start to paint, I will work in clone mode most of the time until I reach points of the photo which I do not want to include.  These will be done by sampling colors already used or mixing my own using either the artists oils or watercolors with the clone mode off.

Also something to pay attention to is the background you are painting on.  Especially in watercolor, the plain paper used in one area of the painting can be changed so that you are using handmade in another area and watercolor paper in another.  These are great tools for creating texture and contrast using the clone simple watercolor paint.

I like to zoom in between 120 and 170 percent and work from one area to the next when I start painting.  With watercolor, pressure of your stylus on the pad can makes all kinds of interesting things happen.  Below is my hummingbirds watercolor.  You can see the birds have detail.  This happened because of several factors:  I used the watercolor paper background, made my brush to be quite small (5-10 pixels), and applied a bit of pressure in my strokes.  If I didn't want those details, what would I do to prevent them?  Answer:  I would go back over and blend them using a very light pressure with my stylus.

Also, adjusting the grain and transparency makes a big difference in making a work look like it's not a straight clone of the original photo.  High grain gives you more stroke detail, especially if combined with lower transparency levels.  The lower transparency also helps you when it comes to shading and blending, when you want to control the amount of pigmentation being applied to your "canvas".  Higher opacity combined with high grain is great with oils and palette knives, when you want the oils to really look smeared and heavy.

My other note would be to use the smallest brushes you can to start with and begin with detailed parts of your work.  Then build to larger sizes for blending and smoothing larger areas.  I like to go over the detailed areas with a smaller brush again (especially hair and eyes) to make sure the movement is to my liking.

Most results of your work is going to depend on your stroke and pressure applied, when working with the idea of making a watercolor or oil painting in mind.  The fact remains, that there are a ton of ways to mix the media up and get all kinds of great things out of it.  Just love this software!  It is genius, really.