Lesson 2

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The day will begin with a review of the flying assignment from Lesson 1.

Photoshop's brush, though capable of some complexity, is in essence a very dumb thing. The effect that it produces has little of the nuance of its analogue precursor. In other words, photoshop is a very poor painting machine.

I find that much student work looks flat and monotonous, with little difference between objects of different texture and material. A painting of an airplane flying across the ocean on a cloudy day should respect the difference between air (clouds), metal (airplane) and water (sea). It is your excessive reliance on the paint tool that encourages this shortcoming.

There is a way of using photoshop that takes advantage of the digital nature of the medium to 'generate' the things that we might otherwise paint. This may loosely be termed a procedural approach. A simple example of a procedural approach is the way a sky can be made using the Gradient Tool. A procedural approach is likely to involve the following or combinations thereof:

Procedural painting can be very complex and take you to every corner of photoshop, but If I had to prioritise one skill set above others, it would be Blend Modes. An informed use of these will enliven and deepen your image.

An example of a procedurally made painting is here (right click download).

Exercise: Simple file

Explore filters, blend modes, adjustments and suchlike to make a range of different textures. Your task is to get each texture as different to each other as possible.

Assignment: Procedural

Do a digital painting consisting of the following elements.

  • Candle: material nature is translucent and glowing.
  • Candle flame: this is the light source and will likely cast some sort of glow.
  • Brass candle stick: this is reflective and orange.
  • Rough wooden table top: this is heavily textured. Maybe in the cracks between the timber boards, there will be heavy occlusion (i.e. darkness).

You are to keep your brushwork to a bare minimum. These four objects are to be made using procedural approaches only. Source files may be used in blend mode operations (for example, to provide the reflections in the brass candlestick). The differences between them must be pushed as far as you can.