CREATIVE PHOTOSHOP DIGITAL ART TIPS
I have been working on getting my digital painting skills back up to speed and learning some new tips. Thought I would pass along a couple things I learned while creating these images this week – maybe some will help your workflow.
TIP 1: HAVE A BASIC IDEA OF WHAT TO CREATE. This image above may look simple, but it took forever to get this effect. Part of the problem is that I did not have a good “roadmap” of where the final composition should go so lots of bad choices were made before it was finished (in this case 7 iterations were made). One issue was finding a font that fit the the feel of the image (this one is from Design Cuts Nordica Collection where a slight Outer Glow layer style was added to it for contrast – the bear, which was later painted and redone to be a Polar Bear is included). So Tip One, if possible, is try to get a basic idea or make a sketch of where you want the image to go – it will save lots of time! That said, half the fun can be just experimenting which is what was done here. The eye is from a set called Mystic Sun Moon Logo Templates Kit by Olya Creative – it just looked so different!
TIP 2: MAKE LOTS OF LAYERS. The above contains 56 layers. Many digital painters will paint different elements and objects on different layers so they can be manipulated to get the correct opacity or effect needed to enhance the image. Then they merge them together. I am not that brave – usually I group the layers and close them up when finished, but never merge. Definitely start with many layers before merging.
TIP 3: WATCH FOR COLOR SHIFTS WITH STAMPED LAYERS. This is a problem that has driven me nuts for years. Once the layers are all finished, I find a final composite layer comprised of all layers merged into one is needed so a stroke layer style (set to Size 2-pixel, Position Inside, Opacity 100% and using a medium dark gray color) can be added for uploading to social media – it gives a nice hard edge differentiation for different formats. Often a color shift occurs when the merged or stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) is created. The Snow Tree image above had this problem – not sure why (it appears to happen when using some layer styles on one of the layers in the stack). To remove the color shift, set the stamped or merged layer to the Color blend mode and it will go back pretty much to the original look. Made the Snow Tree image just for fun to learn how to use Kyle’s Winter 2022 set of brushes – he has a good video called Illustration Masterclass New Photoshop Brushes for 2022 where he goes through every brush in the Winter 2022 set and Describes what it does. He also has one called Brush Hour with Kyle T Webster: The Winter 2022 Brush Set where he actually draws a scene using them. Used one of his tree brushes in the top photo left panel. The Font is called Thankful Sans.
TIP 4: TRY OUT NEW BRUSHES AND SAVE THE ONES YOU LIKE. This sounds like a very logical thing to do, but it is very easy to download new brushes and forget all about them. The Winter Wonderland image used just a set I have had for a while and never checked it out. It has lots of fun brushes – all are in a free set of 174 brushes called Lazy Brush Set by Vesner on DeviantArt. It is an older set from 2013, but the brushes work great with CS5 and above. The image used several and three were added to my Creative Brush group (and there are a lot of other brushes in there) for use when doing this type of art work. Check out my blog called Finding a Photoshop Brush in a Big Set for tips on how to find brushes you do not use that often but want to remember. If you do a screen copy or right click and Save As on the download page image of the brushes, it creates a jpg of the different brush strokes similar to the example sheets made in my referenced blog. In this image only the birds from Shadowhouse Creations free Birds Brush Set 4 were not Vesner brushes. To get the birds on the left-hand side to appear in the distance, a layer mask was added to the bird layer and the Gradient Tool set to Linear Gradient was used to diminish their appearance by dragging diagonally top left to bottom right.
TIP 5: HOW TO STOP LAG IN YOUR BRUSHES. It has come to my attention that some brushes just have more adjustments and PS has trouble making them zip along the image as fast as most artists would like.
- First of all, yes it is great to have the ability to add just a little more smoothing to your brushes other than the default 10% PS gives you. This is very helpful if sketching or outlining an object, but it can really slow down the painting process. Turn it off up in the Options Bar if the brush is really slowing down.
- Adjust the Spacing of your brush. For example if the brush size is 100 pixels and the Spacing is set to 100%, a new stamp occurs with each stroke separated by 1 pixel. The PS Default is 5% – lots of overlap of strokes which can cause painting to slow way down when lots of other settings are turned on in the brush so just bump up the Spacing a little to make it paint faster.
- Turn off the Extras like rulers or overlays that may be visible. It can affect painting, transforming and dragging layers onto the canvas. Go to View -> Show -> None to turn off. I never knew this but it was in an Optimize Photoshop Performance article by Adobe (other good info in it also).
- Minimize or turn off the Preview thumbnails in the Layers Panel. Each time you change a file, PS updates all the thumbnails visible in the Layer Panel (and also Channels Panel). This affects painting, moving, or nudging layers. And the more thumbnails visible, the greater the effect. I will check to see if making stamped layers and hiding the merged layers below will make it faster to paint, but it makes sense it would. To minimize or disable previews, go to the hamburger icon in the upper right of the Layers Panel and selection Panel Options – select either small size or None. If switching to the small size thumbnail, it can be handy to switch from Thumbnail Contents Entire Document default to Layer Bounds to be able to see what is in the layer easier.
- Close the Library Panel if it is not being used much by going to the hamburger icon and selecting close. This will make your computer and brushes run faster. Not sure how much this helps as I have not tried it, but it seems like it might.
TIP 6: COPYING SETTINGS FROM ONE BRUSH TO ANOTHER. In the Brush Settings Panel, click the little locks on the right side of the sections in the brush panel to copy those setting to a different brush. Be sure to turn them off in the brush with the new settings or they will get applied to the next brush used. This can be a little tricky but it is an easy way to copy setting over. Very helpful if creating a new brush and wanting to use similar settings from one of your favorite brushes.
TIP 7: WORK WITH JUST A FEW BRUSHES AND REALLY LEARN HOW TO USE THEM. Similar to Tip 4, it is easy to get distracted by a new brush and think it is really so much better than your stand-by brushes just to find out that it really is not as good as it seemed. I am still using a pastel brush created back in 2017 to do a lot of the basic painting – it is a brush that I am very comfortable using and have learned how it works with different settings added. The Polar Bear in the top image was painted using it. (See my How to Create My Favorite Brush Blog.)
I hope these tips will help you a little with your digital painting and art. I am slowly learning more about this from the many wonderful digital artists that use Photoshop for their jobs. It is amazing what the brushes can do! Hope everyone is getting through winter just fine and are Waiting for Spring!…..Digital Lady Syd
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