Nondestructive layer painting (NDLP): Your creative safety net
Video: Nondestructive layer painting (NDLP): Your creative safety netIf you were a high-wire tightrope artist, you'd prefer a safety net, wouldn't you? I know I would. Likewise, when interpreting a photograph into a painting, a safety net can provide the ability to back out of undesirable results, as well as embolden you to experiment and try out ideas you'd otherwise avoid. In this video, we'll take a look at my solution for a creative safety net, while interpreting photos into paintings. I call it non-destructive layer painting. Now, what I've created here is just a little schematic, so I can show you, conceptually, how this works.
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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
Nondestructive layer painting (NDLP): Your creative safety net
If you were a high-wire tightrope artist, you'd prefer a safety net, wouldn't you? I know I would. Likewise, when interpreting a photograph into a painting, a safety net can provide the ability to back out of undesirable results, as well as embolden you to experiment and try out ideas you'd otherwise avoid. In this video, we'll take a look at my solution for a creative safety net, while interpreting photos into paintings. I call it non-destructive layer painting. Now, what I've created here is just a little schematic, so I can show you, conceptually, how this works.
And we are starting with our source photograph, and in this case, it's the image we've been working on up 'til now. This actually is not exactly that image, but let's presume that this is the image that we will be starting with, that we've been working on, in the whole first phase of our title. So, you have a prepared photograph as a layer. What's going to happen when we apply the action that is included in Photoshop, that will create a set of non-destructive painting layers, is it will first, at the bottom, right above our prepared photograph, create an Underpainting layer.
And you can see here, I've kind of created the look of that underpainting. Underpainting essentially is, just in broad strokes, kind of describing the overall composition and color of your image. Next up is going to be the Intermediate Strokes. These are the strokes where you're starting to go in and apply detail, and it's not real specific to how much detail that is, because the next layer is called the detail layer, and this is where you really start to get the finest strokes within the image.
And it's somewhat indeterminate where, where does the intermediate strokes on that layer end and where do the Detail Strokes on that layer begin? But it just gives you the ability, more or less, to divide up your work in a layer-wise fashion, so that the, the beauty of this is, let's assume that we've been working on the detail layer here. There may be something going on in the Intermediate Strokes that you wish, oh, I wish I could change that. In a traditional painting, you couldn't, it's all flat on the canvas, but in this non-destructive layer painting technique, you can actually keep this, you know, visible and open but just address the Intermediate Stroke layer, and go in and paint on it, and you'll see it changing in real time.
You might even be painting under some of your Detail Strokes. Try doing that on a traditional painting. So, by breaking this up into individual elements means that you have all of the flexibility to go back at any time and make adjustments to each of these layers. And knowing that you have this safety net in place, it's going to free you up to try things out you'd otherwise be afraid to try out, especially in traditional media. Once you apply a brush stroke to the canvas, it's there, and it's very difficult to change, if at all.
Whereas, in this environment, because you have the safety net of non-destructive layers in place, you can try out things on each of these layers, knowing that, if I don't like it, I can get back and I can undo it, and go forward from there. So it gives you this really powerful environment. Then you can finally get into Finishing Strokes, and what those will be won't be images derived from the source image, like the Underpainting, Intermediate, and Detail strokes do. It will be where we'll start applying our own brush strokes. Remember, we want to take this away from being a photograph.
So, one of the tricks will be, yes, we will rely on a large part of this painting to take the existing color embedded in these layers, and have it flow through our brush, as if we were painting it. But to really get fully away from it being strictly derived from that photograph, the finishing touch layer is where you start to put in some of your own brush strokes. So you really are starting to move it beyond simply a reinterpretation of colors in the photograph. You begin to actually add additional content to it that is, again, more of your inner emotion and feeling and concept about how this image should work.
And then finally we'll talk about a canvas layer that we can apply to this, so that there actually will be a sense of tactility to the finished image. It will look as if it were a photograph of an actual oil painting, in which you do start to see the canvas weave, some of the brush strokes on the canvas. All of that is part of what makes a painting look like a painting. So we will actually have an optional canvas layer. You don't have to use it if you don't want to. This canvas layer will enable you to have essentially a slight three-dimensional lift to the image. And just like you see that when you stand and look at a painting, say in an art gallery, you will see that in the finished image.
Because it's non-destructive, if you go on to say, print this on canvas, you may or may not want to keep that effect on there. But particularly, in a case where you're going to say, show this on the web, to be able to impart that physicality to your image is just yet another part of the vocabulary of painting that we are essentially adding to this image. The one thing I didn't show in this layer stack, that I will talk about later in the chapter, is there is also a reference layer.
Because, as we are working, you're going to need to know, well where is the tricycle exactly in the image when I apply my brushstrokes? You need to be able to see that, so there will be a semi-transparent reference layer that you can turn on and off at any time that is there to help you and aid you in brush stroke placement as you work on the image. So this non-destructive layer painting. The ability to segregate the build up of a painted image via layers is a very powerful technique that encourages you to take creative chances, and it is in this anything-goes environment that we often best express ourselves.
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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