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Impressionist Pastel Painting with Painter 2015: Loose, Luminous Pastels

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Corel Painter 2015 gives artists the tools to create soft, glowing effects that flatter complexions and make landscape canvases look dreamy. Cher Threinen-Pendarvis, author of The Painter Wow! Book, Tenth Edition, shares techniques for working with Painter's Pastels brushes for effects that look beautifully natural.
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Many artists with traditional backgrounds who come to digital painting are looking for natural results in their brushwork. This project features painting with an Impressionist style, using the Pastels brushes in Painter 2015. For a simple, loose study we'll use a variety of Pastels, including a custom Pastel brush that incorporates Jitter Smoothing, an enhancement in Painter 2015 that works well with grainy brushes. For a natural look in my painting, I used Jitter Smoothing with opacity to subtly vary the look of the brushwork as I painted.

Inspired by luminous light on a hazy morning, I painted Misty Sunrise at the River, shown in Figure 1, using Painter's Pastels and Blenders variants. For references, I looked at sketches made on location, as well as a few photographs. The light on the scene and the hazy atmosphere are two of the most important aspects of this painting. To achieve the luminous atmosphere, I painted layers of color with Pastels variants, blended colors with Blender brushes, and added details and broken color to finish the painting.

Figure 1

Figure 1 The luminous early morning light is an important element in Misty Sunrise at the River.

Step 1: Setting Up

Choose a photo or sketch of a landscape to use as a reference. Figure 2 shows one of my plein aire sketches of the San Diego River Bridge scene. The objective for this project is a simple, loose painted study.

Figure 2

Figure 2 One of my sketches, drawn at the location.

Grainy pastels work nicely over a toned ground, so I set up a new file with a warm gray background. To get started, choose File > New. In the New Image dialog box, set up these dimensions: 1200 × 900 pixels × 150 ppi (see Figure 3). Next, specify a colored background. To set the paper color, click the Color preview square in the New Image dialog box and then choose a color in the Colors dialog box. To select a new hue or adjust its saturation, click or drag in the color wheel. To make the color darker or lighter, adjust the value slider on the right side of the dialog box. When you have a color that you like, click OK to close the dialog box.

Figure 3

Figure 3 The New Image dialog shows the settings for the colored canvas, paper, dimensions, and resolution.

Now click the Paper preview square in the New Image window, select the Basic Paper texture, and then close the New Image dialog box.

From the Brush Selector, select the Round X-Soft Pastel variant of Pastels. From the Color panel, choose a color for sketching. I chose the creamy golden yellow shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4

Figure 4 A creamy golden yellow is selected in the Color panel.

Painter 2015 has improved Brush Tracking. To open the Brush Tracking dialog box, Mac users choose the Corel Painter 2015 menu > Preferences > Brush Tracking. Windows users choose Edit > Preferences > Brush Tracking. When the dialog box appears, make a stroke in the field that represents the speed and range of pressure that you want.

To save your Brush Tracking settings as a custom preset, click the Add button (the plus sign) at upper right in the Brush Tracking dialog box. In the Add Preset dialog box, type a name in the Preset Name box, and then click Save. The Brush Tracking pop-up menu offers several choices:

  • If you'd like to experiment in detail with the Brush Tracking settings, the Default setting is a good starting choice.
  • The Legacy setting is the default brush tracking that was used in Corel Painter X3 and earlier versions of the program.
  • With the Linear setting, each small variation of pressure affects the brushstroke.

Wacom tablet users can keep the Brush Tracking window open, testing strokes in the dialog box (and on the actual painting), while making adjustments in the dialog box to achieve the desired results. Figure 5 shows my example. When you're happy with your Brush Tracking settings, move on to the next section.

Figure 5

Figure 5 Drawing a natural stroke in the Brush Tracking window.

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