Oil pastels in Painter
So! We've got this neat "Painter" program, now what right? Well, I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I have no idea what all Painter is capable of. Why's that? Because I use almost only one tool; the allmighty OIL PASTEL!
I hear you. "Why the oil pastel?" Well, I just love the feel of the tool. I love the texture, the creamyness I get out of it. Experiment with it a bit on a blank canvas to see what I mean. But please don't be like me, experiment with other tools! Painter is so much MORE than the oil patels! I promise! BE FREE!!
ANYWAY, let's begin.
Allright! First thing first, I open a new canvas (CTRL+N) and make it as large in pixel size as my computer can comfortably handle. For this drawing, it wasn't terribly large, but recently I've been working in sizes at least 6,000 pixels wide at 400+ dpi. Remember, if you plan on printing out your artwork out, you want to draw as big as you can! I use the paintbucket to fill a layer with a solid color, this is the start of the color scheme for the painting. Remember that color theory is very impoartant for setting a mood for your painting; I wanted this to have a rich, velvety warm feeling to it as the main subject is going to be a phoenix. I lay down my sketch in another layer using the pencil tool, and set the layer to "multiply" or "gel". This allows me to work "below" the sketch. I usually turn the opacity down on the sketch layer (the slider for the opacity and the menu to change the blending options are in the "Layers" window, seen in the lower right corner of this image) so I can see clearly beneath it. I sketch loosely and try to establish the composition at this point so I know where to place the different elements of my painting. Also note that I did not start with a solid white, grey, or black background. I've found that starting off with these colors as a base usually sucks the life and richness out of a painting when using this approach.
Okay, so it's time to start painting the background. I make sure I'm wokring in the correct layer (labeled "BACKGROUND" here) and bust out with the oil pastel tool. I like to use the oil pastel with the grain turned up to 100%, and the opacity turned down to around 20%. These options are easily adjusted using the "Brush controls" window, located in the upper left corner of this image. By the way, if you have trouble locating these windows, just go to the "Window" drop-down menu at the top of your screen and select the window you need. I like to have the layers, brush controls, and color windows all open while I work, since I use them frequently. Anyhow, there's really no trick to this; everyone has a different approach. I just go in there and start painting colors down. I use the eyedropper a lot to select the subtly blended colors I create while painting; it's fast to use the eyedropper tool while painting simply by holding down the ALT key on your keyboard, clicking the color of your choice, and releasing the ALT key. That funny looking triangle on the screen is actually my oil pastel/mouse pointer. Also take note that I have the "pick up underlaying color" tab checkmarked in the Layers window. Be sure to pick out a light source early and stick with it!
I've turned the sketch layer off (done by clicking the little eyeball icon in the layer window) while I was getting the background colors blocked in. This took a few hours (and can take more in larger paintings!) because I do it all manually, just blending over and over again with the oil pastel tool. I know there are faster ways to achieve this, but personally the organic look and textures I get by doing it this way seem to really enrich the painting and are more pleasing to me. Do this however you wish to!
This is just me starting to block in the cloud shapes. I've turned the sketch layer back on so I can make sure I place all my elements in a way that is pleasing to the eye (or, at least I attempt to, right?). Notice I've reduced my pastel size and just gently start blending the clouds in. They start out as rough shapes. At this point I'd like to point out that I'm not "picking" colors off of a photo; they're all coming out of my "head". It was deeply ingrained upon me by an art teacher that the colors you use are as much a part of your personal style as the lines you draw, and that you should always create your own. So far i've abided by this and have had good results. It takes alot of experimenting though, so feel free to practice!
Starting to detail the clouds. I've reduced the pastel tool approperiately and just use light, gentle brushstrokes, and blend a lot. I'm continually using the eyedropper tool to pick up new colors I've created, blend them into the old ones, and repeat the process.
Here, after several hours, I've finished detailing and filling out the clouds to my liking. However, the sky wasn't as bright as I would have liked it; this is one advantage to working with the computer as a tool. Usually I don't tamper with my painting, but I really wanted this one to be bright, so I opened the file in Photoshop. I used the drop down menu: Image -> Adjust -> Levels. What you see to the left is the "Levels" window. using the sliders I upped the contrast slightly and the brightness as well. I don't know the technacalities behind the "Levels" but I just use the sliders to see what looks best to me. I only tweaked it a very little bit, saved, then opened it back up in Painter to continue.
Here, I've "dropped" the layer with the sky on it onto the canvas; I really didn't need to have it on a seperate layer and that just takes up file space. I would usually paint all of the background on one layer, but for ease of explaining this tutorial, I started a new layer for the mountains. Again, nothing fancy here; I just painted them in with the oil pastels. I blocked them in first, and then went in to add some texture with a smaller "brush".
Here, I've finished fleshing out the mountains in the background, and am working on the cliff in the forground. Notice that I did create seperate layers for everything; this is for me to show you the order I painted them and are really quite unnecessary. At this point I want to make note of something that I have the best luck with; I always paint my backgrounds first, working from farthest away to closest. This will help ensure you have a soild environment for your subject; lighting is already clearly established and this will help to blend all the elements of the painting together.
Now I've started work on the subject; a phoenix in this case. Normally I like to block my subjects in with chunks of color first, to work the colors up off of, but because the subject is similiar in color to the background, and the light ambiance would be reflecting alot of the background color onto her, I chose to pull a lot of her color from the background with the eyecropper tool (by holding down ALT and clicking). Please note that allthough you can't tell from here, I almost always place my subjects on a seperate layer and don't merge them with the background. This is because much of my work is commission work, and if a commissioner needs a revision on the subject, it will be much easier to go back in and fix later. Also this way you can move the subject around on the background if you realise your composition isn't working.
Not much going on here, just time and patience! I've started refining the subject further, establishing where the light is striking her, figuring out where shadow is the deepest. I usually work from a large "brush" size down to a smaller one for detailing.
I'm still on the same layer; I just use smaller brushes to go in and deepen shadows and bring out details. I can't offer much instruction here... things like this just take patience. Hopefully I can do another tutorial in the near future that explains lighting for those that have trouble with it.
Remember how I said I make sure I keep my subject on a seperate layer to make adjustments at a later time? Well here's a prime example. At this point of the commission, the commisioner decided that they wanted another character in the image. So here's the sketch. Luckily, this still works with the composition. Note that I sketched this in on the sketch layer! Always make sure you're in the correct layer, I can't tell you how frustrating it is to do a lot of work in the wrong layer and get everything buggared up.
Blocking in the dragon, and starting to establish highlights and shadows. Because I've worked in layers, the dragon is nearly painted behind the phoenix.
Lastly, after refining the dragon, I go in and work on the forgound (the cliff face). Because I wanted the rock texture to be rough, almost like volcanic rock, I use alot of "dabbing" brush strokes, that is short quick strokes.
Well there we have it! I flipped the image horizontally because I liked the way it looked better facing the other way. So really, no tricks, just painting, time, patience, and practice! Hope this was of some use.
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