Establishing compositional structure
Video: Establishing compositional structureOK. We know that we have to eliminate detail. But do we just smear away the photo into oblivion? No. This is the step in which you establish the major compositional structure of the painting. This is not rocket science. The composition is already established in the photograph. The goal here is to highlight the composition through an almost-abstraction of the image. In this segment, we'll look into breaking down the photo's composition. OK, so here we are, we've got our image. And, I'm just going to show you just a little exercise that really is a good way to stop looking at this image as the photographic elements that it is and to start thinking of it more in, just flat planes, almost an abstraction.
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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.
- 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
Establishing compositional structure
OK. We know that we have to eliminate detail. But do we just smear away the photo into oblivion? No. This is the step in which you establish the major compositional structure of the painting. This is not rocket science. The composition is already established in the photograph. The goal here is to highlight the composition through an almost-abstraction of the image. In this segment, we'll look into breaking down the photo's composition. OK, so here we are, we've got our image. And, I'm just going to show you just a little exercise that really is a good way to stop looking at this image as the photographic elements that it is and to start thinking of it more in, just flat planes, almost an abstraction.
And so, we're not even at the point yet of establishing all of our layering and everything. I'm just using the base photograph and I'm going to create a new layer on top of it. And I'm going to grab one of my brushes, probably the Round Blunt, and the Opaque Round Blunt is a good one. And all I'm going to do here, make sure I have black, I'm just going to start to break this image down into what are kind of the major structural elements of it. You can see this background is actually a pair of rectangles, more or less, then we've got this area here.
Obviously, we have the building, and it is at least this shape, and then we've got things protruding out of that main rectangle. Now, the thing is, you can keep doing this and getting more and more granular in what you're describing in here. And I don't want you to go all the way down to doing the eyelashes on the little girl, but we just want to start to take anything that really stands out as an element. In this case, all the windows certainly seem to be an element that pops out.
This doorway, again this window over here, here's another kind of division of the building, you know, we've got little things happening here. I don't want to get too boiled down, as I said, into detailed level. So, right there, if we turn off our background, well, there's our basic structure within this image. That's how simple this image actually is. And at the underpainting level, we're not going to get much more than into describing these shapes.
The brush will obviously pick up the color that is in that area of the image. Actually, here's another little kind of division we can do right here. But the idea is that we're really not looking at this as a castle-like structure, in a background, and blue sky on the horizon. We're looking at it as a series of shapes. And they're just flat. They're flat shapes on a plane. And, by breaking this down and looking at it this way, before you even start applying the brush to the canvas, this kind of gives you an idea of really how skeletal the underpainting should be.
In traditional painting, the underpainting is often used to establish some of the composition of the image and some of the basic tonal characteristics that are going to be employed in the image as it's finalized. But really, it's there as a structural framework. So, don't think at this point that you're painting a building, or painting sky, or anything in particular. All you are painting is flat planes that are ultimately going to represent elements in the image. But at this point, it's basically an abstraction.
Just keep in mind, underpainting is the stage of translation in which you reduce the source photograph to its essential, constituent parts. Remember, ignore the details and you'll selectively restore them later.
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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