Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Applying Transparent Color in Photoshop

By Justin Gerard

In a recent post I was asked if I'd go into more detail about how I apply and saturate color when I work digitally. Today, I'll be giving a brief overview of this.

Please note that this post is geared toward people who are familiar with Photoshop, but still searching for how to best use it to colorize their illustrations. Photoshop Geniuses may find the following a little basic. (Digital ninjas, yetis, warriors, and Kevin Sorbos will find this utterly beneath them)

For the purposes of this post, I created the above monochrome watercolor to colorize. I usually work over full color watercolors, but this should help keep things a bit simpler. (Just know that you can use all these same principles when working over full color work!)

Painting digitally over drawing or a monochrome painting has 2 major pitfalls to avoid:

#1 The Pernicious Photo-tint Look.  (Think: old colozied photographs) We don't want this.
#2 The Vile Plastic Over-painted Look. (Think: purple wolf baying the moon airbrushed onto the side of a mobile home) We don't want this either.

The first pitfall suffers from too much information from the original image, while the second suffers from not enough.  We want somewhere in between.  And thankfully, Photoshop has been built specifically for this. All we have to do is use the right combination of tools within it.


Layer Modes 
To apply color in Photoshop I begin by making a new layer and then selecting a mode for it.  In the example below of Little Red "Gonna-Ruin-Your-Day" Riding Hood, I have applied a flat red color to a selected area of her cloak.  As I change the layer mode we see how the effect dramatically changes. 

As you can see, most of these when used alone, will leave our image looking photo-tinted. (Pitfall #1)

That is where a process of applying a combination of several different layer modes in sequence can be extremely helpful. Consider the following combinations:

Notice how the final effect in all of these offers a more natural looking saturation of colors. Here's why this works:

A surfaces true color is only revealed in the area between the direct light and the shadow. 

For this reason, we are only used to seeing "true" red in limited areas. When we see an object painted in a single shade of red, it looks wrong and somehow flattened.  This is because where the object receives direct light, the red will take on the color cast of that light, and where it is in shadow, it will take on the color cast of the environment's ambient light. Furthermore as objects recede from the viewer the color is further altered by atmospheric perspective.

Certain layer modes saturate more heavily than others. Some darken as they saturate, others lighten.


Normal layers are great! If you are just getting started, you should work with just these until you feel you understand them.  They behave the most predictably and are extremely versatile if you are using brushes with low flow or opacity.
However, if you are adding digital layers over top of a traditionally painted image you will find that eventually you obliterate portions of your original, and the that the final effect is plastic and uneven. (Pitfall #2)  To truly take advantage of Photoshop's power, you need to use transparent layer modes.

Photoshop has a dizzying array of options for colorization. What is important is finding what works for you. There is no real right or wrong. It is just whatever you can use to get what's in your head onto the screen.

For me, the majority of my transparent layers are made up of Multiply, Color, Soft Light and Screen.  You can do essentially anything with just these four and end up with a solid image.

Multiply Layers tend to darken and add chroma in a very dull application. This is great for slowly building up colors and adding texture and tone to your image. It is very much like working with traditional watercolor. Great for building shadows and toning your image.

Screen layers are essentially the opposite of multiply, these also add color slowly, but they lighten instead of darken. I use these to add direct lighting over the dark layers below.  By picking a warm yellow color here I am able to slowly work up a nice natural looking lighting effect to my figure.

Soft Light Layers are bonkers. They have no master, and obey no man. The math that governs them is not fully known to science. What I do know is that when a bright color is used on a soft light layer, it will allow for a very bright saturation of color which does not affect the details beneath it.  For instance, I used a bright green color on a soft light layer to really pop the bright greens out from the rest of the image.

Color Dodge Layers scorch out highlights. They are extremely brutal and should be used VERY sparingly. Too much and you are lighting your birthday cake candles with a flamethrower. But when used sparingly, they can help to intensify your brightly lit areas as well as any glints of detail light. I use Color Dodge layers to sharpen highlight areas, add rimlights, and sharpen object profiles against their backgrounds. When alternated with multiply layers it will help push the value range of the image.

Color Layers. Not shown here because I use them so sparingly, but I do use basic color layers to push and pull color in limited areas. The Color layer mode is the classic means of photo-tinting, (and I need not badger you any further with warnings there). Just know that you shouldn't overuse them, but that in limited doses they are excellent.  For instance, killing chroma: If an area is too red, I can select a blue color and lightly apply it on a Color Layer and it will pull the red back into check.

Normal Layers. Finally, there is just no escaping at least some opaque work for me when I work like this. But now that we have already established our value range and our colors are fully laid out, we can add details and opaque work that blends rather seamlessly with the rest of our image.  I also use it very transparently and often set the layer opacity to less than 50%.  

This general sequence offers me solutions to the problems I generally face as I work through an image. Everyone's artistic temperament is a little different, so play around with the different modes in different sequences and see what works best for you.

I hope this was helpful! As always, I take post requests, so if there is something you'd like me to cover please let me know in the comments!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Scholarship Reminder, Deadline Friday!

Just a reminder that we are giving away a fully-paid scholarship to attend this year's IMC Workshop. Any one can apply... old, young, pro, novice, former students... any one. So give it a shot and apply, is as simple as filling out a form.

The deadline for submissions is this Friday, March 31st, 11:59 PM EST

Photos © David Palumbo

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A List of Tools to Achieve a Stronger Likeness

-By Ron Lemen

I’m tackling a challenging task with a current project that is fun and frustrating at the same time. I have to draw consistent likenesses with several individuals and make up expressions that I have not seen them perform. It is one of those challenges that can sometimes makes me want to take up accounting or stamping out Cheerio’s for a living. The task is hard enough as it is with a single image, add to it several dozen other frames and the gray hairs multiply quickly.

like theater, the expressions/acting should exaggerate the gesture or emotion, or heighten it so everyone in the audience can experience the moment, not just the first few rows. This means that the actor should know a great deal about what it means to idealize each emotion and as well, learn to turn the dial of subtlety and create an entire gradient of emotions with equal conviction. Idealizing, or clarifying the gesture, the expression, or the action, is essential for the story to be told with the greatest assurance of clarity in mind. The reality is that more than likely you will not have reference for every specific story beat and you will have to make them up and still capture the likeness.

But to express extremes and/or very well designed subtlety, the likeness of the individual must be well controlled. This means that before beginning any illustration it is a good idea to warm up with the subject until the subject could theoretically be drawn without the reference.

I have tried to break down the process of generating a likeness by separating most of the key components into a design language. When we draw, we are using the combination of these tools plus drawing experience and all the subtle nuances of that, and knowledge of anatomy.

I am using one of my subjects for a project I am currently working on. His name is Chris Roberts and he is a host for a Skateboarding Podcast called The Nine Club Show. If you like skating its worth listening to, long overdue. Anyway, here are the two reference points I am working from along with all the video footage from the Podcast hidden behind his mic. The Profile ref is a frame grab from one of the few moments he is filmed in profile so it was great that I actually found this. Notice that in many front views you might miss the change in planes between the cheek bones and the muzzle and the pentagonal design with the mustache and beard shapes on his face. This is exactly why it is important to hunt down solid reference especially when the job calls for a likeness of a celebrity or public figure.

Here is a brief list of items to consider when attempting to capture a likeness and some ideas about how they might change when changing expressions.

1. Contour – Contour is not a cardboard cut-out. It is very complex and waivers between forward facing shapes and the back of the object. Related to the human head, above the cheek bones the contour is broken up into a few zones; the top of the skull contour is the middle of the skulls mass and the sides are really the back portion of the skull. Below the cheek bones the contour is the back of the jaw, and towards the chin that contour is the front of the skull. (Brain burst moment)

2. Features – One of the more important aspect of capturing a likeness is getting the distance between the features accurate. The starting point to establish this distance is the keystone shape between the eyebrows called the Glabella. The pitch on both sides of this inverted triangle are measured from the sloping angle of both eyebrows. The distance between the brows and the angle of both brows helps the artist triangulate this feature.

All the other features are triangulated back to the centerline and keyed off of the distance between the eyes. Most of us do not have perfectly symmetrical features so remember that when you are establishing the triangulation between the reference points that the only fixed point will be the one on the centerline, the other two points will more than likely vary in elevation and distance from each other and the centerline.

3. Orthographic relationship between the front view and the side view – It would be fantastic to have video footage of the individual but if you are doing a graphic sequence of Abraham Lincoln that could be a bit tricky. However, if you can find reference for both a pretty solid front view and a pretty solid profile view then you are in great shape.

Lines on the face divide volumes from one another, natural lines are plane breaks from the skeletal and muscular/fatty masses under the skin. Lines from age express similar mass divisions on the face and occur perpendicular to muscle forms. Where these lines occur are usually divisions for forward protruding masses, or sideways protruding masses. Along with the line break there should also be a value change of some sort. A hint, if the light source is powerful enough to diminish this subtle lighting of form chance, especially on a forward-facing portrait, the other indicator is temperature change, which is a fancy way of saying color change.

4. Gesture – Sometimes doing all the math will still capture something less like the person, less correct in the “feeling”.  A person is living, a photo is a snapshot in time.  That snapshot captured them mid breath, inhaling or exhaling and everything changes on us in very subtle ways.  Was the photo shot when the person was happy, angry, depressed?  Etc.   We have to be very careful in how we choose that reference and take many of these aspects into consideration when launching from that reference point.  Sometimes that quick gestural line that was barely thought over when executed can be that mark that makes everything “just right” in capturing not just a likeness, but the personality of the individual so many might know so well.

I also feel it is important to know how to cartoon or line gesture as much as sight measure or whatever other academic tools the artist trains to use.  Without this skill I feel that another aspect of likeness, caricature, will not translate very well and the likeness can easily border line on not really looking quite like the individual or have a measured out look to it rather than it "feeling" right in its effortlessness.  These are short gesture sketches, each about 3 minutes each attempting to exaggerate the shape language and become familiar with the design of his portrait.

5. Value – Value=Form and form is the other likeness factor.  Value sets up color for when that is applied so value is complexion and dimension simultaneously.  This is where multiple views will be very helpful to deduce the images that you are copying from.  Looking for the color and light changes will be important.  What you see on one side of the head will be similar on the other side of the head but do not assume they will be perfect

6. Shapes – Abstraction is seeing beyond the norm and looking for other attributes that help solve the drawing problems we encounter when copying something.  Shape is an abstract concept.  We look beyond the details and sum up the space we think we are perceiving and we use that geometric design as another tool to help capture the essence of the subject.

7. Drawing experience – without an understanding of how to control lines and tones, many of the tools above will be difficult to control and maintain consistently from one drawing to the next.  Learning to control line weight, pressure, edge, shape, etc. is another essential tool in helping to make capturing a likeness less difficult to accomplish.

8. Anatomy and understanding plane breaks – in addition to drawing experience, training in anatomy is also important to help facilitate the drawing experience with reference points to achieve using the above tools.  This is not as difficult as it may sound but it does require a game plan to build on or it can spin out of control rather quickly.

This was roughly 30 minutes using a Blackwing Soft pencil and 11 x 17" xerox paper, cheap but effective.  When I am sketching to learn I do not hold dearly to any of the drawings, they are all subject to abuse and radical change.  When I get nice paper I feel guilty when I have to butcher up a drawing to correct it, and I feel like I should not have made a major mistake on such important and expensive paper, which in the end is a goofy way to think.  It takes sacrifice to learn the tools of our trade.

When learning representational art, likeness is important.  To capture what you draw as accurately as possible is the only way to have an honest objective dialog between student and instructor, and is a solid way to judge that your eyes and hands are developing in your craft.  Likeness is also an important measure of how far along you are with your training and how much further you want to or should develop before looking to become a professional.  And to the professional a likeness is important so you know how to start from there then tweak as needed and still capture the essence of who it is that you are crafting up.

As soon as I get finished with this job I will get back to those color portraits.  Practice as much as you can between jobs or just whenever you can.  Have a goal when you practice so you can gauge whether you have accomplished more than just the act of drawing or painting, and Happy Arting.