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Sketching and Modeling with Charcoal in Photoshop

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Cher Threinen-Pendarvis, author of The Photoshop and Painter Artist Tablet Book: Creative Techniques in Digital Painting Using Wacom and the iPad, Second Edition, demonstrates one of Photoshop's cooler capabilities: drawing with electronic "charcoal." Smudge and shadow to your heart's content. The charcoal tip even gives you the effect of wearing down as you use it!
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In this project, you’ll use charcoals in Photoshop to paint a three-dimensional object that has volume and weight. To work through this project, you’ll need a Wacom tablet and Photoshop 6 or Photoshop CC. The example in Figure 1, Autumn Orange, a Study in Grays, was drawn from observation, using my Wacom Intuos Pro tablet and charcoal brushes with erodible tips in Photoshop CC.

Figure 1

Figure 1 Completed charcoal drawing Autumn Orange, a Study in Grays.

Setting Up the Still Life

Choose an object that has a rounded form, such as a ball, and set it on a light-colored surface. I chose an orange for my subject because I liked its interesting texture. I arranged the orange on a light-colored table next to my computer, using a light-colored paper background for a subtle, intriguing composition.

Position a small lamp to cast an interesting shadow on the subject and table surface. I positioned my light source to shine from upper right above the orange, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2 A simple still life with an orange.

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