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Once you've transformed a photograph into a painting, you have the option of adding the appearance of physical surface texture. What is this? It is a simulation of light on the three-dimensional surface of paint, canvas, and varnish. When a physical painting is photographed or viewed under gallery lighting, the lights will cause the painted brushstrokes, particularly impasto style painting, and canvas texture to be emphasized by highlight and shadow. Applied varnish or a glossy protective coating will appear as subtle brushstrokes delineated by specular highlighting.
These visible artifacts make a part of our perception of the painted physical object. Depending on the wishes of the artist, gallery, or museum, these physical effects can be attenuated or suppressed depending on the lighting setup. I display a lot of my painting on the web. So I like to add this virtual surface to the finished work. This provides the viewed representation with an extra painting vocabulary element that adds an additional degree of realism to the work. My technique is nondestructive.
So you have the option of displaying or printing the painting with or without this virtual surface. I used to think that this surface effect would not mix well with prints on canvas, but I've been pleasantly surprised that it can and does work. This is definitely a personal preference. Depending on your style of print reproduction and presentation, you may or may not wish to utilize virtual surface effects. Before I do anything else, one thing I want to going to bring up is as we have been going through this, we have been adding a lot of layers and deepening on person's system, you may not notice this at all, or it could start making your system huff and puff quite a bit.
What I am going to do here is I am going to flatten this image down, but I always make sure I have saved the layered version first. If I'm happy with all of the layering and the cloning that I've done and I don't feel like it's going to be something I'd be going back to, then I'm freed at this point flatten this image down and that relieves a whole lot of memory so that the performance can jump back up if it's been bogged down at all. And you can do this anywhere in the process you want.
I've let a whole bunch of layers build up here and I think it's time for me to flatten it out. That way I'll still have a preserved layered version of the image by saving it before flattening and then post- flattening I can continue to work on it and in fact when I add the Varnish layer onto it, if I want to, I can always take that Varnish layer and duplicate it over to the layered version, so that I still have a fully layered version all the way up through and including the varnish, even though I didn't do it with all of the layers intact.
So it's just a way to help performance on your system. So let's go ahead and I'll go over to the Layer menu and right here at the bottom is Flatten Image and we want to discard the Reference layer too. That's fine. So now we've got a flattened version of this image, but we have saved the layered version previously and I can go ahead with adding my varnish. So what I want to do is go the Actions palette and we are going to go to Create Varnish Layer. Let's click on that and we get a little dialog here.
It's just telling you that it is going to add the Varnish layer. You are going to see in a moment when we hit Continue that the Layer Style dialog will come up. You can just dismiss that and then a little bit later I'll get into what you can do there. And then finally, you are going to want to make sure you use the Varnish Brush over into the tool presets in connection with this particular layer. So let's hit Continue and as I said you can dismiss this for now. I am going to go ahead and close this and now we've got a latent varnish layer, sitting there ready to be worked on.
I want to make sure I take my Varnish Brush and one thing I want to point out, I am going to temporary going to go down to the Brush panel and in the Texture panel, you want to keep this locked. As long as this is locked, you won't inadvertently be loading up other textures or changing the scale of it, because as we work through our painting, we want the scale and the texture to be honored all the way through and if this is unchecked, you can get changes. All of a sudden you are working with one of the canvas texture. So be sure that you check that this is enabled.
We've got our varnish coat and I am just going to try a little sample outside my area here, just to see what I am getting. And as you can see it's applying brushstrokes that are kind of raising the grain a bit as well as imparting some of those brushstrokes. That's what I want on my layer. I am making my brush size a little larger here. And there are a couple of ways you can go about this. I just like kind of a general overall approach. It's almost like I'm applying a protective coat, but some people might want to use the brush to follow the shapes in the image so that it appears that that paint actually is raised, and you're certainly free to do that.
I just tend to be a little more freeform here. I want it to be a recognizable textured surface, but I'm not too concerned about following the exact painting elements within the image. Okay, let's take a look at how we can control this via the Bevel and Emboss layer style. So I am going to double-click on that, bring up its dialog. The primary way to control is right here in the Bevel and Emboss Depth slider. I'll turn it up so we can see what happens.
These things take a little while to catch up, but you can see now it's really super thick varnish, more than we really want, but I just want to show you you can totally control this. So if you want to raise the attenuation of it a bit, you certainly can do that. There are two ways to do this. You can either use the control in here to set it visually the way you want it, or I'll show you another way to do it. Another key control right here is in the Opacity slider for Highlight mode. If I turn this up, it's going to attenuate the supposed highlights coming from above and if I do the Shadow Opacity, it will attenuate from below.
So now you can see we've got really over- attenuated varnish, way more than we want it to be. As I said, you can control it from here, or you can go ahead and leave it over- attenuated and then use the Opacity slider of your Varnish layer. Let's just turn it down and now you can see how I can bring this down and sometimes I've found that kind of over-attenuating it and then turning it down using Opacity to control how much it's there is actually better than trying to control it strictly from the Bevel panel itself.
So now let's turn it on and off. It looks pretty good. Although I can tell you right now it looks great, but I wouldn't be surprised if I get away from this and come back a little later and look at and realize oh, it's way too strong. I generally use what I call my 50% rule. Whenever something looks really good, give it some time and then come back and turn it down by at least 50% and you'd often be surprised at oh, yeah, it was way overdone, even at this point. Like I say this is too much. So I am going to turn it down some more and now I can turn it on and off and it adds a nice subtle dimension of texture without being obvious. It also looks like we didn't quite paint in here, so paint in this area.
The last thing I'll show you is if we go back to the Bevel and Emboss panel, you can also control the lighting from here and I am going to just turn this so it's directly overhead. That's a little more neutral as opposed to some angle. In a gallery in particular it would be directly overhead and you could see it's slightly changed the attenuation of how the strokes and texturing looks. So you can also play with this and this is all nondestructive, what we are doing here, so you can play quite a bit with the look of this varnish once you've applied it and it's nondestructive which is great.
So that's applying varnish. As I said, this is a highly personalized element of the painting. You may or may not choose to use it. You may choose to use it for display on the web and then shut it off when you print, or you may want to print with it on. As I said I've been pleasantly surprised that this actually does work when it's printed on canvas. You'd think it somehow would interfere, but in most cases it actually enhances the sense of three- dimensionality. This is varnish. Use it if you want, and as I said, it's one more way to add a vocabulary element of painting to our finished image.
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