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Digital Painting for the Beginner: L6

Digital Watercolor?!

Author: Roger Elliot, Associate Editor

Today we venture into another area of digital magic!! We are going to investigate the possibilities of painting on the computer with watercolor! Yes, it CAN be done! This process, just like watercolor painting in the studio, takes on a very different look! As you who have been with me during this series know, I am as new to this sort of thing as are most of you. I am learning by investigating and I am not soliciting the help of others who have been doing art on the computer. I hope that in this way I can apply traditional art techniques on the computer.

Again, this will be a very simple, easy to do, painting as we are now in the process of learning to use the program to it's fullest capabilities. However, using the computer for watercolor painting will require that we use some of the tools in Photoshop that we have not used up to this point. I will try to explain the new tools to you thoroughly.

As usual, I will tell you that we are using Adobe Photoshop 4.0 LE as our program. I make the assumption that you already know how to open the program and how to create a blank canvas. If not, you may wish to review former lessons that explain this part of the program.

For this painting create a blank canvas that is 500 pixels high by 425 pixels wide. I call this "Road to Nowhere". Let's get started and, as always, HAVE FUN!

READ THIS BEFORE YOU BEGIN! As usual, I have laid in a sky by starting at the horizon with a pale blue and then changing the blue to a darker value as I work in layers toward the top of the canvas. However, there are a few things we must talk about before we begin to do this; Just as with watercolor on your brush, this watercolor is a transparent medium. That is you can see through the paint to whatever is beneath it! First, let us talk about how to get this within our program. Once you have created your canvas, click on the "paintbrush tool". Then look up to the top box in the right hand corner of your program. It should say "Navigator", "Info", and "options". Click "options" and you will see a small sliding scale called "Opacity". Move the small cursor along to 80%. Then you will see a small box called "Wet Edges". Click that box and be sure that a small check mark appears in that box. You now have watercolor!

There is still more that we must discuss! This option is available only when using the paintbrush tool so we will use only this tool to apply paint. Secondly, when using this tool in watercolor you must depress the left had mouse button and HOLD IT DOWN throughout each step! If you release the mouse and then depress it once again you will get a different value! For example, in this sky I laid in each layer by depressing the mouse ONCE and holding it down for the entire layer. This is very important and I will remind you throughout the painting.

Here, I have selected the smudge tool and I have run this over my sky until I have blended the layers to a point that I am satisfied with the result. You may soften your sky to any degree you wish. The more time you spend blending, the softer your sky.

Well, I sure have put a lot of clouds in this sky!! There's a method to my madness. I received a letter asking that I explain just how to get clouds to look puffy and layered so I am going to take a few minutes to go into this in detail.

Go fill up your WetCanvas! coffee cup (I'm sure you have one :) and settle back for a rather long session today! Read on as we examine clouds!

Here are some tips on making puffy clouds. I do these clouds with the "smudge tool!" Here's how; select the smudge tool then go to the box at the top - right of the program. There you will see a tab called "Options". Click that tab and you will see a small box marked "Finger Painting". Click that box. Now I am assuming that you have selected a white from your primary color box. Move your Smudge Tool over to the area at which you wish to place a cloud and depress the left mouse button.

EACH TIME YOU DEPRESS THE MOUSE BUTTON YOU WILL GET A "SPURT" OF WHITE! Then the smudge tool works just as it always does. When you are ready for another spurt of white, depress the mouse button again!

Now, let us discuss clouds in general. I know that you have always heard it said that clouds are free and they form in any way at all. This is true but as artists we have an obligation to manipulate them a bit to work to our advantage. We are looking for sharp contrasts and by manipulating clouds in certain ways we can get just that effect.

I start by depressing my mouse several times in a form that looks "cloud like". Then I work out the bottoms of the clouds IN TINY CIRCLES. This process picks up some of the blue from the sky and darkens the base of the clouds in various values. But only if you work in TINY CIRCLES! I am careful not to work the top edge of the cloud too much as I want these areas to be sharp and distinct. If the top edge becomes smudged, I simply move back to that area and depress my mouse again which will give me another spurt of clean white.

Now if you have worked the bottom of the cloud in small circles, you have areas of varying degrees of darkness. USE THEM! Move your mouse over these areas and depress the mouse button to get a clean spurt of white. Again, treat this as if it were another cloud. Keep the top edge clean and distinct and blend the bottom out in TINY CIRCLES. You can continue this process to create any number of clouds you wish! Hope this will help you get nice clouds. Now, back to the painting!

Now I have laid in a mountain. I first use the paintbrush tool, in a small brush size, to lay out the basic shape then I use the smudge tool (without the "finger painting" box) to pull color down into the mountain.

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