Digital Painting: Architecture
Illustration by John Hersey

Telling a story with added image elements


Digital Painting: Architecture

with John Derry

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Video: Telling a story with added image elements

At this point, we've now got our scene basically set up. We've got our building in a new environment. we've made some corrections to it. Now comes the storytelling aspect of this. And, when I was putting this together I got essentially to this point and I started to try to think, you know, what can I do to this to add a level, a new level of interest, a storytelling so to speak. One of the tricks that an artist will often employ is what I call connecting the dots. And, I'm going to probably actually use that in a couple different meanings as we go through this course.
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  1. 26m 4s
    1. Introduction
      1m 3s
    2. Using the exercise files
    3. Installing custom content
      2m 46s
    4. Setting up Wacom express keys
      13m 32s
    5. Setting Wacom touch ring preferences
      2m 14s
    6. Setting Wacom stylus preferences
      3m 24s
    7. Division of labor: Image prep and painting
      2m 33s
  2. 19m 9s
    1. Visual vocabularies
      3m 49s
    2. The vocabulary of photography
      7m 38s
    3. The vocabulary of painting
      4m 59s
    4. Looking at reality through a mental painting filter
      2m 43s
  3. 38m 57s
    1. Removing lens distortion with the Adaptive Wide Angle filter
      6m 47s
    2. Removing distractions
      8m 7s
    3. Don't be a slave to the original photograph
      10m 51s
    4. Correcting image adjustments
      2m 58s
    5. Telling a story with added image elements
      10m 14s
  4. 25m 2s
    1. The eye has a better sensor than a camera
      3m 2s
    2. Adding natural shadows with Field Blur
      8m 47s
    3. Using the Shadow/Highlight adjustment filter
      7m 48s
    4. Using the HDR Toning filter
      5m 25s
  5. 39m 56s
    1. Resolution is in the brushstrokes
      3m 26s
    2. Using the Surface Blur filter
      6m 17s
    3. Using the Displacement filter to add imperfections
      6m 22s
    4. Using the Oil Paint filter
      11m 51s
    5. Making tonal and color corrections
      12m 0s
  6. 22m 40s
    1. Nondestructive layer painting (NDLP): Your creative safety net
      5m 54s
    2. Setting up the Mixer Brush cloning action
      7m 29s
    3. Using cloning layers
      2m 58s
    4. Working with adjustment layers
      6m 19s
  7. 20m 7s
    1. Using tool presets and not brushes
      3m 41s
    2. Categorizing and organizing brushes
      6m 14s
    3. Adding canvas texture
      4m 51s
    4. Using Sample All Layers
      5m 21s
  8. 14m 48s
    1. You must destroy detail
      2m 9s
    2. Establishing compositional structure
      3m 46s
    3. Determining a style and sticking to it
      7m 30s
    4. Painting in progress: Finishing the underpainting layer
      1m 23s
  9. 26m 40s
    1. Understanding simplified indication
      9m 9s
    2. Understanding color: Warm advances, cool retreats
      4m 9s
    3. Painting in progress: Introducing texture to the intermediate layer
      13m 22s
  10. 40m 19s
    1. The play's the thing
      5m 18s
    2. Focusing on the subject through detail
      4m 40s
    3. Using a traditional paint color swatch set
      4m 37s
    4. Painting in progress: Completing the detail layer
      16m 25s
    5. Adding surface texture effects
      9m 19s
  11. 12m 47s
    1. It pays to wait a day
      1m 55s
    2. Adjusting your importance hierarchy
      4m 49s
    3. You'll never paint the same thing twice
      2m 7s
    4. Helpful resources and inspiration
      3m 56s

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Watch the Online Video Course Digital Painting: Architecture
4h 46m Intermediate Jan 03, 2013

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • 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
Photoshop Wacom
John Derry

Telling a story with added image elements

At this point, we've now got our scene basically set up. We've got our building in a new environment. we've made some corrections to it. Now comes the storytelling aspect of this. And, when I was putting this together I got essentially to this point and I started to try to think, you know, what can I do to this to add a level, a new level of interest, a storytelling so to speak. One of the tricks that an artist will often employ is what I call connecting the dots. And, I'm going to probably actually use that in a couple different meanings as we go through this course.

What I'm referring to at this point is, you can put things into a scene in such a manner, some of it has to do with the actual content, what they are, how you compose them within the scene, how they are relating to one another, based on that composition. All of these things can come together, so that the parts start to add up to a greater whole. And in this case, what we want to do is, start to build a storytelling element or a set of elements here, that will lead the reader into the image to where they start seeing relationships between these elements.

And the way these relationships are positioned within the image, the viewer can actually start to create a story in their own mind. You may have a specific story you're telling, but part of the enjoyment of art is that each person takes away from it something different. So, you can have two people standing right next to the same image looking at it, and when you asked each one of them, what's the story you get out of looking at this? You'd be amazed how you could get two totally different stories. And that's OK, because that's part of what you're trying to do here, is just you're trying to open the viewer up to interpreting things.

And how they interpret it is up to them, and that brings them into the scene. So, I've got some image elements that I want to work with here, and let's start with one that's a little difficult to deal with, that's this one. I need to cut this out. Now, when I shot this, this is actually a little model. It's very small, it's only like three inches tall. And I shot it intentionally on a fairly neutral background, because I knew by doing so, I could take advantage of a Selection tool in Photoshop to be able to grab this very quickly.

You'll remember when I cut out the castle earlier, I was really promoting the Pen tool. Now, you could do this with the Pen tool, but look at how many little negative counterspaces there are within this image. It would take you a long time to isolate and describe each one of these with the Pen tool, so that you eventually end up with just the tricycle. And so, by putting it on this background, I can take advantage of the Select menu's Color Range tool. And let's go through, and I'll show you how easily you can do this.

Now, what it lets me do is I can start to select colors, and you can see I've almost isolated the tricycle. There's some other stuff going on here. So, to start to include more of this tonality, I'm just going to hold down my Shift key. And you can now see how that's created a plus. And by referring to the image, I can start to see like, there's some grays in here that aren't captured. Let's grab right there, and now we've got some shadows. I can start to get rid of most of them. I can see I'm just starting to, some of the same tonalities that were in an area I've selected, are now starting to grab some of the highlights in here.

So I don't want to go any further. The rest of it I will do by hand. I can later on erase that shadow. But let's go ahead and say OK, and what I've now done is selected this neutral background. So I've selected everything but the trike. So what I need to do is invert that selection. So if I just do Shift+Command or Control+I, that inverts that selection. So now we've inverted the selection. And one thing I could do at this point, because we do have some areas where that selection is there.

If I grab my Lasso tool, and go in here, and hold down the Shift key, I can now include some of these areas in here that were missing. So now, I'll just go around where I see a few of these marching ants inside my selection, and I think those are the big offenders. So, I've now got this cut out, or ready to cut out. So I'm going to do Command or Control+C, and let's go over to our castle image, and I'm going to do a Command or Control+V to paste it. It happened to be in a different color space, but we're just going to go ahead and say OK.

It's just making it be in the same Adobe RGB that the rest of the image is in. So let's go ahead and move this guy down here. And now, to resize it, I'm just going to use the Transform tool. So Command or Control+T, holding down the Shift key will constrain that to the same aspect ratio. And let's just pick this up and kind of position it, maybe just a little bigger. Something like that. And so I'm going to hit the Return key, and we've now got this in place.

The next thing I'm going to do is, I have another element, which is this ball. And I've already pre-selected it. So all I need to do at this point, is, do a Command or Control+C to copy it. We go back to our image, and we paste, and once again, it's out of scale. So doing the same trick here with the Transform tool, I'll just reduce this in scale. Something about, it would seem like about that size. So I'm just kind of estimating here what I would think these would be, scale-wise in this scene.

Now, we've reduced this ball in size. But you'll notice that, remember our lighting is coming from somewhere off here to the left side. And this ball is lit as if it's from the right side. So I need to correct that. So all I need to do is make sure I've selected the ball. And let's go into Edit. We'll transform. And all I want to do, at this case, is just flip it horizontal. See, now we've got shadow and highlight on this consistent with the rest of the scene, and it all seems to be in place. The other thing I could quickly do here is, I'm just going to select the layer between the castle, and between these two objects we've just added.

So I've got a new blank layer. I can go ahead and take a Airbrush tool, make it a little larger here, and get black. So we've got black here. And I'm just going to reduce my opacity down, way down, to maybe something like, around 15, 20%, and I'm just going to airbrush a little bit of shadowing in here. It doesn't have to be perfect, because again, we're going to paint it, but I just want to have it in there as reference, so when I do paint, I'll remember that I have a little bit of shadow in here.

And you can see, I'm actually using a very crude brush to do this, but it's just enough to give a sense of grounding of this element so that they seem like they're in the scene. Remember, painting all of this is going to change the character of all this anyway. And the last element I want to grab is this little girl. And I already pre-cut her out, so let's go ahead and copy and go back to our image, and paste. And I want to put her in that window. So, she's obviously too large.

So we're going to do a couple things here. Let's reduce her opacity. I'm just, I'm in the Move tool. And by pressing on the 5 key in this case, that reduces her to 50%. So I can see her but I can also see the background. And that means that I can now go ahead and play with transforming her down to a scale that would be appropriate for this window. And I guess it would be something like that. So let's go ahead and commit by hitting our Return key. And I'm just going to grab my Eraser tool.

Enlarge it a little bit here, and just erase this just so that she's peeking out of the window without being in front of it. So, right about like that. OK. And she looks like maybe she's a little large, so I'm going to take her down just a little bit more. About like that. And then I'll use, while I'm in the Move tool, I can use my arrow keys here, and I'll just use that to place her. Something like that. And, when I did this the first time, it turned out by having her opaqueness down like this, around 50%, it does a couple of things.

One, it makes her seem like she's on the other side of that window, rather than just being that, that just seems too, too much in the foreground. So, reducing her Opacity makes her seem behind the window, but the secondary effect it had on me when I look at it is, it almost seems like she's a ghost, you know. Is she there, real? Or is she there as an apparition? And when we combine that with the rest of the elements we've put in there, we're now starting to have a bit of a story going on. You know, we've got these toys out here.

And they're obvious. We see those, they're bright colors. They're eye-- the eye is attracted to them. So as the viewer is going to read this image, they're going to spend time looking at this. And it may actually take them a while to encounter this little waif up here in the window. And what's kinda neat about that is, it's like she wasn't there, but boom, it's there. And so there's, there's this kind of apparition quality about it. And so, as we look at this image, you start to wonder, you know, is, is that a girl from long ago? And she's wishing she could be out playing with her toys? You know, what is the story behind this? And it isn't a precise story.

It's a story open to interpretation, particularly kind of this ghostly apparition sort of thing that happened when I reduced her opacity. So I like that. And I felt, that's kind of the storytelling element that's going on in here, is, you're not sure of, you know, the reality of her. Is she really there, or is it an apparition? You know, whatever. But that opens up an interesting storytelling element to the story. So now, we've got our story. We've got all of our elements prepared.

In the next chapter, we're going to start looking at how to adjust the tonality of all this so that it kind of really starts to interlock together really precisely. So that's what we'll be doing when we move on to the next chapter.

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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