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Digital Impressionism: Environment Photoshop Painting

(Originally published 04/30/2014)

In this article, you´ll find some information about painting environments in a digitally-impressionist sort of way.
It is not a tutorial per se, that´s why I call it a guide, it should rather help you to look into the right direction for more information, but maybe my approach tackles you enough to get there on your own.
The technique is easy compared to traditional plein-air painting. Easy might be a subjective thing in that regard because a prerequisite is a deep understanding of Photoshop and digital painting in general.
Go and get the fundamentals down if you feel this is still too difficult for you, check here – and here.
The results will probably not get you into the Modern-Tate-Gallery or the like, but it will show some techniques that allow you to loosen your workflow for illustration and make painting landscapes some fun.
Setting up:
For a basic setup, it is recommended to have a capable computer, a copy of Photoshop and a Graphic tablet of your choice.
I recommend using the brushes of Shaddy Safadi for doing landscapes. There are only three that I use from his package, but if you have your own, that is fine too.
Thanks, Lukas, for sharing:)
Shady has a very stylized approach that is sophisticated and yet very clean, speed paintings may look differently, but what I rather want to talk about is the basics underlying structure that helps us to decide how to even get there.
Your document size can be regular web sized at 72dpi. for more detail you can scale up later and paint in details as you please, but to keep it fun and simple, just leave the images in the same size as your reference photograph.
If your Photoshop lags when you try working with big or sophisticated brushes, try to change the “Tile-Cache” in the performance options in Photoshop from 1024K to 128K. It is very often by default at 1024 and that is OK for general image-editing, but not for painting where you want a direct feedback on your input.
References:
First, it has to be said that it doesn´t make a big difference if you are going to paint “en plein-air” or if you work from a photograph. A photograph, if not so hard edited as many shots from 500px, are really helpful.
The key is to question your reference and try to interpret, not to copy.
This guide is not about tracing or copying, but to get the essence out of a photograph to incorporate in your own, personal vision.
Seeing is believing and what you believe goes into the painting to make others believe what you believe.
You can for sure pull a grid to transfer the image lines, but don´t care too much. Your personal interpretation is way more important than to have a result that is accurate. The first attempts may fail miserably, but as you go on, the number of flaws will be less and more acceptable. One benefit is that it will more distinctive and obvious that you are painting and not just tracing.
One approach in Photoshop that may save you some hassle without cheating too much is to reduce details. The following two options seem easy to do the trick in Photoshop
(Image courtesy Photos4artists)
Use either very bad compressed jpeg that gives you abstract colors in a near cubism look…
…or blur to take your attention away from the details, see example below:
Another reason to do such “digital impressionism-exercises” is to loosen, or warm-up and it helps to sharpen your eyes for coloring and values in general.
This is one of my painting studies that shows a very traditional edge to the digital impressionism look, it is not perfect and that is not the goal of this exercise.
You can find a demo-video with the process of the painting right here:
I´m sorry that it is not narrated, I hate speaking into the void and it makes things so awful to jump to a certain information, I rather write things down, so even a search engine can find my stuff.
Criteria for reference images:
Back to the painting: See below some indicators, by which you can determine if a photograph is good for use as a reference. As a rule I go firstly about the “3C´s” Composition, Colors and Contrast. But other factors such as interesting lighting and structures can be taken into account as well.
#1: Composition:
#2: Colors:
#3: Contrasts:

It all can be broken down to these things when considering a photograph, there´s even much more to it, training your eyes will open upmore things to consider in the long run.

So there are a lot ways to find good photographs, look at your own archive, or try to make some shots in your next holiday. Find them on google streetview, at flickr500pxphotos4artists or deviantart.

Resources:
More of my studies with thumbnail-process, to eventually learn from:
Some video tutorials:
Brushes:
Check out the brushes, download them, and thoroughly read the information on this page.
Inspiration:
Artists to check out that make great use of digital impressionism:

About the Author Oliver Wetter

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