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Anatomy of a picture

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Date Added: 22nd June 2009
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Welcome to what I'd like to call "anatomy of a Photoshop picture".

Not that I'm a genius at this, but maybe this will give you some idea as to how I ended up with part of one of my pictures, and help you in your own efforts. I haven't seen anyone else's picture blown apart like this, so I figured I'd give it a shot. If it helps you out, let me know. I love mail as much as anyone else.

Note: What you are going to read below will not necessarily be a tutorial on how to paint clothes or retouch Poser figures (I'll do those in separate tutorials). I might hint toward that, but this is more on layers, and how they're set up: modes, opacities, etc.

In each step will be another layer in the order they were set up, from bottom to top. That's not the order that I did them, but just a way to present it. Sometimes it looks strange... remember that to paint some layers, I viewed the layers above them, painting underneath.

Also, I use a Wacom tablet for most of what I do. If you don't have one, sell something and go get one. You'll never know how you managed digital art before it.

First, here's the final version of "Liberty 2100". You can click on the picture to go to a larger version, and see it now, or wait until we're finished to check it out.

The final version is large. With all the layers, around 60mb. That's why, when I worked on the body and clothes (below) I cropped a duplicate of the picture. When I was done with everything you'll read below, I flattened the layers and pasted it back in the large one with the full background.

Here's the cropped version of just the body. I'm skipping all the steps in how I retouched her face and the rest of her body. Suffice it to say, I used the pen tool, airbrushes, burn and dodge, and plain paint tools with homemade brushes to achieve a look that will work with the rest of the picture. If there are unfinished edges on her now, they are in places I'm not worried about, since I'm going to paint clothes over her. I didn't worry too much about her legs, for instance. Right now there are two layers. Background and body.

The next layer up is the shadow for her jeans. I painted this layer after the actual jeans were done (following picture). Some of this is airbrushed. The other part was the appropriate part of the jeans copied, then darkened and blurred somewhat. The opacity level here was lowered also and the layer was offset from the jeans above.

Here's the first layer of the jeans with the shadow underneath. It's hard to see at this scale, but the threads and holes on them are quite detailed. It was fun doing this part.

A quick synopsis on the painting: Block in the main color of the jeans... use lighter and darker colors (remembering carefully where the light is coming from)... a bit of the smudge tool and very small brushes for hanging threads (on another layer above the jeans; I merged the two layers after they were both done)..... then a very light use of noise to help with texture. Then more use of burn and dodge with large airbrushes to get the shadows and hilights right. However there's a problem... they're too...


....clean. So here's the next layer up, for the dirty look. I used the airbrush and dark green and brown clouds. Then a mask to airbrush away the dirt I didn't want. The layer was then set to 'multiply' at 72%.

Here's the finished boot layer, again a composition of around four layers merged together when I was done with them. Again, basic color, burn and dodge and more color until I feel I have it right. I used a brush I usually use for hair on the hilights to give them more texture. And another layer, like the jeans, of 'dirt' set to 'overlay'.

Note: Experiment with the burn and dodge tools. It makes a great deal of difference if you set the burn tool to darken hilights, midtones, or shadows. Don't settle for the default here. I use all sizes brushes, usually set to vary transparency with pressure, but not size.


continued on next page >

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