DIGITALLY PAINTED OR RETOUCHED?
Hi everybody! I know it has been a while since I blogged, but I really have been busy with Photoshop! Major project going through all brushes! So many to choose from and big decisions on which to use. Of course this is a whole other blog on how to sort through this. The portrait image above, by Christopher Campbell at Unsplash, is one that worked nicely with the brushes for the painting effect required in this blog.
Adobe Creative Cloud has Photoshop Daily Creative Challenge videos that are released for Photoshop every few weeks. A couple months ago Sam Peterson, an illustrator and painter, ran two weeks of some really fabulous PS videos. One was called Brushes where he gives you a starter file and walks you through how to create a similar effect as shown above. The image used PS’s Camera Raw, Angled Strokes and Oil Paint filters to begin the painterly process as Sam demonstrates. He also showed how to create a background to match the image to be painted. This photo used a brush called Clay for the background that was in Kyle T. Webster’s India Set he sold for charity (unfortunately no longer available). It is basically a chunky block brush. For a very similar brush, check out the Brix Brush in Kyle’s Summer 2020 brush set or for the brushe, Disastro or Disastro Spatter in his Summer 2021 Brushes, which uses both the foreground and background colors (press harder or lighter to get variations and a cool texture effect). Lots of different brushes were tried before finding a background brush I liked – but then this is half the fun! For info on how to download and load Kyle’s free PS sets, see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog – scroll down to the How To Find His Brushes and Loading the Brushes sections.
The Mixer Blender
Sam gave guidance on what brush settings to use, but it is up to you to find a brush on which to apply these settings. This process is using a Mixer brush to blend, not a Smudge brush which a lot of people call a blender brush. Mixer brushes are a more advanced version of the Smudge. It does not appear Kyle uses Mixer brushes very often for blending as there are only a few in his sets (there are several Mixers in his Megapack Real Oils section will work nicely). For something like digital painting, I would recommend using Mixer Blenders for this exact and complicated blending. The main thing to remember is that the Wet and Load amounts, which Sam sets at 15% to start, can be adjusted “on the fly” to get a more or less painterly effect from the brush. He did not change his Mix and Flow which were both at 50%. Still okay to change if it helps. Also, if a color is needed to be added in, like for a cheek or lips, there are several ways to do this. I find the easiest is to select a regular brush and splash a bit of color in for blending with the Mixer. In another blog I will discuss some of these Mixer points.
One of my favorite Mixer (blender) brushes, and one I used extensively on this image, is by David Belliveau (free download of 4 brushes at the link and also check out his amazing drawing tutorials – link to my blog on David’s technique is listed below). The settings Sam suggested worked fine with this brush (set to 195 pixels). When set to 15 pixels, used David’s settings to do the detail work on the image, like the eyes, lips, and some hair – mainly where the focal point is, after the original blending was done. The larger brush was used to soften down all the other edges other than the eyes and hair by the right eye which were left sharpened as discussed below. As a reminder, once the settings have been added into the Brush Settings panel for the Mixer, save it down as a new brush. Otherwise all the settings will be lost if you go to a different brush and want to come back to this Mixer.
Once a brush is chosen, it was time to paint with the Mixer – Sam seemed to only paint on one layer, but I found it much better to split it up for the different areas being painted. For the right image below, here is a list of some of the layers created – started with a basic once over on the face smoothing the edges like in Sam’s tutorial, then evening out the lighting effect on the next layer, added color to her cheeks, eyelash layer, pupils layer, iris layer, catchlight layer, fixed the shirt on another layer – just duplicated part of it and blended it together, some hair strands added on another, and lips painted. As you can see, it is a bit labor intensive, but the results are worth it. By putting everything on separate layers, corrections can be made really easily. Below on the left is the original image and on the right is the one that looks like a pretty decent retouch – so what makes it look more painterly?
Getting the Final Painterly Look
Mainly adding a texture is a key to getting the more painterly effect needed to sell the look. Sam has a texture in the PSD file he provides and several other brushing suggestions are given to get this look. Also using Color Lookup Adjustment Layers, and possibly Gradient Map Adjustment Layers, using different blend modes and opacities gives some nice painterly effects. And do not be afraid to stack several of the same kind of adjustments using different blend modes and opacities. Just remember that usually a Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer must be added on top to bring back some contrast. So this is what was done on this image to finish up the “look:”
- Liquify was applied to enlarge her eyes just little and give her mouth a bit of an upturn (this filter is so cool!).
- A stamped layer was created and a Sharpen action was run on the image – a black layer mask was applied and just her eyes, her hair strand on the right and a small section of her ear lob were sharpened.
- A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer set to 80% opacity was run using On1-Heat Wave LUT – one that adds warmth into the image – any warm one you will probably get this effect. This really filled her face with a beautiful light effect.
- Another Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added and set to 12% layer opacity called Teal Orange Plus Contrast preset (not sure where I got this). It darkened down the blues in her shirt.
- Added a Levels Adjustment Layer to flatten down the blacks a little since paintings do not have true blacks in them usually.
- Added French Kiss Tableaux Mirage-2 Texture – used a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer clipped to the texture with Saturation set to -100 so only the strokes from her texture show up. The texture was set to Overlay blend mode at 46% layer opacity. (See link to my blog on how to do this below.) These layers were grouped and set to 62% Group opacity – then the Group’s layer style was opened and the Blend If Slider was set to This Layer Black tab split to 0/86 and Underlying Layer White tab split to 121/255 so the strokes showed up just like I wanted them.
- Next on a New Layer below the Group file, a brush was created from the texture and used to cover the whole image to give it more of a painterly look – the layer was set to a reddish brown brush color, Color Burn blend mode and 93% opacity. It adds some nice soft canvas looking lines in the image, especially on the face. (See link to my blog on how to do this below.)
- A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the Group above and the Saturation was increased (+44) and Lightness lowered (-38) to darken down and add more color to the image.
- Last step was a final Levels Adjustment Layer – Black tab to 16 and Output Levels black set to 5.
Hopefully you can get an idea what really goes into these digital paintings. And I am still not sure it is really a “Painting” since the original image was used, but it definitely looks more painterly than just a good retouching effect. I still look at it and see places where it could be improved, but it is a learning process. Definitely it took me several hours just to figure out the Mixer blending to get the effects needed. Enjoyed being back and plan on doing this a lot more. ……Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter – David Belliveau tutorial information
How to Add Texture to an Image without Adding Its Color (You Tube video link in blog)