Tag Archives: painting

Painting for Photographers

The title is a double meaning, one is the obvious meaning, how can a photographer “paint” their images. The second is a reference to a book by Karen Sperling called “Painting for Photographers” which has been a guide for me while I explore how to use Corel Painter and Photoshop CS5 to change images into paintings.

I am a photographer, I am not a painter or at least I’m not in the classic sense of the word. But, as a portrait photographer, I use light and shadow just like a painter does to add texture and depth to my subject. Karen’s book really helps with understanding what makes a painting work and why it is different at times than a picture. I will say that while she is mostly oriented to the user of PainterX or Painter 11, she does not leave out the CS5 users who have the new bristle brushes and blending modes. Much of what she teaches crosses over to both. For example, when painting in the background, things like transitions, blending of hair, using different brush textures are not specific to one application but can be used by many different applications.

Karen shows alot of information on different styles of images using “chalk”, “watercolor”, “sponge” and more plus what makes each work for a particular style of image. You would not want to try to take a dark dramatic image and try to make it a watercolor. It would not look or feel right. Oils can lend a sense of formal stature to a portrait and sponge can really make a landscape pop with texture. Karen has all of this and much more in a relatively thin book.

What does all this mean to a photographer? Another revenue stream is what it means. Seeing a “painting” that is on canvas and LARGE is impressive to clients.  Most people really do not understand what a painting is all about, they are used to seeing pictures and snapshots. When they see a large portrait with the drama of blending and texture, they “get it”. And it’s unique enough that clients who really want that something “special” that few others have will be very interested.

So what can you paint? Portraits of all kinds, wedding shots are common because they lend themselves to a painted style of image. Landscapes are another type of image that works really well as a painting. Virtually any type of image can work with the right kind of technique.

I have a small gallery of a current project that shows the transition from a nice normal portrait to a painting that looks really nice. I’m still working on it and learning some of the fine points. I will say that you need to get used to using layers. I have several layers of painting so I can try different things and not ruin work already completed that I’m happy with. One of the big differences between the un-retouched and the painting is that I was able to really clean up the eyes and catchlights by painting. A second huge improvement was made to the overall image by the removal of the background to a more artistic painted background. One thing to remember with a painting is that you paint out alot of small details and use large details to carry the painting. This is true for most paintings and one of the hardest things for a photographer who has spent a fair amount of money to get megapixels of detail to turn around and paint out all the tiny detail. Why? Because it would never show in a real painting and since you are making a painting, you need to work like a painter. I personally find I like to blend the two where I keep some fine detail and lose other detail. But that is just a style of painting that I find myself falling into. Everybody has their own style or will have their own style just like their photography.

Digital Wedding Painting Bride

So what do you need to start painting your photographs? You need some type of software, normally Corel Painter or Photoshop CS5. You can do this with a mouse but I can not too strongly suggest a tablet like a Wacom tablet and pen. The control you get from using a tablet/pen is unparalleled compared to a mouse. With the pressure sensitivity of the pen, it gives you the feel and touch of using a real paint brush. So now that you have software and a tablet, what else? Find a picture you want to make into a painting. I did forgot one important item, you need to read Karen’s book FIRST and then use it as a reference as you start your painting. I will say this, while painting with Corel Painter is well documented, painting with CS5 bristle brushes is not nearly as well supported at this time.

To the end of trying to find some help for those with CS5 and not Painter, here are some links to help explain how to use CS5’s blend modes and bristle brushes.

Peachpit Press #86 Using the Mixer Brush

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Painting or how to soften your portraits

I’ve always been fascinated with graphics tablets. I had one of the early ones called a “Kola Pad” for my C-64 even though I never had a real use for it. It was fun to doodle around with. I also goofed with a lightpen that let me draw on the CRT directly. It never worked as well as it should even though I spent a hundred 1983 dollars on it.

Now days I have a nice Wacom Intuos 3 tablet and I also picked up a copy of PainterX from Corel. The end game to all of this is to “paint” portraits and other pictures. I’ve seen enough “paintings” done to know if done well, they sell well. So I’m trying to get my skill set up to speed on using the tablet and software. Many people I know swear by the tablets and I have to admit in just goofing around, it is certainly easier than my mouse.

So to the end of figuring out how to make this work and how to paint with PainterX, I found a very cool book by Karen Sperling who knows much about PainterX since she has written many of the manuals for it. She has a new book out called “Painting for Photographers” and it’s very good. You can buy it in paper or as an EBook or both in a combo deal. I personally went for the combo because there are times I just want to hold the book and not worry about kill my screen’s batteries.

Karen has an entire line of stuff thats worth looking at if you are at all interested in using PainterX in making very cool portraits. Tutorials, video clips, webinars and so on. The one that I suspect most people should watch is the beginner’s tutorial to get used to using PainterX and the whole of idea of “painting” with a digital graphics tablet and software.

I’m also working my way through Jeremy Sutton’s DVD on using PainterX called “Learning Corel PainterX”. Not the best presentation in my opinion. He’s stiff on the screen and his voice tends a bit to drone which wants to put me to sleep. It’s not that the information is bad, it is really not, it just the presentation. One of the more useful tidbits aside from how to program the tablet to do useful things, was to learn that there different nibs for my Wacom pen. A princely sum of 25 bucks gets me some new nibs and cushions for my fingers. I had no idea this was available or even other “pens” were available.

I was able to get a nice Wacom preference pane dated 2009 from the Wacom site at no charge. Here is a screen shot of the interface along with the buttons programs to how Jeremy likes to use them. His button layout does make sense when you think about it.

wacom programable buttons

wacom programable buttons

Right now I’m using the tablet instead of my mouse for even the normal window open/close and so on just to get some time in on using it. The first thing I noticed is that my back is happier leaning back and having the tablet in my lap instead of one hand resting on the table top with the mouse. I may have to find the wacom mouse that came with the tablet.

I should have book and some videos in my hands in a day or so and one of them is to paint using Photoshop. It will be interesting to see if PainterX is really worth the money to paint with or can Photoshop easily do it also. I know it CAN do it, the question in my mind is Photoshop the RIGHT tool to paint with. I dont mind using more than one tool, I tend to collect tools but using just one and upgrading just one and so is appealing.

Using PainterX is very exciting since I have several images that I think will make very nice paintings once I learn how. I also feel that it will be a nice “up sell” for weddings and portraits. I knew a photographer in Chicago that offered this service and did quite well as an outsourced vendor for some of the major photographers in the area. In some ways, I think that would be a cool thing to back fill some of my hours when I’m not shooting.

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