Creating Digital Paint - Texture Part 1

Has it really been almost a month since I posted last?! Ridiculous...

Well today I thought I'd keep going with my series on digital paint and take a long-winded moment to talk about texture.

Now texture is one of those things that I had avoided for the longest time when I started painting digitally. I think it was because, at the time, I considered texture only in the sense of the surface qualities of objects within the painting (i.e. skin texture vs. grass texture vs. metallic texture). And because I have a compulsion to always do things the hard way, I decided that it would be best to try and learn how to render those surface qualities by hand. This was both a good and a bad thing because even though I was learning a lot by trying to render everything meticulously, I would still end up with paintings that ultimately have that smooth, Photoshoppy feel (see below). This was also at a time in my education before I really learned much in the way of actually painting (with paints).

One of my first digital paintings from highschool. Blech.

 Move ahead 4 or 5 years through art school and an idea finally clicks that I will share as my next tip:

Creating Digital Paint Tip #2

Texture in a digital painting should describe the application of paint.

Now this one gets a bit tricky and requires some knowledge of how to paint in the real world. There are three kinds of textures that occur on the surface of a real painting that all have to be considered in order to replicate them digitally. They are (as I refer to them):

1. Substrate Texture  - The texture of the paper or piece of material being painted on.


2. Paint Texture - The texture of the paint as applied to the substrate. This applies to both impasto textures and the shape quality of a dab or brushstroke.

3. Representational Texture - The perception of a painted object's particular surface qualities (i.e. a rock's "rockiness" versus a metallic surface's smoothness, etc.). Learn how to indicate representational texture by manipulating the previous two types, instead of just meticulously painting it out or using a sampled brush.

The way these three types interact in a painting varies a lot. Thin paint will have no texture of its own and will instead display the texture of the substrate. Thick paint that is dragged across the surface will have an impasto paint texture at the beginning of the stroke and will fizzle out drastically according to how the surface of the substrate catches the end of the stroke. It really is maddening, the variety of textures that can be achieved. The trick is to just study them, and play with effective ways of recreating them digitally.

At the risk of going on WAAAAY too long in one post, I'm going to finish this discussion in a later post where I'll get more into specific ways I use Corel Painter to create textures in a painting.

And as always, if anyone has anything to add so far, feel free to post it in the comments!