6 June 2012

Photoshop, paint and the 'build'

Back in 2001, I never used a computer. I was totally married to my paint, pens and inks. I refused to believe that I (personally) could achieve anything visually pleasing with the warmth and richness I often wanted in my work on a......(intake of breath)....computer.

However, a friend badgered me and introduced me to Photoshop. I never learnt how to use it properly. I barely know half of what can be achieved with it even now. I just blindly went in, almost trying to convince myself it was a lost cause. I surprised myself. I think the endless years of building up paintings using layers of thin inks and watercolours to achieve some depth really helped me. I started using my pencil line as my pen line, which made me feel a bit free, as I magically found I could 'float' the line above my colour keeping it sharp.

These days I often get asked by people just how I achieved a certain look from photoshop. The answer is I'm pretty rubbish at explaining it and I don't think too much about it. I set out knowing what I'd like to achieve but never how to manage it.  I approach it like a normal painting. I steer clear as much as I can from the 'magic wand' tool and use the brushes, pastels and pens pretty much as I would as if I had them actually physically here. I like just scribbling. Photoshop doesn't have to be smooth or joinless. Who wants smooth? I have a lot to learn still, I even sometimes come full circle and bring in paper that I've splashed onto to actual real life paper....just to shake it up. In fact that's very exciting.

I thought I'd show the screen shots of how I've actually built up a page. You'll see how simple it is, and actually just how similar it is to (shhhhhhh)....'real' painting.

This is a spread from 'My Adventure Island' by Timothy Knapman and Me (Sarah Warburton) published by Scholastic 2012.

So, just a pencil sketch and a sense of woodland and Autumn.
I have separated my line out in Photoshop using a clever 'Ready to Paint' function I downloaded. This allows the line to 'float' above any layer. Using a separate layer underneath all the line, I've concentrated on the characters so that whatever colour I do from now on I can make sure they aren't lost.
Colour! on a new layer underneath the line and the characters the colour experiments starts. I decided fairly early on that long shadows would add a nice woodland feel.
On top of the background colours but beneath the characters and the line - the trees now give a more dramatic look to the spread.
Quite a subtle change here, but I've added a 'carpet' texture to the woodland floor. This adventure-but-at-home idea subtly appears in book in various places. This is a square of carpet scanned, then adjustments made for contrast and then turned into a separate 'line'. This is then dragged into the picture and worked upon with erasing parts and painting parts on top, again building up a colour.
Let there be light! Adding these touches are always my favourite. This time I use a layer on top of all the layers, including the line as then as the light is built up slowly using a very subtle pastel tool on a very low opacity. Keeping it on top of the line gives it the real sunshine feel.