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. I am not suggesting that you adopt an entirely procedural approach, but an informed use of these will enliven and deepen your image.
An example of a procedurally made painting is here (right click download).
Exercise: procedural textures
Explore filters, blend modes, adjustments and suchlike to make five different textures. Your task is to get each texture as different to each other as possible.
Assignment: procedural painting
Do a digital painting or a composite that features at least three strongly different textures. This difference should be in their material nature. Some suggestions:
- Skin, metal armor and fire.
- Water, wooden boat and rocks.
- Wind, tree leaves and sun.
You are to keep your brushwork to a bare minimum and adopt a procedural approach. The differences between these elements must be pushed as far as you can.
|Procedural seascape||A simple example of a procedurally made seascape.||Right click download (18MB)|
|Filters||An example of some textures made using filters.||Right click download (14MB)|
|Blend modes||An example of blend modes in action.||Right click download (2MB)|
|Procedural candle||Here is my procedurally made candle.||Right click download (32MB)|