Painting Clouds with the Mixer Brush December 17, 2016 10:54

This is a portion of my video tutorial, "Autumn Nuthatch: Painting Birds with the Mixer Brush." The brushes used are custom mixer-brush configurations that are available as part of this lesson.

Welcome to “Painting Birds with the Mixer Brush” August 09, 2016 12:58

Painting birds - as you may know - has become a passion of mine.  I’m happy to now share that passion with you as I release “Autumn Nuthatch:  Painting Birds with the Mixer Brush,” which is volume I of my newest Photoshop painting series, “Over My Shoulder.” 

You'll learn how to:

  • Combine multiple elements into a single composition
  • Paint branches and leaves
  • Alter the lighting of subject and scene
  • Paint dramatic skies with speed and ease
  • Paint beautifully detailed birds

I'd Like Your Feedback August 09, 2016 12:46 3 Comments

If you have any thoughts about different subjects or techniques you’d like to see presented at, I’d love to hear them.  I’d also like to know if you have a preference when it come to using the smudge tool or the mixer brush for transforming photos.  Do you have an interest in learning to paint onto a blank canvas using a photo only as a reference?  Let me know what you’re thinking - it might help to steer me in the right direction.  Thanks!

Mixer-Brush Painting Techniques: Video Sample April 09, 2016 09:37

This is a video sample from my tutorial, "Painting Portraits with the Mixer brush in Photoshop," Chapter 4, "Mixer-Brush Techniques." Demonstrated here are two painting methods - one showing a technique for painting onto a blank canvas, another for painting using the "mixer-brush cloning layer setup action."

Tools of the Trade: Birding Cameras April 09, 2016 09:37

I'm often asked which camera/lenses I use to photograph the birds I paint.  There are of course many options for this kind of work — ranging from the extremely expensive high-end DSLRs/telephotos to the much more affordable point-and-shoots.  Cameras like the Nikon Coolpix P900, which I use, and other similar super-zooms are really the best and most affordable options for the bird painter.

Bear in mind that if the ultimate goal is to take photographs of birds for use as references or starting points for our paintings, we really don’t need super-high-resolution images. So you really don’t need a great big camera with a great big sensor, and the big, heavy lenses that would go along with it — or even the tripod that would be needed to support this kind of rig.  An all-inclusive point-and-shoot camera, like the P900 will do a much-better-than-adequate job for us.

There are quite a few cameras in this category.  Along with the P900, there’s the Canon SX60, the Pentax XG-1, and the Fujifilm S1, to name a few.  At about $600 the P900 is the most expensive of the group, but it does offer some big advantages — the most important of which is its 83x optical zoom lens that ranges from 24mm to 2000mm (35 mm equivalent).  You can imagine the cost of the lenses that would be needed to cover this range with a full-sized DSLR.

You won’t necessarily get great feather/fur detail with the P900 (especially at the long end of the zoom range), but I really prefer that the detail not come from the photograph, but rather from my brush.  With the right set of brushes I can add just the right amount of feather detail to my bird paintings.  

Also, the autofocus isn’t always super accurate — I sometimes have to play with it a little to get it to behave, and raw shooting capability is certainly a feature I would like to see added.  Overall, though, I’ve been very satisfied with the P900's performance and image quality.  I’ve really found this camera to be a great image-capture tool for my birding needs.  

And I wouldn't want to leave you with the impression that this camera is only good for bird photography.  I've found it to be an excellent camera for all of my general photography needs — from landscapes to portraits to sports.

In a future post I'll be writing about my process for capturing bird photos for use as painting subjects.  And be sure to catch for my upcoming video tutorial:  Autumn Nuthatch, Painting Birds with the Mixer Brush.

I shot all of the images in the P900’s “auto” mode without use of a tripod.  With lower light levels and/or use of extended digital zoom, a tripod would be highly recommended.  The house finch and the cormorants were shot using a 35mm focal length equivalent of 2000 mm.  The moon was shot at 1800mm (in 35mm).  Note: some images were cropped, color-edited and lightly sharpened.

More Free Stock Image Sites - Courtesy of Canva April 09, 2016 09:36

In a previous posting I provided a list of 19 stock photo sites that make photographs available to us free of charge. As digital artists it's always nice to have a wide assortment of images to use as references, starting points or inspiration for our paintings.  The design website, Canva, has recently put together a much more comprehensive list of 73 such sites.  Maybe you'll be able to put a few of these images to use with your next project!


Spring Snow in Lake Arrowhead April 04, 2016 12:30

El Nino came to California, but his presence hasn't been felt here in the southern part of the state nearly as much as it has to the north.  We were happy to have received an early spring storm that left a nice blanket of snow in the San Bernardinos.  The snow really didn't last long, which would be typical for this time of year.

We continue to hope for a wetter-than-usual spring to bring our lake level up (our lake is currently about 7.5 feet below full).  We'll see what happens.

This image was taken with my iPhone.

Discovering the Portrait-Painting Power of the Mixer Brush February 07, 2016 13:41

There are truly an infinite number of ways to configure and apply the mixer brush in Photoshop.  No matter what your preferred painting subject or style; whether you prefer photo-manipulation or painting from scratch onto a blank canvas; whether you prefer fine, detailed strokes or broad, expressive strokes - the mixer brush can help you (as it has me) to achieve a higher level of creative expression.

I love painting portraits - of both people and animals - and over time I’ve developed my own style.  A lot of the time I begin with a photo - first working the colors and tones to my liking, then turning the photo into a simplified underpainting using the mixer brush (my blending brushes).  And then adding paint to my canvas, gradually building the forms and colors and details - once again using the mixer brush (my opaque and wet painting brushes that I’ve developed for this purpose).

I also enjoy working from a sketch - selecting colors and adding them to my canvas, then blending and refining the shapes, and forms and lines using the mixer brush.  I’ve found that this way of painting is certainly more challenging, but also somewhat more rewarding in the end.

I would encourage you to use and experiment with this wonderfully versatile Photoshop painting tool, and discover for yourself the creative power it possesses.

The painting above began as a photo (taken by Darja Vorontsova) and was made as described in the second paragraph - using the same brushes that are provided and featured in Lesson 3 of my MTDC series, “Painting Portraits with the Mixer Brush in Photoshop.”

Give "Mastering the Digital Canvas" As a Gift... December 23, 2015 13:17 treat yourself to a new learning experience for the New Year! With just a couple days to go before Christmas, it's still not too late to take advantage of the Holiday Savings at!

And remember, if you order two or more products, you can still use the coupon code 20PKG at checkout to receive an additional $20 discount. Consider adding my 1-ON-1 training to you cart.

Please contact me if you have any questions. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!                                                                                                                                                                   





Deardorff Training in the New Year December 23, 2015 12:48

I have big plans for 2016! I'm currently hard at work on my next training lesson, "Autumn Nuthatch, Painting Birds with the Mixer Brush."  I'm expecting that this title will hatch in the early spring.  This will be the first volume of my new series, "Over My Shoulder," that will give viewers the opportunity to watch and listen - and of course work along with me - as I take a variety of different paintings from concept to completion.

The paintings made as a part of this series will be actual paintings that I'll be working on either for myself or for a client. The painting, "Autumn Nuthatch," which is subject of Volume 1, will be part of a limited-edition print series I'm working on, "Birds of the San Bernardino Mountains."

I plan to release a total of three new training titles in the coming year - on a variety of different techniques and topics. And there will be some surprises along the way. It should be a fun year - I hope you'll be a part of it!

Black Friday - Cyber Monday Discounts Extended December 05, 2015 09:39 1 Comment

We've decided to extend the savings on video products through the month of December.  Give the gift of a digital-art education to someone you love.

Friday - Monday Savings November 27, 2015 09:05

In the spirit of the season Deardorff Training will offer a discount of $15 on any video lesson in the "Mastering the Digital Canvas" series.  This savings will be available only through Monday, November 30, 2015, so be sure not to miss it.   

And remember, if you order two or more products, you can still use the coupon code 20PKG at checkout to receive an additional $20 discount.  

Please contact me if you have any questions.  Happy Holidays!


Follow Deardorff Training on Pinterest November 26, 2015 09:53

I'm happy to announce that Deardorff Training is now on Pinterest.  I hope you'll join me there.  Be sure to click the "follow" button to see what I'm working on - as well as some of the artwork/artists I enjoy.

If you're not a Pinterest member, it's easy to sign up - and it's free.  Once you do, you'll quickly see that it's a great source for ideas and inspiration.  I look forward to seeing you there!


Follow Deardorff Training on Facebook November 16, 2015 09:28

I would welcome you to follow me on my new Facebook page.  I'll be adding content and information that you might find useful.  I would also appreciate you sharing this page with any friends that might be interested.

The Mixer Brush Controls November 15, 2015 21:46

This video is an edited sample from my MTDC series, Lesson 3, "Painting Portraits with the Mixer Brush," Chapter 3, "Mixer Brush Basics."

The “Over My Shoulder” Training Series November 08, 2015 12:16 4 Comments

With my “Mastering the Digital Canvas” portrait-painting series complete, I’m looking forward now to my new series, “Over My Shoulder,” that will cover new subjects and techniques.  The first lesson in this series will focus on my technique for painting birds using the mixer brush in Photoshop.  This is a passion of mine, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you my approach to this kind of painting.  The tutorial will be available in the spring.

Other painting subjects for this series will include florals, landscapes and still-life - as well as some different kinds of portraiture.  If you have any thoughts about what you’d like to see presented, I hope you’ll feel free to share those ideas.

This new series will be structured a little differently than my MTDC series.  I took a lot of time in Lessons 1-3 to introduce the tools I use for painting in Photoshop.  I tried to show all the finer points of the smudge tool and the mixer brush - how they work; designing and creating them; all the different controls that are available.

The OMS series will assume that you already possess all of this knowledge, so the instruction will focus more on workflow and technique.  I plan to be a little more concise with these tutorials, but we’ll see how that goes.

Note: The work-in-progress painting above shows a northern flicker that I photographed on my deck.  This bird is a fairly large, distinctly-marked member of the woodpecker family. They are maybe even more striking in flight - their underwings are magnificent.  One morning my wife, Janet, and I watched as a male and female flicker danced in near-sync on our neighbor’s roof.  It was quite a show.

As I make this painting, I’m using the mixer brush (the same brush configurations provided in Lesson 3 of my MTDC series).

Autumn at Lake Arrowhead November 08, 2015 12:05

One of the many things I love about living in the mountains is the color that accompanies the arrival of autumn. It doesn’t last long, but when it’s here — it’s beautiful.  I try not to miss an opportunity to capture the amazing colors with my camera — and then, of course to combine elements of these photos into digital paintings.

The painting above was made fairly quickly using the mixer brush in Photoshop.

Lesson Three: A Big "Thank-You" September 28, 2015 21:44

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response I’ve received to the release of Lesson Three in my MTDC series, “Painting Portraits with the Mixer Brush in Photoshop.” I put a lot of time and effort into producing it, so it makes me happy to know that this is a technique you’re interested in - and that you’re finding this lesson useful. Here’s a sampling of some of the feedback I’ve received over the last few weeks.

So “thanks” to those of you who have purchased this title. Your support enables me to continue making tutorials that will hopefully - to some degree - inspire and inform.

Also, a quick “thanks” to Gary Rose who allowed us to use as a learning tool his wonderful photograph of this “Old Fisherman.” Your generosity is greatly appreciated.


Package Discount Offering September 28, 2015 21:14

I’ve had a number of people ask about receiving a package discount for the purchase of two Lessons at the same time — I had only been offering a package discount on the complete three-lesson set.

In response, I’ve decided to offer a $20 discount coupon that can be applied to any orders totaling $198 or more:


Not only will this coupon apply to the purchase of any two lessons, but it will also apply to any lesson(s) purchased in conjunction with my 1-ON-1 Training. This coupon may also be applied to the purchase of the Complete MTDC Set, bringing the total price for all three lessons to just $229.

*This discount cannot be applied toward previous purchases, and may be discontinued at any time.

Stocking Up: Finding Great Images to Paint September 22, 2015 21:00 2 Comments

The paintings I make are always photo-based, whether they’re photo-transformations or paintings that begin as blank canvases — using the photo only as a reference. And I’ve found sometimes that my own photo library doesn’t always meet all of my needs. This may be the case with you as well.

What i’ve done, and what I would recommend to you would be to seek out and use (with permission of course) images taken by other photographers. These may be images posted to different photography or digital-art forums - some with an invitation to other members to retouch/manipulate/paint the posted image. Early on, as I worked to expand my skills as a digital artist, this was a great resource to me. Not only the images that were made available to me, but the feedback and encouragement I received from other members.

Another great resource I would recommend to you for the purposes of practice and portfolio-building would be the stock-image websites that are out there in increasingly larger numbers. You might be surprised to know that a large number of these sites offer use of their images for free.

Here’s a list of eighteen of my favorite sites offering free-for-use images: Pexels, Stocka, MMT, DesignersPics, Unsplash, Splitshire, Pixabay, Life of Pix, Magdeleine, Stocksnap, Gratisography, Kaboompics, Raumrot, Picjumbo, Im free, Re:splashed, ISO Republic, and Stokpic.

The stock site I use most often when I'm looking for a picture to paint is Dreamstime.  You'll have to pay to use most of their images (a very reasonable price, I think), but they do have a really large selection of free images as well.

So you might want to take a stroll through some of these sites. You might just find the inspiration for your next masterpiece.

Download or DVD? September 14, 2015 12:43 10 Comments

Some of you may have different preferences when it comes to receiving tutorial products via direct download or sent by mail on DVD-ROM.  I'd like to hear what you have to say.  (So far you're telling me you prefer downloads to DVDs 60% - 40% - I appreciate the feedback)

[powr-poll label="Enter a Label"]

MTDC - The Complete Set Now Available! September 11, 2015 09:51

complete setWith the release of Lesson Three in my “Mastering the Digital Canvas” training series, the complete set is now available as a digital download.

The first two lessons in this Photoshop training series explore the use of the smudge tool as a primary means of transforming portrait photographs of animals and people into portrait paintings.

In the recently released third lesson, “Painting Portraits with the Mixer Brush,” you’ll follow along from beginning to end as I transform a photo of an old fisherman into a painting using an assortment of mixer brushes that I've custom designed.

This fairly recent addition to the Photoshop toolbox has really expanded the creative opportunities for digital painters - like you and me. Whether you like to transform your photographs into paintings or paint onto a blank canvas, the mixer brush offers us a wonderful new means of creative expression.

The first two lessons were well received, and I hope this one will be as well. Both the smudge tool and the mixer brush are powerful creative tools in the right hands and with the right training!

Beyond the MTDC portrait-painting series, I have lots of plans for future tutorials that will cover a broad spectrum of subjects and digital art techniques - from the very basic to the more advanced. I plan to offer free products from time to time as well.

Please sign up for my newsletter (at the bottom of this page) to receive further updates.

1-ON-1 Training is Now Available September 08, 2015 12:47 3 Comments

I’m Happy to announce that one-on-one training is now available to those who have purchased any of my training products (currently or in the past). This includes four weeks of email consultation with regard to the techniques and information presented in any one of my tutorials - and may include any or all of the following:

  • Submission of your lesson works-in-progress for feedback and direction - whether you choose to work on the lesson image or another image
  • Assistance with ideas and techniques presented in your lesson
  • Answers to your questions with regard to Photoshop digital-art technique
  • Answers to your questions with regard to general Photoshop functionality 
  • Advice and suggestions with regard to your non-lesson painting projects
  • Receive a “Certificate of Completion” with the optional completion of four weekly assignments

A short time after you’ve enrolled in this program, you’ll receive an email confirmation with details and more information. 

Please click here or contact me for more information.

Up to Speed with the Mixer Brush May 07, 2015 20:45

There’s been some discussion about brush lag that may occur when you’re using the mixer brush.  I don’t find this to be a major issue for me as I paint, and I’m not using a super high-performance machine.  If you do have lag issues, here are some things you might want to bear in mind as you paint:

Smaller files with fewer layers will lead to better performance.  I like to paint with as few layers as possible.  A paint layer on top of a background reference layer is really all I need for most of the painting work I do.  If you’re working on a particularly large painting, you may find it useful to crop certain areas of the painting and work on them separately.  For example, painting a large portrait you might want to crop and work on just the area of the head.  Once that’s done, you can paste it back onto the larger painting.
    8 bits per channel is plenty for digital painting.  16 bits is overkill and will slow down your system.

      Painting with “sample all layers” off will require much less processing than with it on.  The brushes I use are configured in this way.  Instead of painting onto a blank layer and sampling from below, or using cloning layers (mixer brush cloning paint set-up action), I prefer to paint directly onto an image layer, sampling only from that layer.
        The smaller the brush the less processing required.  Sometimes you’ll need bigger brushes, for example, when you’re painting a background.  As a work-around you may want to work with a reduced image size when painting the background area of a painting.  This way you can work with smaller brushes — the reduced file size won’t hurt either.  You can then upsize and rework the background with smaller brushes.

          Brush configuration is important.  If you’re using the bristle brush tips with the mixer brush — like I do, remember that you’ll get better performance using brushes with fewer/shorter/thinner/stiffer bristles than otherwise.  Also, increasing the “spacing” setting just a little can help to reduce the processing load — without any noticeable difference to your brushstroke.

          Although the other Photoshop painting tools — like the smudge tool and the brush tool — are somewhat less processor intensive, these recommendations can be applied to them as well.

          I love the mixer brush. Used right it’s a wonderful painting tool that produces amazing results — and is great fun to use.