Creating Digital Paint - Part 1

Lately, I've been experimenting and working towards creating a digital painting experience that I think mirrors more perfectly the way I work traditionally. Not only does this deal with creating custom brushes, but also with some “post production” techniques as well. During the course of my explorations, I've devised some rules that I'd like to share in a new series of posts called “Creating Digital Paint”. This will be for anyone interested in trying to bridge the gap between their traditional work and digital artwork. Of course, these are more or less just my opinions and this info may not be all that new to some people out there. But hopefully my findings and experiences will be at least a little helpful.

Creating Digital Paint Tip #1

Don't try to make your digital painting look like a traditional painting; Make your digital painting look like a PHOTO of a traditional painting.


The fact is, any time you see a piece of traditionally created artwork on a computer screen, you're not looking at the artwork. You're looking at a photograph of the artwork. This matters in very small but very noticeable ways, such as:

-Photos of artwork are rarely ever quite as sharp as you think they are. Brushes that are extremely sharp and crisp should generally be avoided except when working on fine details. And even then, you'd be surprised at how much more convincing a softer brush can look.

-Photos will always have some amount of film grain to them. Don't be afraid to play with the “Add Noise” filter in Photoshop over your finished painting. You don't want to add a LOT of noise, but even just the slightest bit will help blur the line between a traditional look and digital one. Example below:

Finished painting brought from Painter X into Photoshop CS3. The brushwork looks fairly traditional, but I think we can make it even better...

Add a layer filled with 50% gray and an "Add Noise" filter on top.

Set the gray noise layer to Overlay mode and play with the opacity until it looks good. Now, not only do the brush marks look traditional, but the added noise gives the illusion that the entire image exists in some sort of physical space apart from our computer screen. Nifty!