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Earlier in Chapter 11, I used 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, your subject in the 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. Now, we're going to take a look at where we are in our partially completed painting here. I have said this before, but I will remind you again. If you have flattened your image and started to add new layers as I've done here, this is my varnish layer, this is the, what is that stuff removed from image. These layers can be highlighted, and assuming I had another image open, I can go here and say I want to duplicate these layers, and then I could duplicate them to the existing layered file.
So I just want to go through that quickly, so you understand you can continue to build up one master file with everything in it if you want. It may be too big to operate on, because all your memory is getting by all the layers, but at least you can have a master file where you can go through and click off and turn on every element within the image if you want to. I'm not going to do that here, but assuming I was going to deal with this importance hierarchy, I may in fact want all the layered information here.
The main thing I'm going to show you, and I'm going to zoom back a little bit, I'm going to go ahead for the purpose of this exercise, trim this image down now, because we've got all this unfinished painting around the image. In reality, what we just did in this section would have been applied everywhere. But I've left all this other area for you to try out your own painting on, or you can take the whole thing and do it all from scratch. But what I want to do here is just reduce this down to this amount. We'll call this our complete painting because what I'm going to show you requires that to be applied to a complete image.
I can zoom back up again, and what I often do for the actors on the stage is a little bit of stage lighting. Typically, on a stage, the actors are going to be the brightest elements on that stage, and we've got a lot of bright color and stuff surrounding the actors. So what I want to do is suddenly diminish non-actor areas of the image and the way I'm going to do that is I will create a new layer, but I'm going to hold down the Option or Alt key on Windows, and that just calls up the New Layer dialog.
What I want to say here is I want to take this to Soft Light. You can use the Overlay if you want, but it's a little aggressive. I like Soft Light for this. I'm going to fill with neutral gray and we'll say OK. It appears invisible because it turns out that these blending modes, from Overlay down to Hard Mix, all treat 50% gray as transparent. Anything lighter than that lightens the image, anything darker darkens the image. So it effectively gives me a nondestructive Dodge and Burn tool.
I can be very simple about this and just get the standard Air Brush tool. I'll check it out for how it works. I don't think I want to have the size of this particular one change with pressure. So if we go to Shape Dynamics here, I can turn that off and I will just turn this up all the way. But what I may want to do is in Transfer, I want to turn Pen Pressure on. Now I can control the amount of opacity with this.
I'm going to generously enlarge this brush and I'm also going to turn Opacity down to somewhere between 10 and 20%. I'm going to start to apply a bit of a vignetting here. It's just subtle enough, particularly on the top and bottom. I'm going to darken this up. Of course I would be doing this very differently if we had the whole image, but I would do a similar technique as well. So I am just darkening this up and I'll turn it on and off, but you can see it definitely has an effect of darkening non-subject areas and what that does is conversely it makes the actors much more prominent in the scene.
Although it is subtle, it does have an effect of helping the eye want to go to the brightest elements of the image. So simply using a vignetting technique like I'm using here is one way to diminish the importance of non-actor areas on your image. It's a simple little fix, but it's a great way to focus viewer attention on the subject within your image. So what have we learned here? Well, 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.
So the trick is with these adjustments we've made is to not make them call attention to themselves. They should be there. They should do their job, in this case, helping to highlight the actors on the stage, but not calling attention to the fact that we've darkened other areas. If we over-darkened it, it would look dramatically dark and that would call attention to the fact that the lighting is changed so much. You don't want it to be that way. Just this subtle change. So all the techniques I've shown you throughout these videos really put together the notion of how we take this photographic source and translate it into a painted result.
We've only been able to work on this one section. But I've left all the other areas of the image for you to go ahead and try your skills at it, or you can just start from scratch and not even use my central area as a reference and just go ahead and completely do it in your own style.
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