Digital Painting – Tools & Basics

Yellow Tulips
Yellow Tulips

Well, I’ve made some improvement over the last few weeks.  Getting comfortable with your tablet (or mouse if you choose) is the secret to painting.  The painting above was finished over 3-4 days, using Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.  The first thing is decide what you want to paint.  I like painting from photos or using clip art as inspiration.  Whatever you choose, you need your basic sketch first.  The easiest way is to place your photo into Illustrator and paint an outline of it with the calligraphy brushes in your bush panel.  For a great tutorial on that, check out this YouTube video on Wacom tablet basics.

Once you have your outline done, bring your graphic in to Photoshop as a “smart object” and lock the layer.  Because you created it in Illustrator, this is a vector object and you can change the size without loss of clarity.  Now you can paint using colors from your photo or just use your imagination.  Here are the basic steps I used to complete my tulips.

1.  Select your area with your magic wand and expand by 1 pixel.  Be sure you are painting on a new layer and choose a nice base color for your layer.  Keeping your area selected will help you make sure you stay “inside the lines”, just like coloring when you were a kid.

Base color
Base color

2.  I create a new layer for each step – highlights, shadows or any accent colors.  Choose your brush and color for each layer and paint in those details.

Shadows and highlights
Shadows and highlights

3.  I like to finish up adding highlights and shadows by either using lighter and darker colors, or my burn and dodge tools.  You’ll need to experiment with this as some colors don’t give you the results you want.

Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment.  Try using a filter on one of your color layers to see how it will effect your project  Maybe you need to lower the opacity to make it work just right.  There is no right or wrong way.  It’s all about you and what you like.


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