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Learn to think like a painter and render images from photographs 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 elements of an image with expressive painterly qualities, and also shares the custom brush sets and actions he uses to achieve these results in Photoshop. The course also covers working with filters, layers, effects, and more to add further detail and texture.
While I have been stressing the importance of using detail to direct the viewer's interest, it is equally important to utilize areas of contrasting non-interest. An image with no rest areas becomes fatiguing to look at, and confuses the viewer's eye as to what is important within the scene. Let's take a look at how to use the contrast of detail and rest areas to emphasize the subject. Before we get started, I'll just show you the difference between the texture that I applied in the last chapter.
We'll take a look here at both the texture on and off, so you can see how it affects the image. It's subtle, but it is adding detail to the image and that's what we're all about here, adding more detail. Now, let's talk a bit about rest areas. I've got a couple of big rest areas in this image. One is in the foreground here, in the street. There is far less going on here than there is in the main subject area where the line of cars is sitting.
We've also got a primary rest area here in the back. You can see a good contrast of a rest area with detail in front of it. So these both support each other. The act of this detail being here reinforces the rest area and vice-versa. This rest area makes this detail seem all the more important, because there's not a lot going around it otherwise. Same thing is going on here. In fact, we've got a little bit of a problem here. I told you earlier that I wanted to put this on its own layer and the reason I did that is because I can do a little trick here and I've already turned it on.
I've enabled the Transparency Lock for this layer. Once this is enabled, what this lets me do is paint into only areas that have already existing painting on it. I feel like the trees are too prominent even as they move back. The problem was as I was using pretty much the same color for all the trees and these are retreating in distance and yet they still bear the same importance in the distance as the trees closer in the foreground, and that's just not correct.
These trees need to have less saturation and less dark color associated with them. So by using this Transparency Lock, I can paint into here and literally adjust the colors. So what I've done is I've switched over from the Mixer Brush to the regular Airbrush tool. I also made sure I selected a nice soft airbrush. Just it helps in being able to add a change of color in here, because we're literally going to be airbrushing. I've made it rather large.
The other thing I'm going to do is I'm going to sample the colors in this area. So something like right here. So there is our color and it's pretty dark. So I'm going to go ahead, and lighten it up a bit and let's just do a test and see how it works. I'm just going to go ahead and slam it in there. Okay, it's so light, it makes it invisible, which is not what I want. So I need to darken it up a little bit and let's try it again. That's much better. See how it's light, but you still see it. So I'll start with full pressure here, but then I'll lighten my pressure as I come forward.
You can see what I've done here is now I've added some atmospherics to this so that as it retreats in the distance, they become lighter and that's just a way to accentuate the appearance of depth in this image. So something that I didn't do correctly initially, by leaving it on a separate layer, and I kind of knew in advance I might want to adjust this, I'm able to take advantage of this layer's Transparency Lock to then paint into it as if it were masked, which essentially it is, and I can alter the color within it.
So it's just a little trick to visually portray depth in this particular area. One of the concepts I use to think about what is important in a scene is what I call the "actors on a stage" concept. If you've ever been to a Broadway play or even a high school play, you'll see that at the beginning of a play, the stage is all lit up. You see the scenery, the props, the actors, everybody is on there, because they're introducing the environment that this play is going to be in.
But once the play starts, the focus becomes centered on the actors and through the use of spotlights, they'll often have lighting that is only lighting up the actors and the rest of the stage is darkened down to where you don't even see it. They're doing exactly what we've been talking about. They are restricting your focus so that you're only going to pay attention to the actors. You already have a sense of them being in that environment. If it mysteriously disappears, you're not even going to notice it, because you're so focused on those actors that the fact that the scenery has somewhat disappeared doesn't bother you, because the focus is on the actors.
If the stage stayed lit up through the whole play, you'd find yourself wandering around looking at different elements of the scenery and the props and you'd be distracted from the actors at times. So the way lighting is used in the theater is a very good analogue of what we want to do here. We want to focus on the actors and so using that concept, I will look at a scene like this and I ask myself, who are the actors? What's the stage? And in this case, right now, until we had people, the actors on this stage are definitely the cars and the traffic and to a degree the trees.
The stage itself is this foreground, the street, and the buildings in the background. They provide a sense of place, but they are not the actors on the stage. So, by asking yourself that question, who are the actors, you can ensure that you are paying attention to the proper elements within an image. If you find yourself fussing too much over how this looks like a watery street, you have to ask yourself, is this the actor or the stage? If it's the stage, you're spending too much time on it.
So that's one way you can evaluate a scene and decide where should I be spending my focus? Where am I going to be spending my time with my brush? You want to spend it on the actors. So what have we learned here? A well composed photograph will naturally have some rest areas, but you can always make artistic decisions during the translation process to increase the visual contrast between the actors and the stage. I make it a practice to regularly check myself when fussing over an area of a painting by asking the question, is this an actor or the stage? If it is the stage, stop spending time on it.
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