Monthly Archives: December 2017

Digital Painting (the beginning)

This is not meant to be an all-inclusive instruction on digital painting, which would encompass several books. This rather is designed to help you find a starting point to the process.

First, the starting point for many artists during the experimentation phase is to simply use Photoshop™. Many of our original attempts at painting were done simply using the smudge tool (see below) in Photoshop. If you change your workspace to the default painting workspace your smudge tool will be part of the tool panel without going into the subpanel mode in standard mode.

Painting Workspace panel     Tool panel   smudge panel

Painter Workspace

Notice the Tools palette has changed to allow you to see the smudge tool and the very important Mixer Brush that we use often.

Open and image and create a duplicate layer (Layer/new (Ctrl/Cmd J)) always try to work on a duplicate layer in this practice we are going to create two duplicate layers so (Ctrl/Cmd J) again. Turn off the visibility of the top layer (click on eye). Now take the smudge tool on the second layer and with a big brush (soft Round 200px) This is with a 1920 x 1080 image so size appropriately.

Soft Brush

On the second layer copy which we rename background sweep the smudge tool from left to right, back and forth across the Sky in the image being careful not to smudge too much of the Dark Light house into the background color (Hint push into the light house rather than pull the smudge tool out from the light house).  See Below.


Note the edges of the house will get pushed in, don’t worry about that now. Just focus on the sky colors. If need be use the left and right bracket keys to make the brush smaller or larger and work around the edges of the buildings, pushing the sky colors into the building.

Turn on the visibility of the top layer and create a black mask for that layer (Alt/Opt Click on Mask button in layer panel.) Then start to paint on the black mask with a white 60% hard brush on the mask where the lighthouse is. This will create a mask that looks like the mask below.


After painting your image should look something like this. The building retains the photographic image and the background is obviously pulled and smudged into a painterly effect.

Now we will start on the building.


On the top layer with the mask start to use a mixer brush at approx. 5px and without adding color to the brush go over all the major lines of the building mixing the color pallet of the image as you go. Try to brush in the direction of the building lines ie. roof, corners, and windows. Continue this around the entire building and tower. Take your time this is great fun. As you will see the ‘painting’ come together.


Continue to ‘work’ on the house with the mixer brush (I used the Round Blunt Medium stiff) set to 5px. 68%wet, 100%load, 71%mix, 100%flow.

Mixer brush

As you paint, work large detail strokes to smaller Creating a sense of the building but not trying to create an exact replica. Things that don’t need to show like (electrical lines, gas meters and such) should be eliminated.

You are creating a painting, which allows for your own creativity. If you don’t like the building on the right of the lighthouse for example, paint it out.

Old building

In this case I chose to use a new layer with Sample all layers to simply first mix the sky colors down into the old building area and then stroke them to the right to blend the ground and the edge of the building back into the painting.

There is no limit to the creativity that you can now incorporate.
Let yourself be free to explore the power of the mixer brush and layers.
I hope this is the beginning of a great adventure.
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