It has been my winter goal to learn how to work with Adobe Photoshop’s Mixer Brush. Besides being a photographer, I also like to work with design and painting, using my own photographs as subjects.
Being a nature and wildlife photographer, my subjects tend to focus on the outdoors. The above painting is from a photograph I took in my yard of an American Goldfinch. I photographed the bird with the intent to turn it into a painting. Because I intended to turn the photograph into a painting, the photography aspect was secondary.
I have followed along with Scott Deardorff’s work for years now, and have used his growing repertoire of techniques for my own paintings. Originally, Scott used Photoshop’s smudge tool for his primary technique. I used this technique for this painting of a campsite in the Southwest under a starry sky:
Since that time Photoshop has advanced and added new tools. Scott’s technique has advanced as well, and he now paints with Photoshop’s Mixer Brush palette. Adopting some of Scott’s new techniques, I dove into creating a painting from the original Goldfinch photograph.
My first goal in creating the painting was to simplify the composition. I started by keeping each element on individual layers in Photoshop- the bird, flowers, and background were all on different layers. I felt this gave me flexibility in editing and moving around the different aspects of the composition. To bring focus to the bird and flowers, I cropped in on the subject matter and then proceeded to paint in a leaf on the right where there was a gap. I made selections around various flowers and buds and duplicated them, moving these new flowers and buds into gaps, as well. I used the liquify tool to reshape parts of the Goldfinches head and belly.
Once these decisions were made, I started painting. Although, there are many ways to go with the mixer brush, I chose to keep my options simple and mainly focused on using several different sizes of Opaque Painters, and Clean Blenders. I experimented with wet painters, but found I could better control the brushes using just the opaque and clean blenders.
As with any painting, I often had to walk away or step back to determine what my next steps would be. Many times, I would see that something wasn’t working quite right, but only stepping a way and coming back with a fresh eye helped me to gain perspective. Guess that happens in life too!
Once, I was satisfied with the painting elements, I then started enhancing colors, and doing some dodging and burning to refine and bring out details. One area, that perplexed me for a few days was how I wanted to create the background. Eventually, I downloaded a free trial of Topaz Effects “Lens Effects”. I used the “Graduated Color” effect filter, changing the color to an orange, and located it towards the top of the painting, giving the effect of filtered sunlight. I then added a “Streaked” effect to create some lines that seemed to simulate trees. It helped that the background was on its own layer, so that I could move the effect around within the image.
I then proceeded to finishing the image with proofing and sharpening. However, once I applied sharpening to the image, I got a banding effect across the background. So, I undid the sharpening and backed up a few steps. To fix the banding, I used the “add noise” filter in Photoshop, until the banding disappeared. This is a technique I learned from Scott Kelby at his KelbyOne site. If you are not familar with his site, I highly recommend it. Whether you are an advanced or beginning Photoshop user or photographer, he has a vast array of tutorials for you to learn from.
If you are thinking of trying to turn one of your photographs into a painting, I would recommend following along with Scott Deardorff to learn some of the basics. Then, do your best to keep your technique simple and then build from there. If not, your options can seem overwhelming.