This is the last part of the Digital Painting Tutorial. You can find the other parts to the tutorial here;;
- preparation – moodboard
- preparation – create base image
- create working layers the quick & easy way
- create working layers by hand
- finishing touches (this page)
In this final part we are going to do the finishing touches to our digital painting.
These finishing touches are;
- Using actions for special effect layers
- Adding textures
- Color grading
Creating the special effect layers;
Most of my works have one or more what I call special effect layers added. Of course this step is optional and is very personal. I like my works to have a little rough edge so to say, so I like to use paint spatters, drips and textures.
To make life easier I use a couple of actions to quickly create these special effects layers. My goto actions can be found here, but instead of using them to create a full artwork I just use some of the generated layers.
Before you start the action first you start with making a stamped visible layer by selecting the top layer and simultaneously pressing SHIFT + COMMAND + OPTION + E on a Mac or SHIFT + CTRL + ALT + E on a PC. A new layer will be created on top of the layer stack. I usually rename this layer something like ‘Stamped’. Now duplicate this layer to a new document by clicking ‘Layer’ from the menu then selecting ‘Duplicate Layer…’ Where it says Document just select the option ‘New’ and in the ‘Name’ field type the name of your new document.
This will create a new document with the stamped layer in it.
Now switch to the newly created document, you will find it when you click on ‘Window’ in the menu and scroll all the way down. Look for the name you busted gave your new document.
As most actions only run using 8-bit documents you will have to make sure you are working with an 8-bit image by clicking on ‘Image’ from the menu and selecting ‘Mode’ and if necessary choose ‘8 bits/channel’ if that is not already the selected option.
Also most actions only start with your starting image as the background layer, so next click on ‘Layer’ in the menu and select ‘New’ and finally ‘Background from layer’.
Your layer will now be called ‘Background’ if everything went well.
For my first action I want to use the Impressionist Photoshop action to create the paint drips. Before you run an action make sure to always save your work, in case something goes wrong. I also recommend to always try a new action on a simple test file using the instructions from the creator. In case of the impressionist action the greater has a great YouTube instruction on how to setup and use his action.
When the Impression action is running it will stop and ask you to paint the main part of the image. I usually just fill the whole layer-mask with white to make the effect visible on the complete image. You can press the ‘play’ button to continue to let the action run when you are done painting the effect part.
The effect will stop once more to give you a moment to paint over the edges of your work if you din’t paint the whole mask white in the last step. When you are done you can press the ‘play button’ again and the action will continue until it it finished.
When the action is done I dig into the layer stack it created to find the layers I want to use in my digital painting. I try to combine multiple layers as much as possible by selecting multiple layers then right clicking one of them and selecting ‘Merge layers’ before duplicating them back to my painting by clicking on ‘Layer’ in the menu and selecting ‘Duplicate layer’. Now select your digital painting document. This will copy the special effects layer on top of (if you followed the steps exactly) the stamped layer.
Now place a black layer mask by clicking on the ‘Add layer mask’ icon while holding Option/ALT at the same time. With a nice white paint brush with opacity set to around 50% you can paint the effect on your painting.
When the layers have a layer mask I also copy the action-made layer masks over with the (merged) layer.
In case of the Impressionist action, lets first start with the paint spatter layers. Look for the group called ‘Paint Spatter’ in the layers panel. Now select all the ‘Paint Spatter’ layers (6 layers) and select ‘Layer’ from the menu and select ‘Merge layers’. This will merge all 6 layers into a single layer. Now click on ‘Layer’ in the menu again and click on ‘Duplicate Layer’. Now select your digital painting document to copy the paint spatter merged layer to your digital painting when you select your digital painting document.
Because this layer doesn’t contain much spatters I will leave it as is and not place a layer mask on it.
Now go back to the document you played the action on and let’s copy the paint drip layers to our digital painting.
The paint drips will be inside a group called ‘Paint drips’. Select all the layers (15 layers) containing paint drips and merge the layers into a single layer like we did with the paint spatter layers by selecting ‘Layer’ and ‘Merge Layers’. As you probably noticed the ‘Paint drips’ group has a mask on it, so lets copy the mask on the merged layer by dragging the mask icon from the group to the merged layer while holding OPTION/ALT. Now select the merged layer containing the paint drips with the layer mask and duplicate the layer to your digital painting document by selecting ‘Layer’ from the menu then click on ‘Duplicate layer’ and select your digital painting document. When you select your digital painting document it will look like this;
As you can see this effect is way to strong and completely masks our own painting, so we will need to add a layer mask. Because the layer already has a layer mask we can’t just add another layer mask but there is an easy solution for this problem by placing the ‘Paint drips’ layer in a group. To do this first make sure the ‘Paint drips’ layer is selected and then click on the little ‘Group’ icon below the layer stack and dragging the ‘Paint drips’ layer into the group, or by clicking ‘Layer’ in the menu then ‘New’ and finally click on ‘New group from layers…’
Now select the newly created group with the paint drips layer inside it and place a black mask on the layer by clicking on the ‘Add layer mask’ icon while holding Option/ALT at the same time. With a nice white paint brush with opacity set at 50% you can paint the effect on your painting. Make sure to use a larger brush on the foreground parts of your painting and make the brush smaller the further away in the background you go. You can also play around with the opacity of the brush to accentuate parts of the painting where you want more or less of the effect seen.
I often add a sketch effect to my works. This can easily be made on a new layer with blending mode multiply on which you sketch with a soft sketch brush on dark grey color at 60%. You will want to use a drawing-tablet for this.
If you want to create the sketch effect using photoshop you can use the already made ‘Stamped’ layer I have a quick and easy tutorial for creating such a sketch effect.
If you want a nice detailed sketch I would suggest using an action to create a more sophisticated sketch. The action I use to do this is called Technicalart by Unicdesign ($8 at the moment of writing). Or you might want to try the newer version of this action.
If you followed the Easy way to create the working layers you will have also added the ‘Texture’ layer. If you want a more authentic looking painting using such a texture is a must. You can find free canvas textures online to place on top of the layer stack with the blending mode set to ‘Overlay’ and opacity dialed down to your liking. Don’t forget to check the opacity while viewing at 100%.
The next step (we are almost done!) is the color grading step. Again create a stamped visible layer by selecting the top layer and simultaneously pressing SHIFT + COMMAND + OPTION + E on a Mac or SHIFT + CTRL + ALT + E on a PC. I usually change this stamped layer to a smart layer to be able to come back to the settings of the color grading part. Name the stamped layer ‘Color Grading’ then select ‘Filter’ from the menu and select ‘Convert for Smart Filters’. A small smart filter icon will appear inside the layer icon zo you can tell this is a smart object.
Now again select ‘Filter’ from the menu and select ‘Camera Raw Filter…’
I usually raise the contrast and play around with the ‘Shadows’ and ‘Highlights’. Also raise the ‘Texture’ and in this example I raised the white balance slightly cooler and raised the Vibrance.
Please play around with the settings until you are happy with the results. Every image is different and needs different settings.
Because you made this layer a smart object you can always go back and change these last settings to your liking.
Saving your file is probably past due right now?! When you are done saving please go do something else for a while (or a couple of days) and let the image rest for a bit before looking at it again because your eyes will have become used to the image and you won’t see the flaws you will see after a break of working on this.
I really hope you have enjoyed this multi-step tutorial on creating a digital painting from a photograph or photoshop image.
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