Frustration in the Digital Switch



  • I love learning, I love svs, and I love exploring new ways of creating work digitally. What I don't like are my results :( I'm not happy with how my art looks anymore! I feel like it looks unprofessional and that it's taking me steps away from my goal of becoming an illustrator.

    I normally work in either acrylic or colored pencil and can finish a full illustration in two-three days max. Whith digital, it's taking me longer because i'm not getting my usual results. I don't want to give up on digital, but here are my current problems:

    -blending color evenly
    -having too much of an airbrushed look
    -Taking so much time!

    There are so many beautiful works of digital art that I admire, but even with the SVS classes I'm coming up short. Joy Ang has a very simple painting approach (so it seems) that I LOVE but I can't seem to figure out how she's done it. I guess why I'm ranting here is because I'm looking to all of you for tips or advice. While SVS is fantastic, are there any other places that have taught you how to paint? Or what have you done to teach yourself?

    I've thought of trying to copy her work directly so see if I can. I just want a simple way to paint with good results!

    Help!

    Christina

    You can see some of my work here: https://www.facebook.com/cbrownillustration/?ref=bookmarks

    Some of Joy Ang's work :



  • @Christina-Taylor-Brown said:

    I love learning, I love svs, and I love exploring new ways of creating work digitally. What I don't like are my results :( I'm not happy with how my art looks anymore! I feel like it looks unprofessional and that it's taking me steps away from my goal of becoming an illustrator.

    I normally work in either acrylic or colored pencil and can finish a full illustration in two-three days max. Whith digital, it's taking me longer because i'm not getting my usual results. I don't want to give up on digital, but here are my current problems:

    -blending color evenly
    -having too much of an airbrushed look
    -Taking so much time!

    There are so many beautiful works of digital art that I admire, but even with the SVS classes I'm coming up short. Joy Ang has a very simple painting approach (so it seems) that I LOVE but I can't seem to figure out how she's done it. I guess why I'm ranting here is because I'm looking to all of you for tips or advice. While SVS is fantastic, are there any other places that have taught you how to paint? Or what have you done to teach yourself?

    I've thought of trying to copy her work directly so see if I can. I just want a simple way to paint with good results!

    Hi Christina,

    First: that poster you made for that boy (boys?) turned out really great. So you are on the right track. I also think you are on the right track with trying to copy/study digital artists you admire. So many people struggle to get better/find "their style" and when you ask them who they like or who they would like to be like and they have no idea. You are ahead of the game there.

    1. As far as being slow with digital versus traditional--you will get faster as you get better. By it's very nature digital is faster than traditional (on many, many levels). So speed will come with practice.

    2. Smooth blending of color can be achieved a couple of ways. The gradient tool is one way but my preferred way is, as I would describe it, "color pick like a madman" with a low opacity setting*. Using the airbrush is a tool that will naturally give you a more blended look but you run the risk of it looking "airbrushy." IMO this is an awful, awful look. I'd recommend using the airbrush sparingly---but I wouldn't say NEVER use it.

    Here is an example of a guy using the airbrush to lay in initial colors, then he switches to a different brush and avoids the airbrush look:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PN4AWOJIM0

    Obviously there are quite a lot of painting videos on YouTube and you can learn a lot. I would say also to just keep studying artists you like, try out different brushes and brush settings (flow/opacity/etc.). It can be frustrating to fail when you could just switch to traditional and succeed but I think it is very worth it to learn digital.

    I bet that once it "clicks" for you you'll find yourself making gigantic leaps forward. You just have to slog through the initial hard work and failures.

    *I can make a video of this if it doesn't make sense



  • @Christina-Taylor-Brown, I've found the videos on ctrl-paint.com to be very helpful, especially the videos on brush control; here are links to a couple: http://www.ctrlpaint.com/videos/brush-control-pt-1 http://www.ctrlpaint.com/videos/brush-control-pt-2. The first video in the premium Basic Rendering series also helped me a lot with the problems I was having with blending and edges.



  • @Christina-Taylor-Brown These are two things that have helped me. Not sure how helpful they will be to you, but at the very least maybe they'll give you a couple ideas to try.

    1. I use brushes with hard or semi-hard edges (but mostly leaning toward the hard edge side). When I first tried to learn to pain digitally, I thought a brush with a really soft edge would help me achieve the sort of gradation I wanted. It didn't.

    2. This one may seem a little "out there" but I really think this has helped me significantly... I have tried to make a conscious effort to try and get rid of my own beliefs about digital painting. Mainly the belief that digital painting is a faster way to work. It IS faster. But I had to stop thinking about it that way, because it was hindering the way that I approached an image. Basically I wasn't putting in enough planning and focus into a piece because subconsciously I felt that this tool called a computer and photoshop allowed me to side-step those stages. I think watching those speed-paint videos on youtube didn't help either. It indirectly gave me the impression that these images were created on a whim with little effort going into them. And so I approached my painting the same way. It was when I started viewing proper classes, and seeing works of old masters being referenced that it started to click with me that digital art is still art and should be approached with the same care and attention. I'm not saying that you don't...I'm just saying that I wasn't doing that and that shift in perspective has had a pretty significant impact for me.



  • All great advice from Matt, Valerie and Shinji... I don't see you too far from the leap of what you do now, to the artist you like (Joy).

    Try this art college trick... in 3 connected boxes use full 100% opacity in box 1 with 1 color, and again in box 3 with a 2nd color. In box 2, you know where this is going, lower both color opacities to 50% and blend them. 1 color over the other.

    If you're using a SOFT edge brush, try doing this with a HARD edge brush.

    You can use the SMUDGE tool to blend them, try it at about 20% strength or higher/lower as needed.

    This is one method of blending, Artists dab color in, and smudge the edges into one another to produce a third color. You've done this in real paint most likely. It can be done digitally, it's just a new way of thinking with these programs.

    For me a steady pencil line was my white whale. I found by lowering the flow to 30%, I could get better control. That took forever to figure out and the right video to show me. It is a bit of a needle in a haystack hunt.

    Matt is right, color pick like mad.

    Valerie is right, ctrl-paint.com is an awesome place to learn basic digital art, they have a lot to see.

    Shinji is an AMAZING painter, I would listen to him if I was starting out, check out his Hound and Helmet series, he KNOWS what's he's talking about...

    My trick is just a simple color blender exercise with no application to a drawing, because I wanted you to destress about the use of it. And just do them. That's why we did all those palettes in class, well at least what I had 1 class for in college, yes I hated that class.

    When I work, I do this on a new layer. I color pick 2 colors, blend them and see what my result is BEFORE I apply that to the piece. Usually it's in the shape of the area I am applying it to... If I hate the result, I delete the layer, no harm, no foul. But if I like it? * Insert best Job Lovitz voice * THEN I'M A GENIUS!!!

    Just kidding. But yes deconstruct areas of Joy Ang's art that you like. Especially color pick from her, and see if you can blend like she did on a new layer, side by side in an area by the original, so you can see how you're progressing against it.

    Another art college trick, stolen from the Renaissance and before, copy a master, to learn from the master. In your case Joy is the master, and you are the apprentice... I so want to make a star wars joke, but I won't...

    Just know that Opacity is your friend, I usually start at 30, go to 50 then as high as 80 for my blending. You can quick shortcut key this by pressing the number keys at the top, sometimes you'll have to hold control (on a pc/option on a mac) and then the number. Photoshop can be hinky like that.

    When in doubt, use the darn sliders or the color picker.

    I always make a cheater palette of my base colors I can move around the piece, so I don't have to color pick all day. That's on a separate layer I label palette and can turn on and off as needed.

    This is all probably stuff you've learned or know already. I hope I haven't stated too much of the obvious. I think your style is coming along, don't give up, we're here to help! Goodluck to you in the mean time...



  • Honestly? Your work looks pretty good to me! I haven't taken the plunge to digiital-still working on mastering the traditional stuff...Hang in there!



  • @Christina-Taylor-Brown Your work looks good! - you asked where else folks learn digital painting - i am new to painting but i have to mention Schoolism - Bobby Chiu has put together some awesome folks on that site (Nathan Fowkes! among others) - Will linked to the school on his blog (thats how i found it) - would like to give Bobby Chiu and Will Terry both a hug for making all this learning possible!



  • Like the others, I think you're on the right track Christina.
    I understand what you feel though because I am there too right now: I have an idea of what I want my art to look like but I'm definitely not there yet.
    I do think that I have improved though, and so have you, and that's the thing to keep in mind when you're feeling down.
    working digitally is like any other medium: it takes time to really discover it and master it. I'm starting to understand all the different possibilities with the tools and see more clearly how to get where I want. I also think that, like any other medium too, there are different techniques and you need to experiment to find the one that works best for you
    I personally feel that I am getting closer to my own technique since I have discovered Will Terry's. I've understood a lot, especially on 4 points:

    • working from dark to light (great way for blending colors)
    • the first color layer allows to build up colors and give more dimension to the illustration. When I do this, I'm not too careful with coloring inside the lines (unless it's particularly important to do so), as it allows the colors to mix and it creates new interesting colors that I can use on the illustration so they all relate (don't know if I'm clear there...)
    • the textured brush is a must-have if you don't want an airbrush and even look. I play a lot with the options in the texture section
    • and finally, put some work on the edges, whether they are soft are hard. this really brings the illustration from amateur to pro, I think

    now, I'm not saying I excel in all that but at least I understand the theory, now I still need to practice
    Practice, practice, practice. In time, you will find a way to work that you are happy with
    What is your process right now, once you have your color theme laid in?



  • Wow guys! Thanks so much for the turnout to my post! All of your guidance has really helped me to take a deep breath and understand that I just need to be patient and move forward with a little confidence. Really appreciate all of the encouragement, so thank you!

    I think that copying her (Joy Ang's) work directly has helped me to slow down and understand how to develop the piece. She seems to work with a hard brush on lower opacity and layers the paint till the right color is achieved. Here's my little study I did to copy Joy...

    I am taking a Ctrl+paint lesson once a day now. The tips there are quick and easy to grasp. Thanks for that! I'll also look into schoolism @Kevin-Longueil

    @audrey-dowling I do mostly the same things you are doing! Will Terry's way is simple and he has a lot of great advice! After my coloring test for Joy's work, I now laying down color lassoed in basic shapes with the paint bucket. the from there i work to the darks with a 30% opacity hard brush. I use the airbrush or soft brush to blend but trying to use it sparingly. I like the results more than Terry's airbrushed look, so I'm going to create more work with this method to see how it goes.

    I'll keep making more and try to practice as often as i can. Thanks again for all of your advice and encouragement! I'll post my developments on the facebook page so like it if you want to see where I go from here!


  • administrators

    @Christina-Taylor-Brown Hi Christina, I looked at some of your work and my suggestion if you haven't already tried this - is to pretend that you are using the same traditional mediums you are used to. For instance when I want a pencil look in PS or on the iPad I draw with a small brush the same way I would in pencil. It doesn't save me much time but I get the same look. I do save time on not having to prep a surface or sharpen pencils, no clean up or corrections, and no scanning time.

    If I want an acrylic or oil look I do the same - I avoid large short cuts using an air brush, masks, or shape tools...

    There are a lot of options online so keep going!

    :)



  • @Christina-Taylor-Brown Amazing! The only difference I see between yours and Joy Ang's is that she uses a darker color for the outline of the sweater, the sweater shadows and under the chin. Just push your shadows a little more and you'll be there. Also, you added a shadow under the girl's bangs and Joy Ang didn't. Also, keep an eye on your negative spaces (between her legs and between her hair and leg. Her legs are in a bit of a different stance than Joy Ang's). She has a bit of a flatter style than you do, so you'll probably see that come out in your work - don't let that frustrate you, it's just your natural style coming out.

    The old masters did master copies and that's a great way to learn technique. I'm self taught and pretty much everything I've learned has been from either doing master copies or segment copies. Your work is already so good that you have nothing to worry about; we all get frustrated, but your rendering skills are great.



  • @Will-Terry Thanks for your advice! Your 10 step process is great, but I'm not achieving your amazing results yet. I still need practice! I will definitely try to pretend I'm working traditionally. What frustrates me the most with that are the brushes. I mainly paint traditionally in acrylic and water down my brush/paint to blend color. Here I don't know how to do that! Any suggestions other then lowering the opacity?

    I won't give up! Thank you for taking the time to give me your thoughts. Really appreciate it!



  • @amberwingart Thanks! When I'm re-working art I try not to go for a "copy paste" look, but more of an imitation. I was focused mostly on how Joy Ang puts down color and shadow. I did notice these same things you have pointed out, and I think they're good for me to see! That way I can choose to keep or discard my differences at to what's working and what isn't. Thanks for your critique! Do you have any suggestions on working from the masters?



  • @Christina-Taylor-Brown maybe trying playing with the "Flow" slider (next to the Opacity in Photoshop). I've heard people say that Corel Painter has brush/paint options that are closer to traditional and is therefore better than Photoshop---but I have no first hand experience in Painter.

    Also if you have a new enough version of PS you can try the "mixer brushes." I don't have a lot of experience with them but I think you can tweak all kinds of options to where they "run out" of paint like a traditional brush, and they "smudge/blend" the paint on the canvas like a traditional brush.

    BTW: you really nailed your Ang studies!



  • Hey Christina,
    I agree with Matt in trying the mixer brushes. If you go the brush arrow, the last option is the "mixer." I've primarily worked traditionally in oils and pastels in the past, and blending has been vital to my painting. That's something I've found to be really difficult to achieve digitally. I think the blend tool in Photoshop is super ineffective and the smudge tool is erratic; I don't feel I have enough control over the results. However, I've used the brush mixer and that has helped some. You really have to play with and tweak the settings, which are like the "flow" and "opacity" settings for the regular brush tool. I also think your work is really great! When I'm feeling frustrated with digital, I look at the very first digital painting I did and it makes me laugh so hard that I feel better about whatever I'm currently working on. Know that you are making tremendous progress!


  • administrators

    @Christina-Taylor-Brown Hi Christina - If you want to skype sometime I can share my settings a little more clearly? I'll also be able to ask a few key questions about your settings and there might be something missing... email me at will@willterry.com and we can set up a time...



  • @Christina-Taylor-Brown Do I have any suggestions? Sure! My suggestion is: stop being hard on yourself (seriously) - your work is completely amazing...keep doing that.



  • @shinjifujioka said:

    1. I use brushes with hard or semi-hard edges (but mostly leaning toward the hard edge side). When I first tried to learn to pain digitally, I thought a brush with a really soft edge would help me achieve the sort of gradation I wanted. It didn't.

    You know, this makes a lot of sense! I was flipping through some of my recent digital paintings and the ones I didn't used soft edges looks definitely better. And now I finally know why, lol.

    Anyway, I just wanted to upvote on the people who mentioned ctrl-paint.com. That's definitely a nice place to learn. And I think you're doing great @Christina-Taylor-Brown. Just keep it up. :)



  • Hello again everyone! I've been practicing, and am going to try to paint this guy for a portfolio piece. It's for a book that I'm writing and illustrating called "Dog, Dog, Goose!". Trying to be a biit more simple with shapes and lines after seeing how well it works for Joy Ang. Anyhow, I just wanted to thank you all for your advice and encouragement! You've really pushed me to keep at it and I'm starting to enjoy this all again!

    I'll probably make a new post later on about my improvements, but just wanted to share!

    Thanks again!



  • I think this is fantastic! I love the studded collar on the goose. Really nice composition. I especially like how the images are cut off on the edges or "cropped" out of the scene. Very well done.


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