a long time coming

I worked a seasonal job, and the big thing I saved up to get was CS6 and Lightroom. Now that I have it, I’m slowly figuring out the whole digital painting thing. I’ve always been bad at it. Like, really bad. I had Corel Painter for a few years before I even learned how to make custom brushes, and it was because my sister walked me through the brush creator.

So here I am, determined not to be terrible in Photoshop, trying to learn the painting side of it. I learned how to use it in college, but I didn’t do much with it, especially since I’ve never been much for digital painting. I hit my stride with the Oekaki BBS system, and was good at that. I understood how it worked because it had like 4 functions. Simple.

This is the kind of stuff I was doing. As a high schooler.

Edmund Pevensie

Cillian Murphy fixed

Remus J Lupin fixed


While not the best, it’s pretty good. I’m still impressed by most of it. And then, just compare these to the following, which were done in Corel Painter during college and even after college.

Bella Swan 1 jpg

Ivaera and Ioan JPG

Garrett Hedlund final

Just terrible, right? Just terrible. Cringe worthy, really.

Well, I’ve been trying to get used to PS and what better way than to practice coloring on some sketches of mine? If you read my last post, you will have seen them at the end. Not bad. Each one I did I felt like I improved from the last. That’s a good sign.

And then I thought, well, why not try to do what you’ve never been able to do, and that is a successful piece of digital art that reflected what you were capable of as an artist?

And this was the first evening of work:

Clary preview1

Just atrocious. I thought for sure at this point that digital art was beyond me and that I’d forever be a traditional media girl. There’s nothing wrong with that, except oh wait we live in the digital age and people expect artists to be able to do EVERY medium, not just…. oil paints, graphic pencils, color pencils, watercolors, and ink. Well, and acrylic, but I don’t like acrylic for the same reason that most people do: the drying time. The next day I woke up and said, I wonder if  I can fix this.

Clary preview2

Yes, yes I can. I mean, it’s not completely fixed yet and her hand is a trainwreck, but it’s better, for sure. And actually looks like the actress and not like the horrific attempt from the night before that just looked…. sad. Like a blurry little sad mess. But this–this I could work with. So I kept going….

Clary preview6

Clary preview10

Uh, what? I might be good at this? STAHP. Let me tell you the parts I am most proud of:

  • the bracelet and the cast shadow from it
  • that mug. Look at that mug.
  • how I managed to cut out 2 people from the background of this.
  • that shadow from the hair on her face.
  • did I mention the mug? The bracelet?

Stay tuned for the final version later…….

I’m going to talk about what I’ve been learning in PS now, from just this piece.

  1. The smudge tool is NOT your friend. Just don’t even go there. The blur tool? That’s okay if you just need to make a line not sharp, like the background stuff.
  2. CS6 is supposed to have increased pressure sensitivity, so even my bamboo tablet suddenly becomes amazing. Corel Painter has sensitivity, but it’s an entirely different program.
  3. Keeping one finger over the ALT key is awesome. Why? Because when you’re using the brush tool, holding ALT gives you the eyedropper, so you can get a color in between the colors for shading purposes. Works wonders.
  4. The dodge and burn tools are really good in PS. Not in Corel Painter, because it’s meant to be a painting program, not a photo editing program.
  5. PS/CS6 comes with some really nice brushes already loaded in. And for the casual/hobbiest/sometimes freelancer artist like myself, I don’t really need much else. But finding the ones you like and resonate with is important, and will vary from piece to piece and on stylistic choices. And then you can just go in and edit them easy peasy anyway.
  6. Understanding coloring, lighting, shading, and so forth is important, and if you know it in traditional art, it will eventually transfer over. It may just take a little push. Or reading an artbook that talks about them in relation to digital media. Thanks to my sister, whose artbook is in the editing stage right now.
  7. Sometimes you need to deviate from the original image you’re using as a reference, if you are, that is. Colors may need to change, shading may need to be deepened, and artistic choices will need to be made throughout. As the artist, you control where the eye goes, more than you think.
  8. Keep track of your layers. I painted something on the wrong layer at least a dozen times, and one was so much that I ended up merging the layers because of it.

And lastly, have the trailer.