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Digital Painting: Architecture
Illustration by John Hersey

Adjusting your importance hierarchy


From:

Digital Painting: Architecture

with John Derry

Video: Adjusting your importance hierarchy

I've been using the analogy of actors on a stage to represent the distinction between a painting's subject and background. Now is a good time to again utilize this analogy. Assuming you are creating some sort of storytelling element to a painting, you should examine your importance hierarchy. The actors in your scene should be the beneficiaries of detail, saturation, contrast, composition, all of the techniques we've discussed, in order to focus the viewer's attention on them. Everything else is secondary.
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  1. 26m 4s
    1. Introduction
      1m 3s
    2. Using the exercise files
      32s
    3. Installing custom content
      2m 46s
    4. Setting up Wacom express keys
      13m 32s
    5. Setting Wacom touch ring preferences
      2m 14s
    6. Setting Wacom stylus preferences
      3m 24s
    7. Division of labor: Image prep and painting
      2m 33s
  2. 19m 9s
    1. Visual vocabularies
      3m 49s
    2. The vocabulary of photography
      7m 38s
    3. The vocabulary of painting
      4m 59s
    4. Looking at reality through a mental painting filter
      2m 43s
  3. 38m 57s
    1. Removing lens distortion with the Adaptive Wide Angle filter
      6m 47s
    2. Removing distractions
      8m 7s
    3. Don't be a slave to the original photograph
      10m 51s
    4. Correcting image adjustments
      2m 58s
    5. Telling a story with added image elements
      10m 14s
  4. 25m 2s
    1. The eye has a better sensor than a camera
      3m 2s
    2. Adding natural shadows with Field Blur
      8m 47s
    3. Using the Shadow/Highlight adjustment filter
      7m 48s
    4. Using the HDR Toning filter
      5m 25s
  5. 39m 56s
    1. Resolution is in the brushstrokes
      3m 26s
    2. Using the Surface Blur filter
      6m 17s
    3. Using the Displacement filter to add imperfections
      6m 22s
    4. Using the Oil Paint filter
      11m 51s
    5. Making tonal and color corrections
      12m 0s
  6. 22m 40s
    1. Nondestructive layer painting (NDLP): Your creative safety net
      5m 54s
    2. Setting up the Mixer Brush cloning action
      7m 29s
    3. Using cloning layers
      2m 58s
    4. Working with adjustment layers
      6m 19s
  7. 20m 7s
    1. Using tool presets and not brushes
      3m 41s
    2. Categorizing and organizing brushes
      6m 14s
    3. Adding canvas texture
      4m 51s
    4. Using Sample All Layers
      5m 21s
  8. 14m 48s
    1. You must destroy detail
      2m 9s
    2. Establishing compositional structure
      3m 46s
    3. Determining a style and sticking to it
      7m 30s
    4. Painting in progress: Finishing the underpainting layer
      1m 23s
  9. 26m 40s
    1. Understanding simplified indication
      9m 9s
    2. Understanding color: Warm advances, cool retreats
      4m 9s
    3. Painting in progress: Introducing texture to the intermediate layer
      13m 22s
  10. 40m 19s
    1. The play's the thing
      5m 18s
    2. Focusing on the subject through detail
      4m 40s
    3. Using a traditional paint color swatch set
      4m 37s
    4. Painting in progress: Completing the detail layer
      16m 25s
    5. Adding surface texture effects
      9m 19s
  11. 12m 47s
    1. It pays to wait a day
      1m 55s
    2. Adjusting your importance hierarchy
      4m 49s
    3. You'll never paint the same thing twice
      2m 7s
    4. Helpful resources and inspiration
      3m 56s

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Digital Painting: Architecture
4h 46m Intermediate Jan 03, 2013

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Learn to think like a painter and render images that look like they were created with oils or acrylics, using the latest digital artist's tools. Author and artist John Derry introduces the process of interpreting a photograph into a painted work of art. He begins by explaining his system of visual vocabularies, which describe how to replace the visual characteristics of a photograph with that of expressive painting, and also shares the custom brush sets and actions he uses to achieve these results in Adobe Photoshop. The course also covers working with filters, layers, effects, and more to add further detail and texture.

Topics include:
  • Setting up a Wacom tablet
  • Removing lens distortions
  • Correcting distracting image elements
  • Making shadow and highlight adjustments
  • Simplifying details with filters and Smart Blur
  • Modifying color
  • Cloning layers
  • Using a traditional paint color swatch set
  • Using custom actions
  • Working with canvas texture
  • Creating physical surface texture effects
  • Painting with custom brushes
Subjects:
Design Design Techniques Digital Painting
Software:
Photoshop Wacom
Author:
John Derry

Adjusting your importance hierarchy

I've been using the analogy of actors on a stage to represent the distinction between a painting's subject and background. Now is a good time to again utilize this analogy. Assuming you are creating some sort of storytelling element to a painting, you should examine your importance hierarchy. The actors in your scene should be the beneficiaries of detail, saturation, contrast, composition, all of the techniques we've discussed, in order to focus the viewer's attention on them. Everything else is secondary.

When I refer to an importance hierarchy, my hierarchy goes: actors, then secondly any storytelling elements, and then finally your background. So you want to use that hierarchy to examine your image and determine, Is my hierarchy correct? Is there anything I can fix to improve it? The image we have here, we've really worked quite a bit in the preparation stage, so that it's largely set. So, I don't even know if I would necessarily do what I'm going to show you here. But I want to show it to you, just so you can see how you can, with just some simple lighting, add a degree of importance to areas of the image.

For this one we're going to kind of focus here on the tricycle and the ball. I want to somehow just lend a little more importance to this. And to do this, we need to create a new layer. So I'm going to go over to my Layers palette, and right down here at the bottom is the new layer icon. If you hold down your Option or Alt key when you click this, it brings up the New Layer dialog. And what I want to do is for my mode, I'm going to say Overlay. And we're also going to select this and check this option to fill it with neutral gray.

So when we do that, nothing seems to have changed, but the thing about these modes, from overlay down to here, is they treat 50% gray as transparent. And anything you paint onto it, if it's darker than 50% grey, it's going to add density to the image. If you paint towards white, it's going to lighten the image. So, it's a way to dodge and burn non-destructively, essentially, is what we're doing. I'm going to start with overlay, but I may switch to soft light in the end, and the reason I'm doing that is it's a little more easy to see what you're doing in overlay mode, but soft light is kind of that 50% rule that I was talking about.

And I'm using now just the normal airbrush, and I'm going to set my colors to black and white. Let's do black, and I've got my brush set really large here. I've turned it down to twenty percent or lower will work for this. And what I want to do is just add a little more emphasis into the center of the image. So I'm essentially going to vignette it, and I'm doing it very lightly. In fact, like I said, we'll probably even tone this down by the time we're done with it. But I just want to add a little bit of emphasis into the center of the image, and because we seek out highlight and shadow and detail, just adding that little bit, I'll turn it on and off.

See how that makes a difference? Now it's still a little over- emphasized, and we'll reduce that. But let's do the opposite now. I can just click on my X key here, to swap between my foreground and background colors. So now I've got white. I'm going in here and I am just going to add just a little bit of highlight in there. Let's again, turn this on and off so you can see the difference. See how that is now a brighter area in the image? The other think I would do, to kind of de-emphasize this, but keep it there, but make it so subtle, you almost don't notice it, is I like to go in and soften this up.

So, I'm going to the Filter menu. I will go down here to blur, and we want Gaussian blur. I want to crank this up quite a bit, and you can see it a little bit, it's pretty subtle what happens, but I know by cranking this up 100 or more pixels, it just softens the image. Now let's turn it on and off. Still there, and still a little bit obvious, so the last thing I generally do is I'll switch this to soft light. Now, lets try turning it on and off. Now, it's even more subtle.

And, the final thing you can do is, you can play with opacity here. Let's take it down about 50%, turn it on and off. Now it's even more subtle, and yet it's there. It is adding some light to our subjects and we are adding a little bit of darkness around the edges of the image, which helps lead the viewer's eye into the central part of the image. And that's basically the trick. So, by evaluating a painting's importance hierarchy, we can make decisions about what adjustments may need to be made to the image in order to further control the viewer's eye in reading the image.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Digital Painting: Architecture.


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Q: I'm unable to install the custom Wacom settings included with the exercise files. Any advice on how to load them?
A: After the course was recorded, we discovered that the Wacom preference files are not cross-platform and are specific to the machine that created them, which limits their use. However, in the exercise files you'll find a PDF labeled Intuos4 Mapping_PS_CS5.pdf; using this document, you can manually enter the settings in the Wacom control panel. Also, please note that the settings are not necessary to complete the course.
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