Anything Photoshop or Photography


Image I painted of some reeds on a textured backgroundThis week I wanted to go over a couple little painting tricks I have learned in the past few weeks from Aaron Blaise’s brush videos that are pretty darn cool. The image above contains a technique for adding depth to the individual stroke(s) and therefore an image. By locking down the transparent pixels and painting with brushes using different blend modes, you can get a natural looking effect on just part of the stroke. This technique has a bit of the Dodge and Burn Tools feel to it, but I am finding it is much more controllable and realistic looking using this method.

For starters, this image was painted in Photoshop mainly using these free Frostbo Grass Set 2 brushes. On several separate layers, the two brushes created last week are in this image along with Frostbo’s Grass 008 brush for the small colorful grass in front. All I did was make sure that Scattering was turned off in the Brush Engine as I did not want grass strokes everywhere. (See my How to Create a Magical Feel in Photoshop blog.) Next in Corel Painter on a New Layer placed just above the Canvas (know as the  Background layer in Photoshop) an Impasto texture was painted with an Impasto Brush and using the soft orange analogous color that blended nicely with my other colors. (Note: I could have placed any texture above the background layer while still in Photoshop.) Then back into Photoshop to do the final tweaking.

The Painter layers were placed in a group together so they could be found quickly if needed later. The different brush strokes on their own layers can now be locked so just the transparent pixels are locked. This way only the strokes already laid down are affected by the new brush strokes being painted on top. Now any other brush can be set to a different blend mode to place different tones and color effects on the objects.  And this can be done  several times on the same stroke(s) using other colors, brushes, and brush modes. In the case of the large reeds in front, a duplicate layer was created (and the original turned off so if you make a mistake you can copy it again) and locked. A Soft Round Airbrush (150 pixels) was set to Multiply mode in the Options Bar and 71% Layer Opacity. By painting over the reeds in different colors, you can make them slightly darker getting parts of the stroke to recede or blend giving the impression of shadows and blending back into the image. This is such a subtle but very effective technique to really soften areas you do not want so emphasized.

Multiply, Overlay, and Color Dodge Brushes

It took me a while to get the actual workflow down as it varies slightly each time you do it. But here is what I figured out:

1. Always duplicate the layer you are going to work on in case you make a mistake and want to start over – and turn off the eyeball of the original layer you are working on.

2. Near the top in the Layers Panel click on the first icon next to the word Lock – it is called Lock Transparent Pixels.

3. Decide what you want to do – Darken part of the strokes, lighten part of the strokes, or really brighten up an area. The settings will change depending upon what you want to do. Aaron started with selecting one of Photoshop’s soft edges Airbrushes and setting it to around 150 pixels and a brush opacity between 50 and 100%. Turn on the Pressure for Opacity icon (next to the brush opacity field).

— To darken parts of your strokes to make them recede into the image and appear more like a shadow, start with these settings:  Multiply blend mode and select a mid-gray to a darker color for the foreground color. Also use this brush if strokes are too light in your object. Can increase brush opacity to make the effect more obvious.

— To brighten up anything underneath the stroke layer, set the brush to Overlay mode and use a bright color. Can also work by setting to a darker color to darken a little. Try experimenting with the grayish tones for this brush.

— To really brighten up an area, set the brush mode to Color Dodge and use a low brush opacity like 6%, although I am finding I use sometimes as much as 60% for a really sunny look. Select a light color for the foreground color like a white or light color tone. Paint over grass to lighten it up for example. If using on water and want a more reflective look, set the brush opacity to 35%.

The above settings are not static, just a beginning point so adjust to increase or decrease the effects. Note that you do not have to use an Airbrush if you want to add a texture feel to an object. Just switch to a brush you like. You may also want to turn off the Pressure for Opacity icon if not using the Airbrush. Aaron used one of his twig brushes for paint and smudging several times. This can give some very different looks with different colors being used.
Image I created called My Countryside WorldHere is another example using all the techniques above. You should be able to see the Color Dodge Airbrush in the top of the bush and on the edges of the tree, and the Multiply Airbrush in the shadow of the bush and the lower part of the bush. Mainly used Aaron Blaise Foliage Brush Set (his video on this technique is at bottom of link) and Kyle T. Websters Real Watercolor Brushes. I am loving both of these sets of brushes – really surprised at how much I like them. The birds were included as a png vector Crow 003 file from Zememz Crow Brush 003 for PaintShop Pro at DeviantArt. After practicing this technique a few times, I am finding it is helpful to apply the Color Dodge and Multiply brushes on your objects first, then come back and smudge them at a low brush opacity. This really softens the lines and makes them look more natural.

Smudge Brush

So what Smudge Brush did I use on this image. One that came with Kyle’s Watercolor brushes called Kyle’s Real Watercolor Soft Edger 2 set to 20% Strength. This brush was used to paint over the bush to soften the hard lines that looked unnatural. I also used a scattered Smudge Brush on the tree to add a little variation in the branches. On the mountain, Aaron’s twig brush was used to smooth it over a little and add some tone variation. As you can, the Smudge Tool is a pretty handy brush to have around. It seems that not just one will always do the trick. You can use a lot of the Photoshop brushes as Smudge brushes, so experiment and see what you get. To finish up this photo, Topaz ReStyle was applied and it just slightly popped the color. (The settings used were:  Selected Peach Puff – ReStyle section set to Overlay. In Basic Section Tone Black Level 0.34, Midtones -0.19, and White Level 0.16; and Detail Structure -0.58 and Sharpness 0.48.)

I thought this was a good time to present this technique since it is somewhat similar to the one using the Mixer Brush recently. (See How to Create a Color Palette for the Mixer Brush.) I am always looking for ways to get a unique or natural feel to my images. I am still learning how to do this more graphic expression with my art, but it is a lot of fun trying out all the different ways the experts do this. Hope you get a chance to try this – use those Frostbo brushes and try this technique out. I think you will really like it!…..Digital Lady Syd


One response

  1. Pingback: A PAINTED NATURE SCENE IN PHOTOSHOP (WITHOUT THE MIXER) | Digital Lady Syd's Fun Photoshop Blog

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