learn digital painting using photoshop with youtube

Did you know that you can rent the full version of Photoshop now for $20 a month?  Photoshop used to be, what, like a thousand bucks or something impossible, so basically, a forget it proposition, but now…shoot, when I heard about this, that first $20 practically flew out of my wallet.  Sophie (10) is a budding digital artist and Photoshop is where it’s at, so, yeah.  That was a no-brainer.

But after a month or two of fiddling, she’d only unpacked a little of what the amazing speedpainters on Youtube can do and Photoshop was languishing.  We chatted about it and decided we’d spend a month learning how to really utilize Photoshop’s paint capabilities, or else, cancel our subscription.  Because $20/month is cheap, but not if you aren’t using it.

So…where do financially-challenged homeschoolers go when they want to learn something?  YOUTUBE!  The Education Of The Future(tm).  (It isn’t really trademarked, I made that up.)  Seriously, you can learn anything on Youtube.

Quick clarification of terms:  Photoshop is largely known for photo-manipulation, so much so that “to photoshop” has become a verb we all know and use.  But Photoshop is also a powerful paint program, allowing an artist to build up an image from scratch.  That’s what we were focusing on.

Where to start?  Here is the first episode of Lazedified’s absolute beginners guide to Photoshop.  This was the first thing we landed on.  He does a series, actually, and it’s a little confusing because he started updating from CS5 to CS6 (that’s Adobe Creative Suite, of which Photoshop is one part) but hasn’t gotten far…so we watched the CS6 (the link I gave you) versions as far as they went and then switched to the CS5 series.  After that, he does a digital painting series, about five eps that cover basic shading, color blending, brush selection.  We found these to be a great starting place.  They are kind of homemade in feel but we enjoyed his humor, his accent, his make-it-easy style, and definitely got a lot of the basics from the series.  Thanks Lazed!

Here is a preview for his digital painting series that has some WAAAAAY over the top music, haha, especially considering one of the big selling points for us was the friendly, funny, down-to-earth vibe of the vids.  But it will lead you to a playlist of his other vids, and give you a glimpse at what he covers.

An aside: I’m saying “we” here a lot, because it was Sophie and me, sitting in front of the computer, selecting and watching vids, and then trying what we’d learned out in Photoshop.  She was the one who wanted to learn digital painting, but I was (1) interested enough to be engaged and (2) tech-support for when she got stuck, so I needed to know as much as she did.  Besides, learning together is way more fun than hacking away at it on your own.

Back to our trek through the wilds of Youtube.  Next we wanted to know about blending modes, because what they heck, they are the most obtusely named functions ever and very mysterious.  What does “Multiply” do?  We wanted to find out.  We found this series of videos by Chris Legaspi on rendering (adding shading, coloring, and textures) using layers and modes, which was super helpful for that, but also for just setting up a process in going from line art, to shaded art, to colored art.

Here is the first ep.  He’s colors in this swamp-thing critter.  Lots of detail and explanation over the course of several eps, plus creating a palette layer, and using other paintings to select a limited palette.

One more source we used that goes from raw beginner through the basic skills is Matt Kohr at his site, Ctrl+Paint.  A good series of vids!  Some are more art related, some are more software related.  We haven’t watched them all, maybe half, and after the first set (some nice tricks on using the eraser tool as a brush for painting by carving out your shape in those), we’ve skipped around, looking for vids on topics Sophie is interested in (for example, she’s been watching the color theory section, which, yes, is relevant to all painting, not just digital painting).

Finally, Concept Cookie taught us how to turn a scanned pencil sketch into a digital painting that is, turn a pencil sketch into a photoshop image that is translucent and separate from the background, meaning the lines themselves are their own layer, not “attached” to the white of the paper.  Which I wouldn’t have realized is so useful until we watched the above videos.  But it is. Sophie loves to sketch on paper, but says the coloring process is much more fun on Photoshop, so, perfect.  Now we can scan in her sketches and make them digital-paint-ready.

For me, one of the most amazing things about painting on Photoshop is the bottomless tubes of virtual supplies.  Have you been in an art supply story lately?  One tube of paint is my entire budget.  You can’t do a lot with one tube of paint.  Something you do need to buy for digital painting, however (besides a computer), is a drawing tablet.  We got a Wacom Intuos tablet, which has been awesome.  Tablet + photoshop = endless painting supplies, Yay!  No stress about “wasting” supplies or running out, which is SO FANTASTIC (speaking as a former hoarder of art supplies because $$$, and what good is paint that stays in the tube?).  Plus a tablet can be set up to be pressure sensitive, just like a pencil is—press harder and you get darker lines.  Very cool.

On the traditional media side, last night Sophie somehow got some weird setting going on the brush tool and couldn’t figure it out, and while we struggled for a few minutes to learn how to reset the tool (right click on the icon of the tool in the upper left corner for the reset menu) she said, “this is one reason I love paper.  You can’t break it.”  So there is that.  There are pros and cons to both.

Anyhoo, at this point in our video watching, she was already able to really get in there and do some work. It didn’t take long to get the info.  Next comes the practice to really make the tools her own.

Cool result: watching speedpaints, we can now usually see how the artists are creating their images—where it used to be this mystery, how are they doing that?!? Plus, when there is something we don’t get, we can pause, forward a second at a time to see the menus drop down, and parse it out, using the basic knowledge we already have.

For example, one of Sophie’s favorite speedpainters (because she does some of the kind of work that Sophie likes to do herself right now, manga-style characters) 10chnessa does all kinds of fun stuff with her lines, changing the line-color, the thickness, etc.   So we watched some of her speedpaints and reverse engineered her “change the line color” tricks.  (Select the layer the line art is on, then go to Image –> Adjustments –> Hue/Saturation and play with the sliders till you’re happy.)  Or another trick: do one eye, then copy and flip for the other eye, use the transform tool for perspective.  Also, compressing layers, etc.  Lots of tricks to learn now that it isn’t all an opaque skillset we do not have.

10chnessa has also done a tutorial that is sort of hilariously vague.  But it still gave us some pointers for how to copy her style…and copying the work of better artists is a time-honored tradition in learning to find your own style.  Here’s that tutorial:

Xia Taptara is another digital artist we’ve watched several tutorials from.  He’s a little slow sometimes, but there are some great tips to be gleaned.  A more American comic book style of art (big boobs), vs. 10chinessa’s Japanese style (big eyes).

Here’s one of his we watched when Sophie wanted to learn more about using Photoshop layers in a landscape.

I am not even scratching the surface of what is available as far as digital painting tutorials, there are 1000s of videos out there on this.  But these are the vids we watched to get up and running, starting from zero.  There is still plenty to learn, but Sophie’s got enough now to learn on the fly—getting over that initial learning curve to where you can actually do some stuff is hard.  Adding tricks to what you already know is easier.

Finally, if you’re curious about speed paints, check out CreativeStation, a fantastic source for consistently high-quality speedpaints—but now that there are a ton of others, mostly artists posting their own work, but having several artists in one place is interesting.

Here’s a cool one from them, Lara Croft painted by Jenai Kemel. It’s a great example of going from a blank canvas to an extremely detailed and lovely illustration using digital paints.

Speedpaints are what got us into all this. Thanks to all the artists who are putting their work, as well as their process, out there!

And I want to put one of Sophie’s characters here, she’s working on a cat-girl right now, but she hasn’t decided on one yet, so maybe I’ll add it later.  Check back!

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