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Creative Techniques in Digital Painting Using Wacom and the iPad: Enhancing the Focal Point

In this excerpt from The Photoshop and Painter Artist Tablet Book: Creative Techniques in Digital Painting Using Wacom and the iPad, 2nd Edition, Cher Threinen-Pendarvis focuses on the composition process, simulating natural-media textures and creatively resolving the work.

Copyright © Cher Threinen-Pendarvis. Excerpted from The Photoshop and Painter Artist Tablet Book, Second Edition, published by Peachpit Press.

This chapter is from the book

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Path to Water, West 2


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Square Grainy Pastel strokes


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Real Flat and Real Tapered Round strokes


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Real Tapered Round and Palette Knife strokes, using various sizes


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The colorful plein air sketch drawn using Brushes on the iPad was inspiring.


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This plein air pencil sketch also gave inspiration for the painting.

For Path to Water, West 2 (shown on the facing page), I designed a square composition with depth, atmosphere, and perspective. To focus attention on the pathway, water, and sky, I set the horizon about one-fifth of the way from the top of the painting. The meandering path leads the viewer’s eye into the heart of the composition and into the light.

Path to Water, West 2 is a mixed media piece. I began by sketching freely with Pastel, and then painted over areas with the Oils and a Palette Knife.

Rather than follow every detail of the painting process, this project focuses on the composition process, simulating natural-media textures and creatively resolving the work.

1 Planning the composition. To begin, make conventional sketches and scan them, or sketch on your iPad* using an application such as Brushes, as I did. (The color sketch shown above is profiled in Chapter 2 on page 14.) You can also draw directly in Painter using a Pastel. For Path to Water, West 2, I wanted a square composition, so I opened a file that measured 2250 × 2250 pixels.

If you’ve scanned or imported a drawing, cut the image to a layer* so that you can lower the opacity of your reference and use it as a guide while creating your underpainting and reworking the composition.


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Laying in colored paint with the Square Grainy Pastel


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The general values and colors are roughed in with the Pastel.

2 Laying in the base colors. In Painter, I created a color palette for my painting using the Mixer.* For the color theme, I sampled color from my plein air sketches, mixed additional colors using the Color panel, and applied them to the Mixer Pad.

For the best response with texture-sensitive brushes, set up Brush Tracking.* Using the Square Grainy Pastel, you can make rich, textured strokes. To paint the first base colors, I sketched freely using the Square Grainy Pastel with Artists Rough Paper. Some of the rich, grainy texture is preserved in the final stages of my painting.

Choose the Square Grainy Pastel variant of Pastels in the Brush Selector. In the Paper Selector, choose Artists Rough Paper. Press lightly on your stylus to apply less pastel paint and reveal more texture.* Press heavily to apply more paint. When using the Square Grainy Pastel, the texture will still be visible when heavier pressure is applied.

3 Building values and richer color. Keeping the balance of your composition in mind, gradually layer more pastel strokes to build values and richer color, and to model the forms. Paint loosely and freely, without focusing on details at this stage. As you work, use the Size slider in the Property Bar to adjust the brush size. (I varied the size about 15–40 pixels.)

Additionally, in a few areas where I wanted more subtle grain, I varied the graininess of the Square Grainy Pastel from its default of 9% to about 11%, using the Grain slider in the Property Bar.


The Mixer with colors for the painting


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Painting richer color and more contrast with the Pastels and Oils to strengthen the center of interest


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In this detail, the Palette Knife strokes can be seen on the water. I used the Real Tapered Round to paint details on the shrubs and trees.

4 Adding details and accents. For Path to Water, West 2, I wanted energetic, expressive brushwork to come through in the final painting. More saturated color and dramatic contrast leads the viewer’s eye to the focal point in the distance. After the general forms were established, I switched from the Pastels to painting with the Oils. Using the Real Flat and Real Tapered Round variants of Oils, I added more detailed brushwork to the plant life, path, and hills. Then, to blend and dramatically move paint in areas of the sky and water, I used the Palette Knife in small and large sizes (from about 10–65 pixels).

The Real Flat is an expressive brush that paints thick to thin stokes depending on how you hold the stylus. I used it to add varied blue brushstrokes on the ocean. The Real Tapered Round is useful for painting leaves on the foreground plants and for adding expressive details to the trees in the background.

Now choose the Palette Knife variant of Palette Knives. In an area where you want to blend and move paint, practice with the Palette Knife. Using the Palette Knife in a small size, you can achieve an interesting, expressive brushstroke for the horizon.

Good work! You have completed this project. In the next chapter, we will work with mixed media paint, paper, and canvas.

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