Beard-Detailing Demo December 31, 2017 21:10 18 Comments

Here's a peek at a portion of Lesson Three in my MTDC series, "Painting Portraits with the Mixer Brush."  In this chapter, I use my mixer brushes to add beard detail to an underpainting that was made in a previous chapter.

Mixer-Brush Painting Techniques: Video Sample April 9, 2016 09:37 6 Comments

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 9, 2016 09:37 6 Comments

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 9, 2016 09:36 2 Comments

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!


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!


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."

Up to Speed with the Mixer Brush May 7, 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.

          Digital Painting Tip - A Fresh Perspective May 2, 2015 10:13

          When I used to make prints in a darkroom, as soon as my print was fixed and washed, I’d bring it into the light and attempt to evaluate it. I’d study the composition, the tonal quality, the color — always asking myself what could be done to make a better print. As part of that evaluation process, I would look at my print in a mirror. By doing this, It was almost like seeing my work for the first time. This new perspective allowed my to see the overall composition, the shapes, the various tones — the photograph itself — in a new way.

          Even as my darkroom has changed from wet to digital, I continue to evaluate my work from different perspectives.  In the digital darkroom we actually have available to us many more options for viewing our work in different ways as we paint.  We can zoom in and out, rotate our painting using the rotate-view tool, flip it horizontally or vertically using Edit/Transform.  We can even convert our paintings to black and white to evaluate the tonal relationships.  All with push-button ease.

          When you work on a painting for a while you sometimes lose the ability to know what’s working and what isn’t.  Certainly stepping away from your painting for a time might bring new perspective, and renewed passion.  But using these other tools regularly as we paint can help to keep the process fresh — while providing us with useful insight.