Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I'm pretty much a huge fanboy of pirate movies and quite enjoyed the newest Pirates of the Caribbean (they could make a hundred of those movies and I'd still want more).  I really liked the mermaids so I did a quick mermaid painting.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's Alive! Digital Painting Tutorial

I've been getting a lot of requests lately for a tutorial on my digital painting process so hopefully this post answers your questions.  I use Corel Painter for any actual rendering and Adobe Photoshop for adjusting levels, color balance, etc.  Digital brushes work better on large images so I never go below 3000 pixels in any direction with my originals.  I use an Intuos 4 medium sized Wacom tablet.

1 - The first thing I do is a sketch which I scan and then paint in black and white using Painter.  I find painting just the values extremely liberating.  Getting the fundamental composition and lighting right in value before introducing color helps me keep the image more coherent.  Plus it's just easier on my brain to be thinking of less things at once.
   I have a tendency to paint dark, I captured the levels here in Photoshop (Image>Adjustments>Levels) and you can see how on the dark side they were (left) until I adjusted them, bringing a greater range of contrast to the portrait (right).
1 - paint image in value only.
2 - The big downside to painting in black and white is that it's hard to introduce color to the image without it feeling dead and grayish. I solve this with a tool called Gradient Map in Photoshop. With the B&W image open go to Image>Adjustments>Gradient Map. Click on the gradient to bring up another menu letting you edit it. Pick a color for your high, mid, and low tones, keeping in mind that under most normal lighting circumstances the mid tone will be the most saturated. This helps set an overall tone to the image. I wanted Frankenstein's monster's skin to feel dead so I went with a greenish hue for the mid tone with the dark going cooler and the light going warmer.
2 - add Gradient Map for base colors.
3 - Now I introduce color through a Color or Colorize layer. I have no idea what the actual difference is between these layer types. Colorize only exists in Painter and I usually like the results I get from it more but since Colorize isn't supported in Photoshop (it converts it to Color on import) I have to export a flat image format (I do an uncompressed .tiff) from Painter and bring that into Photoshop. I let the colors get fairly bold at this stage since they seem to have a tendency to lose their saturation during the final rendering.
4 - Here I just paint in the details and add the finishing touches. I mainly use the cover pencil in Painter for painting. It's simple and similar to a digital airbrush but ends up feeling more natural for some reason. I use the digital airbrush too for adding a punch of color where I need it. I keep them all at low opacity to keep them versatile and to maintain the more natural feeling of building the paint up.
3 - paint basic colors into Color or Colorize layer.
4 - paint in details/final rendering.
 5 - In the end, I spend time tweaking the image in Photoshop until I come up with something I'm happy with. For this painting I adjusted the levels again and the color balance (making it more blue).  I sometimes edit the Hue/Saturation, Brightness/Contrast, etc...just play with it until you're happy.
5 - do a final adjustment of image settings.
That's it.  Feel free to ask me questions in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"Hey! Listen! Hey!"

I'm not sure what happened, Blogger seemed weird for a while and deleted this post so I'm posting it again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Should I Be Flattered?

Check out this post on my good friend Sam Nielson's blog for an interesting story concerning the vacant-eyed red-headed kid in this painting of mine.  I'm never sure how to feel about stuff like this.  I've seen images of mine replicated before and I usually don't care and am genuinely flattered, but when it's in an actual commercial product...I don't know.  Sam's image was obviously used a lot more than mine (this "artist" who used our pictures has good taste at least :) so he's got more to be annoyed with, but I still find myself a little ambivalent about it all.  If nothing else, it's a little weird.