Acrylic Painting Tutorial: How to Paint a Composite Image

You’ve seen modern artists use tools like Photoshop to composite images. The tools may have changed, and at the same time creating compositing isn’t an entirely new thing. For centuries, artists including DaVinci, Michelangelo, Escher, Norman Rockwell, and Leyendecker have taken objects and changed the setting, lighting, backgrounds and composition. In more recent years, comic book artists are known to create huge narratives every month filled with detailed objects and scenes. For books on how comic artists create their visuals, along with information on anatomy and drawing basics, I’d suggest How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way and Drawing Dynamic Comics. I refer to these for a lot of my painting designs and poses.

Mona Lisa probably wasn’t sitting out in nature the way DaVinci depicted her. In painting the Sistine Chapel, standing on a scaffold with the speed limitations of fresco painting’s drying plaster, Michelangelo wouldn’t have the time to observe angels in the heavens even if such a thing did exist. Escher’s impossible perspectives were inspired by the architecture and landscapes of Italy, although he was unable to live there during most of his life. Rockwell relied on live models and created his scenes as close as possible in real life, though like most illustrators, there was a lot of liberties taken right on the page. All of these artists relied heavily on their own sketches and studies.

Leyendecker detailed his process which is similar to many artists especially before the advent of photography: “First make a number of pencil or charcoal studies. Select the most promising and on a sketch canvas do these in full color, oil or water with plenty of detail. Keep an open mind and be alert to capture any movement or pose that may improve your original idea.” Personally, as you will see below, I may tend to skip this level of detail and just work things out on my final painting just because of my own lack of patience.

“You may now dismiss your model, but be sure you have all the material needed with separate studies of parts to choose from, for you are now on your own and must work entirely from your studies,” Leyendecker continues. “This canvas will somewhat resemble a picture puzzle, and it is up to you to assemble it and fit it into your design at the same time simplify wherever possible by eliminating all unessentials. All this is done on tracing paper and retraced on the final canvas.” Sometimes I will use the grid method or most often freehand rather than use tracing paper.

Tutorial

For the painting in this demo, I used a mirror with my own reflection, several reference photos some of which I had taken myself (of myself), and some real life objects for the still life elements. This was done on bristol paper which was coated with gesso. First I start with a very rough underpainting to lay out the elements of the composition. I wish I had photographed the initial strokes in a thin wash of purple acrylic.

Step 1:

First, I covered the entire surface with a thin wash of color. A more neutral surface is created and covering the white surface at a later time while trying to avoid your strokes can feel tedious. You can use pencil and sometimes I do, though it takes more work to cover it up later. Dilute your paint with water and you can draw with enough detail. You can also wipe off the paint with water before it’s fully dry if you need to.

Step 2:

Continuing with detail and mapping out values. This is pretty much just drawing and sketching. If you were following Leyendecker’s method, you may have already mapped this out in a study or sketch. I didn’t do this and worked out the details here. For this underpainting (or grisaille), I decided on dioxazine purple and titanium white. Purple under paintings are popular in watercolor to create depth when painted over. The color you choose for the underpainting will likely interact with your finished colors.

Step 3:

I chose this purple because it’s a color I often mix into my shadows as it’s can be very dark and near black. The idea being that it’s such a dominant color in my scheme that it makes sense to start there. Other popular options for value studies include mixing titanium white (or white gesso) with burnt umber, raw sienna, or mars black. You can also choose two complimentary colors to work with against white. Yellow and purple for instance. This seems a bit complicated for me when I’m just trying to draw.  Experiment in your sketchbook or on scrap to see how these create different effects. Browns are my other favorite method.

Step 4: 

The more finished the underpainting, the less thought you’ll have to do when it’s time for color. It’s never too late to make huge corrections or changes, however. It’s just paint and can be painted over. After I’m satisfied with the basics of the composition, I look closer at anatomy and work out some of the more important details. Fashion photos helped me pick out the shirt. Google Images and Pinterest are ideal for this stuff. If you have it in life, that’s ideal.

 

Step 5:

 

Most importantly at this point are the values of light and dark. I like to place light areas “behind” my dark areas. Dark areas are also “behind” my light areas. This can be subtle or obvious. The contrast in value between two areas is what creates the illusion of a line without literally creating an outline stroke.

Step 6:

In starting with color, I decided on a yellow shirt since it’s the compliment of purple. Using the compliment of a color in it’s shadows makes for more interesting shadows and creates more contrast than a pure neutral. For the skin tones, I did a simple wash of greens first as skin tones are heavily loaded with reds. (Point being that green and red are compliments.) For the brown hair, I decided to use blue with highlights of orange to create a varied brown. The theme of the foreground colors is warm tones. When applying color, thin washes are often useful so you can still use your underpainting as a guide. This isn’t always possible and that’s when having a photo of your underpainting or a nearly complete sketch is helpful. Thin washes also help to hide brushstrokes and create smoother DaVinci-like “sfumato” style painting. A wash of paint along the hard edges will create soft edges.

 

Step 7:

The blue translucent plate is just a matter of painting two images on top of each other, the wood of the table and the definition of the plate. With the right balance, you’ll have what appears to be a blue plate.

Step 8: 

Since the foreground is heavily doused in warm tones, it only follows that the background is cool. Cool tones recede into the background naturally, which is an effect called atmospheric perspective. Note that I made a number of corrections as I worked and didn’t rely solely on the underpainting. Taking photos at various stages and comparing tones to the final colors also helped as I work out the colors at appropriate values and contrast. Each local color is worked with it’s compliment. Colors also reflect nearby objects so they feel like they are in the same space. Note the yellow of the table near the yellow shirt.

Finally the finished painting. Is this what you imagined it would look like based on the underpainting?

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How to Edit Out Glare From Glasses Using Photoshop

Picture source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/877183

As you can see in this picture, there is a lot of glare in this boy’s glasses. Although it may be tricky, you can remove the glare using Photoshop.

Step One: The Tools

There are a couple of tools that people like to use to remove glare: The clone stamp tool and the healing brush. The shortcut for the clone stamp tool is “S” and the shortcut for the healing brush is “J”. For both tools, you need to collect a sample area. Press the ALT key to select a part of the picture that you want to copy over the glare with. Ideally, you want the sample area to be very close to the affected area. That way the same color and texture is being copied over. It’s important to take very short strokes and keep selecting new sample areas as you progress.

The clone stamp only fixes the affected area with the source sample. The healing brush takes some of the texture that surrounds the affected area and mixes it with the source sample. That is the only difference between the healing brush and the stone clamp tool. You should experiment with both because not every picture can be cured using the same methods from previous projects.

To effectively remove glare, you want to use these tools in very short strokes and the picture should be zoomed in to work more efficiently.

If an eye was affected by glare, I would copy the other eye to place over the glared eye and touch it up with the healing brush or clone stamp tool. However, both eyes are glare-free, so it is not necessary for me to make copied selections of an eye.

Step Two: The Process

Select the clone stamp tool and make a copied layer of the original. You always want to save your work to protect your project. You want to make the first copied layer to work with. Save the original for reference and backup.

Zoom in until you feel like you have enough canvas to work with. Your canvas should primarily consist of the glare and sample sources you can use to remove the glare. If there is too much glare, you may to select some copies of similar skin textures with the lasso tool to place over the glare. Since there are a lot of sample sources in this picture, I did not need to select copies of skin.

Make sure you zoom out once in a while to see how your work is going. You may need to backtrack and redo some parts. By now, I have used both tools, but I’m primarily sticking with the clone stamp tool. The healing brush is taking texture samples that do not mix well.

Make sure the new skin tone matches other skin tones around it. If it doesn’t, the picture won’t look authentic. You may want to lower the opacity of the clone stamp tool to help the skin tones blend and match.

Step Three: The Finishing Touches

About midway through it, I made another copied layer. It acted like a “save point.” The boy’s right eyebrow was the hardest to effectively fix since there was not much sample sources for it.

I used the healing brush for a couple of spots near the frame. For the most part, I just made sure that the skin tones were even.

Removing glare may be a little tricky for beginners, but with enough practice, it is possible. Not every picture can be treated the same way, so it’s important to learn different ways to remove glare. One technique I did not use was copying other patches of skin or textures. This can be an effective way to remove glare as well.

Sara Roberts writes for Just Eyewear, a discount eyeglasses and prescription sunglasses online retailer.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

DIY Fashion Ideas that can Save You Hundreds

DIY fashion is becoming the reality for many people now who just need to save some cash when it comes to their wardrobes. Even if you aren’t normally the crafty type, you can certainly learn to do a little bit to dress up your wardrobe without spending a fortune. If you’re getting a little bored or just flat out need new clothes, learning how to do things yourself could save you hundreds.

You don’t always need knitting needles or a sewing machine to make DIY fashion work, either. In fact, some projects are pretty simple. It’s a good idea to start small and work your way up if you aren’t sure how to use some of the more hardcore DIY equipment.

Something to start with might be your accessories. How much do you bet you spend in a year on headbands, necklaces, bracelets, and other accessories? You can save a fortune by making your own or dressing up what you’ve already got.

For instance, there are about a hundred online tutorials showing you how to take a bit of fabric or lace and make one of those giant headband or hat flowers that are so popular right now. All you need is a glue gun or a safety pin, and you can take a headband or had you already have and transform it into something totally new.

Learning how to do your own beading can be fun, too. With the chunky, layered necklaces that are in right now, you don’t even have to worry about lots of intricate design work. Simply lay out your beads in the order you want them, and string them on. Learn how to neatly tie on a clasp, and you’re good to go.

Another popular way to save through DIY fashion is to upcycle items. Check out places like Goodwill and Salvation Army for clothes that aren’t quite your style. You can find tons of ways to update them, make them fit better, or turn them into something new altogether.

For instance, a tee-shirt that’s a bit too large and a scarf can be turned into a super-cute cami with just a bit of sewing. Simply slice of the top of the tee-shirt just below the neckline. Use the sleeves to make a binding around your new neckline, and string the scarf through the neck in front and back. It sounds a little difficult if you’ve never sewn, but it’s really a pretty simple project. (http://diystyle.net/projects/fashion/tee-to-cami/)

A Few Things to Remember

Before you get into DIY fashion, there are a few things you need to remember. Here are just a few tips to help you save even more on your new DIY fashion adventure:

  1. Look online for tutorials. Sure, you can go buy books about how to make your own clothes and accessories, but that sort of defeats the purpose because you’re already spending too much money! Instead, look online for free tutorials to get you started. Libraries also have lots of DIY books that could be helpful in learning basic techniques. Once you get the basics down, you can make up your own projects with just a bit of creativity.
  2. Don’t try it all at once. Trying too many things at once can be frustrating – and expensive! Start with one thing, like beading or knitting, and get the hang of it before moving on to something new. This gives you the chance to really understand one art before moving on to the next. Plus, you’ll save on materials and equipment. Start with just the bare bones basics to find out if you like a new craft so you don’t end up with lots of unnecessary stuff cluttering your crafting room and your budget.
  3. Save on your materials and equipment. Saving on materials is simple for most things. Craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Jo-Ann Fabrics offer great discounts every week. Just sign up for their newsletters or check the store frequently. Once you get really good, you won’t buy anything without a coupon! You can also get materials from Goodwill for super cheap, and these will work for many upcycling projects. To save on equipment like your sewing machine and such, buy used off of eBay or Craigslist until you know exactly what you like and need and can splurge on something pricier.

This article was contributed by Abigail Hall.  She is a writer at the consumer credit card website, www.creditdonkey.com.  Visit CreditDonkey to earn cash back on your next fashion purchase.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

How To Create a Memorable TV Commercial

3 examples of great TV commercials

Commercials are a huge part of our society. Not only are they trendsetters and good fodder for water cooler talk, but they reflect culture and what is going on at that given time period.  

Not all commercials achieve this kind of impact though. It takes a really creative and memorable commercial to truly achieve success.  Every minute of every day, millions of people are inundated with ads in many different forms: online, radio, print and television. Yet nothing seems to have the same impact as the TV commercial.

Here’s a look at three of the best creative and memorable commercials in recent years and why they are successful.

Dr. T’s Slug and Snail Killer

A great commercial doesn’t have to be extravagant. This awesome spot for slug and snail killer is just a monologue. But it is extremely well written and the acting is brilliant. If this isn’t a perfect human rendition of a slug then I don’t know what is! Viewers aren’t soon to forget about this slug.

Nike

On the other hand, brands with gigantic budgets can still produce breathtaking commercials.  Again, it isn’t so much the special effects or CGI that makes this great — the concept is simple. What defines this Nike spot is the music and fast-changing images that strike an emotional cord with a variety of audiences. Just putting in a quick shot of famous runner Steve Prefontaine, for example, creates an emotional connection with all runners even if the commercial has a broader target.

Google

Sometimes commercials don’t have to say anything at all. This awesome Super Bowl spot from Google – their first ever – puts the viewer in the drivers seat and tells an entire story through the use of their product. This is a common tactic in TV advertising. Much like the Nike ad, an emotional connection is created through the use of a product.

The real answer, as cliché as it seems, is that there is not one right way to make a great advertisement. People have tried many different strategies. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Strive to tell great stories in your commercials. Create emotional bonds that are hard to forget. Regardless of format or style, if you do these things the ad will be a hit.

It doesn’t take a huge budget or a powerhouse brand to create a great TV spot either. Simplicity rules. Just look at the examples above! Regardless of budget, if the ad is created properly you have nothing to worry about.

Trevin is a freelance writer and TV fanatic.

 

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.