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The Painter Wow! Book: Illustrating with Soft Pastel

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Overview Shoot photos; build a rough composite in Photoshop to use for reference; paint with Pastels in Painter.

Pamela Wells used Photoshop and Painter to create Sun, which is a member in her series of works inspired by Tarot cards. “The Sun card represents happiness, contentment and joyful living,” says Wells. She built a composite to use for reference, and then working in Painter, she created a colorful illustration that has the look of blended pastel.

  1. Shooting photos. Wells set up her model, the flowers and other elements using a white background; then, she photographed them with a digital camera.
  2. Figure 1. Four of the reference photos

  3. Building a composite. To begin the illustration, Wells built a composite that included several elements. She made masks for the images in Photoshop using the Lasso tool, and then she dragged and dropped the elements into a composite file. Wells could have brought a layered Photoshop file into Painter with layers, but she wanted a flat document with all of the elements merged together.
  4. Figure 2. The composite image

  5. Tracing, sketching and coloring. Wells opened the flat composite file in Painter, and then she made a clone copy of the image to use as a guide while she created the sketch.
  6. Open your reference image and choose File, Quick Clone. The default Quick Clone feature is set up for tracing. It creates a clone copy of your image, removes the contents of the clone copy document and then turns on Tracing Paper. Save your clone image and give it a descriptive name. (For more information about cloning, see “Coloring and Cloning” in Chapter 3 and “Collage with Cloning and Brushes” in Chapter 5.) To sketch as Wells did, choose the Soft Pastel Pencil variant of Pastels and draw a black-and-white sketch on the Canvas of the blank clone image. Make sure to create solid lines so that you can use the Paint Bucket to fill areas with base colors, in preparation for modeling the forms.

    Figure 3a. Using the Soft Pastel to paint color over the simple pencil outline

    When her sketch was complete, Wells used the Paint Bucket to fill areas of the sun with a yellow-gold color directly over the drawing on the Canvas. Then, using the Soft Pastel variant of Pastels, she began to develop the forms. As she worked, she mixed color using the Color panel, occasionally sampling colors from her reference collage using the Dropper tool. Wells works completely on the Canvas without the use of layers. She likes the paint interaction that is possible when working on the Canvas because it is more similar to traditional painting, working on a conventional surface. When the sun’s basic forms were blocked in, she used the Paint Bucket to fill a few of the flowers with their base colors.

    Choose the Paint Bucket (Toolbox) and fill an area of your drawing with its base color in preparation for painting. Then, use Soft Pastel (Pastels) to build the highlights and shadows. As you work, vary the appearance of the grain by adjusting the Grain slider in the Property Bar. For a grainier look, move the Grain slider to the left, and for a smoother look, move the Grain slider to the right. For a softer look similar to blended traditional pastels, continue to work over areas with the Soft Pastel until they are smooth. (For more information about the Grain slider and grain penetration, see the “Grain Penetration.”)

    Figure 3b. Achieving a soft, blended pastel look. The Paint Bucket fills can be seen on two flowers.

  7. Modeling the forms. When she had most of the color for her composition laid in, Wells began to gradually develop more three-dimensional form and color on the flowers and other elements in her composition. Carefully observe your reference, and then use the Soft Pastel to refine the forms in your composition.
  8. Wells recommends cloning or painting directly over photo references only to gain practice with how to develop color and anatomy. After creating a drawing, she prefers to work from scratch, referring to the reference, rather than cloning in color from her reference. As she models the forms, she leaves the reference composite open on the screen to the left of her working painting so that she can refer to it. For Wells this approach is less confining than cloning (or continuing to trace over a photo).

    Figure 4. Building color and tones on the foliage and flowers

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