DON'T FORGET TO DOWNLOAD THE WORK PACKAGE BEFORE YOU START
- Everything you need is in the .ZIP folder free of charge.
- This package is created in Adobe Photoshop, but other programs with layers can be used
- This exercise is best done with a drawing tablet
- Please do not upload anything from this package online including my photos or my painting
- DO upload what you draw!
Learning to paint digitally can be scary, and especially disappointing when you're just starting out, and you have a vision in your head, but what you're drawing doesn't ever come out the way you want it to. It can be especially frustrating not knowing where to start when you have never painted before.
This exercise is for beginners who have little to no experience with art, or who would like to try digital painting that involves no lineart.
This exercise involves some optional “cheat” moves that can be controversial in the art world, like tracing. Think of these steps as art training wheels. They're helpful to start out with and can lower your anxiety about starting. Often many beginning artists become afraid of ever putting pen to paper for fear of “getting it wrong”. Getting started is the hardest part, and that is why I encourage the use of “cheats”. Once you have built up your confidence, you no longer need to use handicaps and will be able to see colours, levels and shapes for what they are. Cheats are not something to depend upon as a crutch. They're a stepping stone for building up your skill until you no longer need them.
This tutorial only involves black and white. Trust me, this is much easier. Colours are very pretty, but this will teach you a solid foundation to build upon later. It saves time and headache not having to deal with colour in an image.
This tutorial is made for Adobe Photoshop, but I have included unlayered files that can be used in any program that allows layers and has similar functions as Photoshop.
START: Open up your drawing program and Select WorkPhoto1.JPG and open it in a new document, or open up the sample .PSD file which has everything.
Create a new layer via copy of this photo. (ctrl + J)
On this new layer via copy, Go to Image > Adjustments > Posterize
Set the levels to 10.
Use the eyedropper tool and create a swatch pallete from the levels that you see.
Remember, absolute white and absolute black are rarely if ever used in digital art. They are too stark and don't blend well. It's better to paint within the softer medium greys than black and white.
While you are painting your swatches, make sure you're using a hard brush at 100% opacity. You want an accurate pallete to work from.
If you want, you can label your shades. With 1 being the lightest you will work with and 10 being the darkest. (As you move forward in art, you can create more levels if you like, 20, 30, 100, etc)
In a new layer, paste the outline on top of the photo. This outline serves no artistic purpose. It is a measurement tool to make sure your painting remains proportional. Do not use this as lineart and do not paint with this layer showing. It is a position reference only.
On top of the facial outline, you can also paste the facial measurement lines. Again, these only serve as guidelines to see if your facial features are starting to drift. Do not paint with this layer on.
Create a new empty layer on top of the reduced colour photo and underneath the outline layer. On this layer, with a large brush, start to block out the major areas. Don't worry about going outside the lines. That's what your outline is for. Don't worry about following the photo exactly. Do this quickly. It should not take more than 10 minutes to fill in the major areas simply. DO NOT PAINT DETAILS! No eyes, no eyelashes, no creases or hairs. You are only looking for major areas of tone.
Why do we do this?
We are looking to reduce the face into simple shapes and shades instead of what our brain knows to be features. Lots of beginning artists think of eyes as black circles inside black almond shapes. A nose is a wedge shape or circle in the middle of the head. Lips are ovals.
This is untrue in painting. None of these shapes actually exist. The goal of this exercise is to escape our pre-existing ideas of what faces “should” look like, and paint what the photo is telling us to paint. We are often arguing in our minds where features should go and what they should look like. This is also reinforced by drawing tutorials.
I.E. “The eyes should be one eye width apart and sit on the upper half of the head.”
When painting realism, you start to see that features are uneven. They are not as simple as line art would allow. When looking at my face, for example, my eyes are uneven. They are not the same size and they are not exactly parallel to each other. Allow yourself to see and paint the flaws and inexactness of real life.
Once you have the basic blocking done, you can start to refine your details. Turn off your outline layers. Reduce the size of your brush by half. (If it was 30 before, make it 15, etc) Use the same swatches that you used before and refine the details. You can flip on and off between your outline layer and your photo underneath, but always paint with these layers off. Only have the full reference photo beside you as a floating document.
In Photoshop, there is also a grid option. Go to View > Show > Grid
To adjust your grid settings, go to Edit > Preferences > Guides, Grids and Slices
I prefer a grid that uses fractions (halves, thirds, etc) rather than one based on empirical measurements (inches or centimetres)
Once you have started to refine your major areas more, you can zoom in further and choose areas to start to detail. At this point, you can start using transparency and colour picking to blend.
DO NOT USE THE FOLLOWING TOOLS: Dodge, Burn, Smudge, Blur, Selection Wand, Paint Bucket
This exercise is for learning to blend without those. And you can do just fine without them.
To blend your shades:
Pick an area where there are two shades that are only ONE level apart.
Set the transparency on your brush to 50%.
Select either the darker or lighter shade.
Paint that shade onto the opposide.
Now take the eyedropper tool again and pick that middle shade, and paint it between. And again between.
You are working in fractions!
Say your tones are 5 and 6, and you choose to layer 6 onto 5. You are painting 5 and 1/2. And then again would be 5 and 3/4. 5 and 7/8, etc. All to way until you've blended up to 6. Never paint darker than the darkest tone or lighter than the lightest tone when blending. You will be changing your levels entirely.
Once you've practiced blending the major areas, and you are happy with it, you can move on to details and texture. All details are are very small level changes. All texture is is very subtle level changes. We are playing with light and tone here to give the illusion of shape and form.
The more and more you zoom in, the more you can refine your drawing. Remember to zoom out and look at the total painting frequently. Turn your guidelines on and off. Turn your painting off to reveal the photo underneath and compare what you're drawing to what you're seeing. Not just the shape and position, but the levels as well.
When painting, remember: A misplaced or crooked feature does not mean that you drew it wrong, it just means that the levels are wrong for the area it's supposed to be in. There is no need to feel disappointed or erase the whole thing. Either lighten or darken the mistake and it will start to look like you want it to. Always paint on top of your mistakes. Do not erase, do not move backwards in your history. Keep moving forward!
Other things you can do to remove your eye from seeing symbols: Flip the entire document sideways or upside down. This removes your brain's ability to see “eye” and “nose” and only allows it to see abstract shapes in light and dark shades.
Beyond that, it is up to you how much detail you want to add to your painting. You can keep going until you have tiny pores and eyelashes, or stop with just some basic tones. It's a good idea to decide how much time you want to give yourself beforehand so that you're not spending too much time on one area.
Good luck and keep on drawing!