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Painting hair

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Date Added: 22nd June 2009
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977_tid_finaldark.jpg 977_tid_finalred.jpg


Another tutorial: sometimes instructional, other times somewhat rambling, I hope it will help you in your artistic endeavors. Some of the techniques used below can be used for painting all kinds of things in Photoshop. Like I've said in other tutorials, I don't claim to be any genius at this, I'm just trying to pay back a debt I owe to all the people who've helped me with their tutorials.

In painting hair, it pays to have all the reference material you may need; pictures on disk or from magazines, if you need it. Keep a folder near your computer for reference material.

Note: All that follows I painted using a pressure-sensitive pen tablet. If you don't have one, look under your couch and find the money. You won't regret it.

Let's begin! In figure one you can see the figure after being set in a relaxed pose in Poser, then rendered in Bryce, about 2800 pixels high. I'm now in Photoshop, and have separated the figure from the background (by making a mask render in Bryce and using an alpha channel) to smooth out the odd wrinkles in the mesh, change the skin hue slightly. I've also airbrushed and painted a few highlights and shadows to help make her more part of the scene, or in agreement with the surrounding light.

I would suggest rendering the figure as large as you can. Details will be much easier for you in later stages. I've already painted her blouse (see other tutorial on clothes), and now we're ready to begin on her hair.

First thing you notice are two pictures. There are differences between dark and light hair, so I figured on doing two versions side by side. I'll note the differences when applicable.
I first create a new layer above the body and select a smaller paintbrush and begin to scribble. Just getting a general idea here. Using a pen tablet, I've unchecked the box to vary opacity with pressure, so I get dark, solid lines. Sure, it's a mess; but it's also a start.

Occasionally, I'll lower the opacity of the layer to see her scalp better. That way I can make sure I'm not getting too close or too far away from it. Then I'll up the layer opacity and return to painting.

On the fair haired figure, you will see a series of colored dots on her neck. These dots make up my hair palette. I've opened up a source file, a photograph of real hair, and sampled a few hilights, midtones, and shadow colors. Now I'll be able to use these in my picture. Anytime I'm painting, I can hold down the CTL key and my brush cursor will turn into an eyedropper,
allowing me to select from these colors. Lifting my finger off the CTL key, it turns back into the paintbrush, and I'm off painting again.

The brunette's hair, for now, will remain dark. On a totally unrelated note, you may notice the different color of the eyes in the two pictures. Somewhere along the line (I can't remember), I decided to go with blue eyes. Just another example of how haphazard this kind of work is. But that's what makes it so much fun!

Big changes here; I've erased quite a bit of the hair flying toward the left in both pictures. Painting it before is more of an experiment; giving me an idea of where I want to go.

For much of this step on the brunette, I use the smear brush. I've created a few custom brushes that allow me to smear very small strands away from the solid mass of hair. Creating custom brushes is easy.

In a nutshell: how to create your custom brush: On a new layer, take a very small paintbrush and make a series of dots close together. Do this with brush opacity set to 100%. Then go to your filter menu and blur them slightly using either "blur" or
"gaussian blur". Then, make sure the layers behind the brush are invisible, so that all that is behind your small dots is the checkerboard indicating transparency; i.e., nothing. Select the marquee tool (M) and draw a selection around your tiny dots. Go to the menu bar, and under the "edit" menu, you will find the option "define brush". Click on it, and you will find your new brush added to your brush palette. Now would be a good time to save your brushes.

Experiment with creating custom brushes. Different images will require different brushes for the hair, depending on image size.

Alright! Now, with your new custom brush, check the boxes to vary both opacity and size with pressure. For smearing hair into the sky area or into her forehead, make sure the brush is set to "darken". If you don't, you will find yourself dragging a small white outline along with the black hair. When you work the hairline back into her hair on her forehead, set it to "normal".

In both pictures, there's been quite a bit of small smearing at first, and then painting with a very fine brush. For the redhead, I'm not too concerned about hilights yet, I'm just trying to vary the tone throughout her hair. Right now, she's a little farther down the road to completion.

continued on next page >

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