Using custom actions
Video: Using custom actionsIn the last movie I introduced you to my non-destructive layer painting concept. In this video I am going to drill down a little bit and show you exactly the mechanics of how all this works so that you can apply them to your own images in the future as well as to the project file that we are going to be working with. So I've got my image open here and this is found in the exercise files folder for Chapter 7. If I go to the Actions button here and open this up, this will open the current actions I have installed. Now, we installed this earlier and if you haven't at this point, you can go back to the Introduction chapter and check out how to install my actions as well as the brushes and the other content that we are using within Photoshop for this course.
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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.
- 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
Using custom actions
In the last movie I introduced you to my non-destructive layer painting concept. In this video I am going to drill down a little bit and show you exactly the mechanics of how all this works so that you can apply them to your own images in the future as well as to the project file that we are going to be working with. So I've got my image open here and this is found in the exercise files folder for Chapter 7. If I go to the Actions button here and open this up, this will open the current actions I have installed. Now, we installed this earlier and if you haven't at this point, you can go back to the Introduction chapter and check out how to install my actions as well as the brushes and the other content that we are using within Photoshop for this course.
Default Actions is a set of actions that's always there. I typically don't use them. In fact, sometimes I remove them just to clear up the clutter, but I'll leave them in there for now, because some people do like to have different action sets. What I want to show you though is I did create this so that you could use what's called a button mode, and because those other actions are in there we get this pretty big list, but since I am at the bottom here I can just kind of edit this down a bit, so that I only see my actions. And if you remove any other actions, this is basically what you'll see here, but it just makes it a little cleaner for selecting the various actions.
The first one we are going to look at is John's Cloning Layer Action. This is really the heart of how this whole process works that I've come up with. And the first thing you're going to want to do when you're going to go through the process of translating a photograph into a painting is you're going to want to run this action. So let's go ahead and do that and see what happens. Let's click on it, and it gives us a little bit of information here. It's going to tell you that the action is going to flatten any existing layers. So if you're coming into the process with a layered image, you'd probably want to save it first and either pre-flatten it or understand that when this action runs it will flatten it.
So that's the first thing you need to know. Secondly, you're going to want to use the cloner brushes to paint on clone layers, and you'll see the clone layers here in a moment, and if you look over in the Tool Presets right there is a Flat Cloner. So the name Cloner is the key to tell you that you want to use this kind of brush on one of the clone layers. The other thing that you're going to want do, and we can't see this yet, but I'll show it to you in a moment is, when we run this action and you select any of these brushes.
You're effectively going to be using Mixer Brushes, part of what was introduced in CS5 and there is an option up here in the option bar for Sample All Layers. We want to disable that, and I'll explain that in greater detail in a moment, but I'm just providing you with some information that you're going to want to know and it never hurts to be reminded of these things every time you run this action. So let's go ahead and hit Continue, and what it has now done is created a set of pre-built cloning layers for you.
The way I set these up, if I close these up, you'll see these are actually groups and I'm starting off with three groups, which is just a good beginning set of these to have. So if we look at the Underpainting set, you can see there is actually two components to it. You have the actual layer called Underpainting. This layer is the layer you're going to actually paint on. And then associated with that in that group is a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. That's what I have found to be the most useful, and I'll get into the whys and wherefores of that a little later, but I do want to tell you that as you get comfortable with these layers, if you want to add other adjustment layers to it that are useful to you, you can add as many as you want.
Remember, adjustment layers are non-destructive. So they're laying on top of that layer. And then basically these are just duplicates of this same arrangement. It's just each one of these is named to give you an indication that this is where you're going to do very broad underpainting Strokes. This is set up to where you're most likely going to want to apply intermediate strokes, and then finally, the Detail layer. So this is where you would apply the detail strokes. As we get into this project though, you'll see I don't stick to just using these three layers.
We will be probably using more cloning layers than these three and I will show you in a moment another action that allows that to happen. But that's how these three layers work. And just to give you an idea, I'm going to go ahead and click on the Underpainting layer and let's just go up, and since this is right here, let's grab the Flat Cloner. I am also going to go up to 100% so I can just see what's happening and I am just going to start painting on this area. Now, you're seeing the underlying image, because we have a Reference layer on.
I can turn it on and off at any time. But most of the times you're going to want it on, because you want to know where detail and where the proper information is within the image. So I am not going to do much here, but I just want you to see how this cloning layer works. And when you see it this way it looks a little funny, because we're seeing the photograph transparently interposed with the strokes we're making. As soon as you turn it off however, you'll see these are just paint strokes.
You could try to paint like this without knowing where things are, but you're not going to get a coherent composition, because you don't know where one car ends and one car begins. The Reference layer is what gives me that ability to know exactly where I want to paint in order to accommodate the composition that's actually underneath of this image. So that's the basis for how these layers work. So each of these layers allow you to use a cloning brush and there are several in here, and the character of them is just different in terms of the shape of the brush throughout the set.
And then finally, you have the Reference layer, which you can enable and disable to be able to see it. In fact, I've even put a couple of shortcuts in here. Now, it works for me for it to be F14 and F15 because I'm left-handed, therefore I can use my right hand to toggle F14 and F15 to turn this on and off. You're free through the Actions palette to assign whatever keyboard shortcut you'd like to work with this. For me F14 and F15 work. But it just avoids having to stop over here and turn this on and off this way, and I find that very useful just in terms of workflow, that I can be working, stop.
I want to see that off, okay, I understand. Now I turn it back on, and I keep going. So those give you a really nice way to do that. The other one I want to talk about is Clear Layer. Now, Clear Layer doesn't mean it's a layer that is invisible. It means it will clear any information on that layer. However, and this is why I did this in red, there is a caveat to this. You do not want to apply Clear Layer to a cloning layer. The reason is, if you eliminate what's on a cloning layer through an action like doing Select All, Delete, which is exactly what the Clear Layer action itself does.
It will destroy the information that enables you to paint on that layer and you don't want to do that. If that would happen, in the worst possible case, what you could do is either undo, so you can get back to the previous iteration of the layer before you had deleted all the information out of it, or you could use the Create Cloning Layer command. As I said, the Cloning Layer action is designed to just establish a set of three cloning layers, but in reality, you're probably going to use more than that.
And in the case of where you just for some reason lost the detail, you can use the Create Cloning Layer Group, and basically you just position it wherever. If you want to go above this one, then I say Create Cloning Layer Group and it just added a new cloning layer group that I could now put, for example, right above my Detail Strokes, and now I can go to this one and I could start to draw on it, but let's go down here and turn this earlier one off. So you can see now I'm painting on another layer, where it's different information.
So I've added an additional cloning layer, and you can have as many of these stacked up as you want. At some point your system performance may suffer, but the idea is you start initially with the three cloning layers, which is a nice little starting number, but as you go on, if you need to add more, that's what the Cloning Layer Group Create command is for. Finally, I have a Create Varnish Layer, and we'll get into exactly what this does a little later, but this is kind of what I think of as the icing on the cake. If in the final steps of the painting you want to add physical effects like what does it look like when there's a Clear Varnish layer and yet the lighting is creating little highlights and shadows on that raised surface, as well as the effects of canvas texture, those things can all be created with the varnish layer in conjunction with the Varnish Brush, and once we get to a more final state of working with an image, I will demonstrate exactly how that works.
So these are the full set of cloning layer actions, and with these set of actions you should be able to have a complete workflow that will enable you to create a non-destructive painting environment to translate your photograph into a finished painting.
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