Rendering with Washes
Now begins the real painting. We’ll start out with the fleshtones. It’s a simple matter to mask off the flesh areas, as they are all defined by the base color we applied.
Before we proceed, I’ve uploaded my basic Photoshop color swatch palette for those interested to download. It’s not very well organized, as I add colors to it as I work on pieces that I might need to use a lot and then never erase them, so everything is all over the place, but here it is.
Mac users just click the palette image and choose where to download the ZIP file to. Windows users right click it and choose “save target as” and the location. Unzip, place it in your “presets” folder in the Photoshop application folder of your hard drive, and then you can load it as you wish in Photoshop.
First making sure I am on the “Figure” layer, I select the Magic Wand Tool and click within the flesh areas to select them. You can click each individual area while holding down the shift key , but it’s easier to go to the Photoshop menu bar (when the Magic Wand tool is active) and uncheck the “Contiguous” checkbox. Now one click of the base fleshtone will select all the base fleshtones in the image.
Flesh area selected
The “marching ants” line around the selection drives me crazy, so I make it go away with a command+H (Alt+H). It’s still there, it’s just invisible.
I also need to ‘turn on’ the pen pressure’s control of the opacity of the color I am painting with. Again I access the Brush Presets tabbed menu on the upper right of the Photoshop menu bar, and select “Other Dynamics”. Under “Opacity Jitter” I set the “Control” option for “Pen Pressure”. I make sure the “Other Dynamics” checkbox in now checked. Now how hard I press with the pen will make my brush bigger and the color I am using more opaque.
Now I can get busy with the color rendering. My basic approach is to select colors and add them on top of the base color to add both darker and lighter values to create shadows, highlights and introduce other colors like reds, greens and such to create a watercolor-like effect. The best way to demonstrate this is via a video, so here is a screen capture video of my rendering the face and arm of this image. The quality of YouTube videos is limited, and as a result this isn’t exactly ideal, but you’ll get the idea. The entire process here took about sixteen minutes, but it’s time-lapsed down to five.
I start out with a slightly darker value of the fleshtone, and begin to lightly wash in the beginnings of shadow. Because the opacity of the color is controlled by pen pressure, I can get some soft and subtle transitions from the base flesh to the shadows. Right now I keep the overall opacity setting of the brush on 100%, and use only the pen control for opacity changes. I have a wide range of fleshtone swatches that I use, most variations of maroon and burgundy for shadows mixed with the base flesh, getting darker and darker in value. Same with the lighter colors, although they are mostly just lighter values of the base flesh color. I keep working darker toward the deepest shadows, and then lighter in the highlight areas toward bright white. Eventually I introduce other colors. I add red to the nose, ears and cheek areas by selecting the bright red swatch, and then lowering the overall opacity of the brush to 20% (Photoshop menu bar, “Opacity:” slider box on left side of bar). This creates some luminous reds without turning me into Rudolph. I do the same thing when adding some blue/green to the beard area. This time the opacity is set to 10% after selecting a dark blue/green swatch. At some point I use white to paint in the teeth and eyes, then add color to them as well.
The whole process is a layering of wash after wash, to create a painterly look. The digital feel of the painting is removed by both the technique and the process of printing itself. There is a certain amount of “melting” that occurs when a piece is printed, and that adds to the general effect. So, even though we see a fair amount of hard, digital “edges” and the circles of the Brush tool, much of this will get lost in the print process. At the end we’ll add some other highlights as well as bring in colors from the environment around the face.
Now it’s a matter of applying the same process to each different area. Now I can mask off the shirt, for example, and start rendering that. In the case of an object that is one basic color, the Color Picker becomes a great way of finding good shadow and highlight colors. Double clicking the foreground color swatch at the bottom of the Tools palette always brings up the Color Picker. After using the Magic Wand tool to select the red T-shirt, I switch to the Brush tool.
At this point I should bring up Photoshop keyboard shortcuts. Constantly going back and forth from various palettes to select different tools is tedious and time consuming. Photoshop has many keyboard shortcuts to make your life a lot easier. I have my left hand on my keyboard on my left and the pen in my right hand, and use my left to access the keyboard shortcuts. For example, each tool has a corresponding letter to press to switch to it. the “B” key changes to the Brush tool. “M” switches to the Marquee or selector tool. “W” is the Magic Wand tool. Pressing and holding the “Spacebar” changes the cursor to the Hand tool, which you use to scroll the image. There are other shortcuts that work different depending on what tool you have selected. One I use a lot is the “[” and “]” bracket keys. When using the Brush tool, pressing the left bracket “[” decreases the brush size incrementally, while the other “]” bracket key increases the size. That’s extremely handy to quickly change the size when painting without having to access the Brush Preset menu. Another one is the “Option” key (ALT for the PC) when I’m using the Brush tool. Holding down this key changes the brush to the Eyedropper, and allows me to quickly switch my color to another in the illustration. This is very useful for blending two colors, or just for changing colors on the fly without needing to access the swatches. There are lots of others. I have several function buttons built into the sides of my Cintiq that are customizable, and have some of these shortcuts programed into them for very easy access.
Back to work! Using the handy “Option” shortcut I use the Eyedropper to change to the shirt’s red color. Now I double click it in the foreground color box and bring up the Color Picker. by moving the circle within the gradated box, I can change to a darker value of the red color, and start using it to add washes of shadow.
With the red area still selected, I can paint loosely without getting outside the area I want. I build up the values with several washes of gradually darker color, then go the other direction with lighter color for highlights.
You can see the darker/lighter values added in the shirt
Now I move on to the blue jeans. Again, a quick selection of the area with the Magic Wand tool. Then the eyedropper tool switches me to the blue base color. A quick double click for the Color Picker, and I move to a darker value.
Using the Color Picker to get some Blue Jean shadow colors
On to the painting… the same process as I did with the shirt. With the blue jean base color selected (I left the ‘ants’ in there this time so you can see) I start to paint in some darker value, building up shadows and defining the forms.
Working up shadows
Then I add more and more washes of progressively darker color value. Eventually I move on to the highlights. Here I switch to a scratchier brush to achieve a little of the texture of blue jeans.
Deeper shadows and highlights add form and depth
I move on to the tennis shoes, following the same idea… I use pure white and the opacity control of my pen to wash in lighter values and then add darker ones as well.
Now that I’m done with the figure, I can move on to a different layer. I switch to the “Taboret” layer, select that color with the Magic Wand tool and add some simple values to define the legs and light source of the little table. I create some gradations using washes. I usually prefer washes to the airbrush style of brush, as it lends the hand painted look to the art. I also add some values and highlights to the pens, mug and inkwell.
Now I’ll switch to the “Table, Chair and Lamp” layer, and start selecting individual object’s base color, choosing darker and lighter values to paint with and start rendering them.
Just starting with the edge of the table top…
For example, I’ll select the blue of the chair and start defining shadows and some highlights with washes.
Rendering the chair
Then I’ll work on the desk, lamp and paper. I do use an airbrush soft brush for the paper shadows.
Lamp and chair base get worked on…
The paper shadows and more table details are added.
Finally, I add the background color and the shadows of the table and chair on the floor on the bottom “Background” layer.
A simple blue wash and purplish cast
shadow in the background
I now have the basic rendering done. It’s time to start adding the final highlights. Unlike the highlights in the individual renderings of the elements, these will include colors taken from the background, and will help separate elements with reflected light along edges. First I create another layer, called “Highlights” right under the “Inks” layer.
Now I add some reflected light to my back, the face, my hair, the top of my arms and other areas. I use a light blue from the background by selecting it with the Eyedropper, incorporating some color from the surrounding area that helps tie the figure and other objects into the environment as a whole.
I’ll add some more bright, hot highlight spots of pure white here and there as well on this layer. Because this layer is still below the “Inks” layer, it does not mess with the lines.
Now, however, I want to add highlights that will cover some of the linework, so I create yet another highlight layer, this one called “Highlights 2”, ABOVE the ink layer. Here I will add some highlights in the hair that I want to work on top of the inked lines. Stuff like my gray hair, for example.
Final highlights added
Looks like I am done. A very quick and simple paint job. I could have spent a lot more time adding background color reflections in my hair and other areas, but for what I need this will do nicely.
I hope everybody enjoyed the tutorial, thanks for visiting.
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