1-ON-1 Training is Now Available September 8, 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 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. 



          Lake Arrowhead Dogwood April 7, 2015 09:41 5 Comments

          A few years ago my wife and I — along with our two sons and our neurotic beagle — moved from suburban Rancho Cucamonga, California, to Lake Arrowhead in the mountains of Southern California.  One of the many things we noticed and fell in love with immediately was the mountain dogwood that begins to bloom in early spring.  It’s everywhere you look:  decorating the shadows along the winding canyon roads, sprinkled along the creeks that — because of our drought — flow very little, if at all.

          Despite our drought and the things that come with it — a lower water level in the lake, mostly empty creeks — The dogwood still blooms beautifully.  The image above is a small part of a painting I made from a photograph taken later in the spring last year.  This painting was made using the mixer brush in photoshop. I’ll plan to share with you at some future point the brushes and techniques that were used.  

          Smudge Tool vs. Mixer Brush April 6, 2015 18:19 9 Comments

          I’m often asked which tool — the smudge tool or the mixer brush — is the better tool to use for creating paintings in Photoshop.  And the answer is…use both, and see what you prefer.

          The smudge tool has been a part of the Photoshop tool box for some time - going back even to pre-CS versions.  This was the first tool I began to use for transforming photos into paintings, and I still use it a lot despite the introduction of the mixer brush with CS5.  The smudge tool primarily allows us to interact with the colors of our canvas using a variety of different brushes designed for specific purposes:  bristle-type brushes that are great for painting hair, fur and other areas where you might want to show brush texture; and smoothing brushes that work great for painting skin, clothing, etc.  You can effectively add paint to the canvas by using your smudge brushes in finger-painting mode, but the mixer brush is really a better tool for this.

          The mixer brush can be used like the smudge tool by using it in clean-blending mode.  By using a clean brush in the wet mode, it's very similar to using the smudge tool — you can even use the same brush tips you use with your smudge tool to make the experience more similar.  But, like I said, the mixer brush is a much more capable tool when it comes to adding paint to a canvas.  In dry mode it becomes essentially like the standard brush tool, but in wet mode the paint you apply to the canvas interacts with the paint already on the canvas.  Another great feature of the mixer brush is the ability to add a texture effect to your brushstrokes.  This is something we can’t do with the smudge tool.

          I've found the smudge tool to be an easier tool to use, and for that reason it’s a great place to start learning how to paint photos in Photoshop.  But even though it’s simpler to use, the boundaries of its creative potential are unlimited.  Similarly, the mixer brush, which was designed to more closely mimic the look of various traditional painting techniques, is an extremely powerful tool.

          I’ve also found the smudge tool to be very effective when it comes to creating paintings with a more photorealistic look.  The mixer brush is equally effective when you want to achieve a more textured, painted look with bolder, more noticeable brushstrokes.  Having said that, you can also make finely-detailed photorealistic paintings with the mixer brush and apply bold brushstrokes and a fairly realistic texture (after-the-fact) to paintings made with the smudge tool.

          My advice:  for transforming photographs into paintings, use either one (or both together).  If you're new to painting in Photoshop, I recommend starting with the smudge tool.  If you’ll be adding lots of paint to your digital canvas, the mixer brush might be the better choice.  Learn them both — I’ll be here to help.

          Downloads...finally March 14, 2015 08:21

          I've been working for some time now to add downloadable versions of my products to my site.  I know many of you - especially those of you who live outside of the US - have been requesting this.  Sorry it took so long, but happy to finally be able to accommodate you.

          With this option, you’ll be able to quickly start using your training materials, and without delivery charges, customs fee or sales tax added to your price.

          "Lesson Three:  Painting Portraits with the Mixer Brush," which will be released soon, will also be available as a direct download.  Please sign up for my newsletter (at the bottom of this page) to receive further updates.

          You may want to read these FAQs on downloading.