Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Understanding the visual vocabulary

Understanding the visual vocabulary provides you with in-depth training on Design. Taught by John De… Show More

Digital Painting: Street Scene

with John Derry

Video: Understanding the visual vocabulary

Understanding the visual vocabulary provides you with in-depth training on Design. Taught by John Derry as part of the Digital Painting: Street Scene
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 8m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 11s
    2. Using the exercise files
    3. Installing custom brushes
      7m 0s
  2. 22m 3s
    1. Understanding the visual vocabulary
      4m 46s
    2. Using the vocabulary of photography
      6m 41s
    3. Using the vocabulary of painting
      7m 1s
    4. Looking at reality through a mental painting filter
      3m 35s
  3. 10m 22s
    1. Understanding that resolution is in the brush strokes
      3m 6s
    2. Understanding the subject
      7m 16s
  4. 16m 1s
    1. Removing lens distortions
      2m 33s
    2. Using the Free Transform tool
      4m 42s
    3. Using the Lens Correction filter
      4m 36s
    4. Understanding the ACR lens correction profiles
      4m 10s
  5. 12m 23s
    1. Working with Vibrance
      3m 14s
    2. Using the Match Color command
      2m 59s
    3. Understanding the traditional paint color swatch set
      6m 10s
  6. 16m 6s
    1. The eye has a bettor sensor than a camera
      3m 16s
    2. Using the Shadow/Highlight filter
      3m 17s
    3. Using the HDR Toning filter
      5m 23s
    4. Understanding how RAW files provide malleability
      4m 10s
  7. 14m 42s
    1. Working with the Reduce Noise filter
      2m 50s
    2. Working with the Surface Blur filter
      3m 6s
    3. Using Smart Blur for simplification
      2m 51s
    4. Working with the Topaz Simplify plug-in
      5m 55s
  8. 31m 10s
    1. NDLP: A creative safety net
      5m 1s
    2. Using custom actions
      9m 41s
    3. Using the reference layer
      5m 29s
    4. Cloning layers
      6m 5s
    5. Working with the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer
      4m 54s
  9. 17m 28s
    1. Brush categorization
      10m 1s
    2. Working with canvas texture
      3m 41s
    3. Using Sample All Layers
      3m 46s
  10. 12m 48s
    1. Being willing to destroy detail
      7m 21s
    2. Establishing the painting style
      5m 27s
  11. 25m 1s
    1. Simplified indication
      9m 3s
    2. Understanding color
      4m 10s
    3. Introducing texture
      11m 48s
  12. 17m 36s
    1. Providing rest areas for the eye
      6m 55s
    2. Focusing on the subject through detail
      10m 41s
  13. 24m 20s
    1. Being willing to depart from the original
      6m 48s
    2. Creating detail to enhance the artwork
      8m 36s
    3. Creating physical surface texture effects
      8m 56s
  14. 10m 33s
    1. Waiting a day
      4m 14s
    2. Examining your importance hierarchy
      6m 19s
  15. 57s
    1. Goodbye

please wait ...
Understanding the visual vocabulary
Video Duration: 4m 46s 4h 0m Intermediate


Understanding the visual vocabulary provides you with in-depth training on Design. Taught by John Derry as part of the Digital Painting: Street Scene

View Course Description

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.

Topics include:
  • Understanding that resolution is in the brush strokes
  • Understanding the subject
  • Removing lens distortions
  • Using the traditional paint color swatch set
  • Making shadow and highlight adjustments
  • Simplifying details with filters and Smart Blur
  • Cloning layers
  • Using custom actions
  • Working with canvas texture
  • Creating physical surface texture effects

Understanding the visual vocabulary

Throughout this title I'm going to be referring to visual vocabularies. What do I mean by a visual vocabulary? Each visual medium--sculpture, painting, photography and so on--has a set of unique features that defines it. For example, the medium of painting has expressive brushstrokes, canvas, and paint texture, a simplified representation of reality, and so on. These visual elements are the nouns and verbs that make up the visual vocabulary of paint.

Likewise, photography has a unique visual vocabulary that defines it: sharp focus, lens distortion, depth of field, and so on. I'm going to use the notion of these mediums' visual vocabularies to show you how to translate one medium into another. In effect, using Photoshop, you'll be interpreting a photograph into a painting using your own expressive voice. Let's use these two examples for comparison to show you what I mean. Both are of the same subject: a holiday shopping scene on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, known as the Magnificent Mile.

Let's start with the photograph and take a look at some of its key vocabulary elements. Depth of field encapsulates both sharp and soft focus. Some parts of an image will be in sharp focus, revealing many fine details. Other areas may be shot in soft focus, or even blurred, masking detail. Our eye naturally goes to the areas of detail; that's where the center of interest lies. In this photo, the intersection in the foreground is in sharp focus.

Look at how the lights in the trees catch our attention. We can even read the signs on the corner. Now, look at what happens as the traffic recedes into the distance; the focus softens, blurring the detail. Compared to the buildings in the foreground, the structures a block or two away from us show little detail, yet, still, we read them as skyscrapers. The lights on the trees dissolve into orange glows. Because these areas don't contain details, there is little for the eye to focus on, so we don't spend much time there.

Together, sharp and soft focus rely on one another to guide the viewer's eye within a composition. Looking closely at the photograph, we can see that the camera records detail in a continuous fashion, making no judgment with regard as to what is important in the scene. Only the lens setting, which the photographer controls, affects the sharpness of detail in the foreground. The photographer is using depth of field to control what area of the scene is in sharp focus, and therefore more important.

Now, let's compare to how the painting handles detail and subject focus. Like the photograph, the painting uses detail to draw the attention of the viewer's eye. However, unlike the photo, the detail is not continuous; rather, it is indicated through a simplified rendering of the scene via brushstrokes. The artist has subjectively weighted specific elements of the scene with greater importance through the use of more detailed brushstrokes. Compared to the fine detail of the photograph, the painting is not nearly as complex.

The artist has simplified the scene by indicating with brushstrokes which areas have greater importance. Both of these mediums portray the same subject matter, yet how each renders detail to draw the attention of the viewer's eye is very different. The photographer has utilized the camera lens's capacity to vary focus from soft to sharp in order to lead the viewer's eye to the foreground where the traffic is waiting at the light. The softly focused distant areas of the scene provide a backdrop without demanding our attention.

The hundreds of small lights in the trees provide an additional area of focus. The artist's painting has interpreted the unflinching continuous focus of the camera and rendered it through a simplification of form and brushwork that indicates a greater level of detail. Unlike the photograph's perfect recording of detail, the painting supplies enough detail, like dots, for the viewer's mind to connect. It is this additional creative playfulness that imbues the painting with the expressive interpretation of the artist.

By understanding how each medium uses its vocabulary elements to create a scene to be viewed, we can translate one medium's vocabulary element into another medium-- in this case, photography and painting. As we go through this title, I'll describe the various key vocabulary elements of each and show you how we can translate a photograph into a painting.

There are currently no FAQs about Digital Painting: Street Scene.






Don't show this message again
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Digital Painting: Street Scene.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


Upgrade to View Courses Offline


With our new Desktop App, Annual Premium Members can download courses for Internet-free viewing.

Upgrade Now

After upgrading, download Desktop App Here.

Become a Member and Create Custom Playlists

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of online learning video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member?

Log in

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

You started this assessment previously and didn’t complete it.

You can pick up where you left off, or start over.

Resume Start over

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.