Most books about Photoshop are written for photographers. It’s hard to find books about using Photoshop for digital painting or creating artistic images. Digital Collage and Painting: Using Photoshop and Painter to Create Fine Art, by Susan Ruddick Bloom, is a Photoshop book for artists, and it’s very well done. The book is equally about using Corel Painter, so you get to see both Painter and Photoshop in action, side by side. This is not a book to learn the basics of either program, however. If you’ve gotten comfortable with Photoshop and/or Painter, and you’re ready to start exploring the possibilities, this title is a great place to start.
Digital Artist Profiles
The first two chapters establish some ground rules and basic concepts. You may actually want to start with Chapter Three, which is about 150 pages long and profiles 21 digital artists working in a wide range of styles. This will start to give you an idea of the possibilities, though most of the profiles do not go into step-by-step depth. Among the artists profiled here are Katrin Eismann, Julieanne Kost, Cher Threinen-Pendarvis, Fay Sirkis, Jeremy Sutton, and Steven Friedman.
Now that you’ve got your appetite whetted, Bloom gets into some hands-on tutorials both for Photoshop and Painter.
Painting with Photoshop: Tutorials
Here you’ll find some excellent tutorials showing how to use Photoshop’s History Brush and Art History Brush. Bloom shows how to take an image, apply a filter to it, and then pull from the filtered image onto the original, selectively applying artistic effects with your brush. This is similar to the cloning methods in Painter, but has some unique advantages. Next, Bloom shows how to use the Pattern Stamp Tool for painting, the Find Edges filter for photo illustration, and some methods for creating various edge effects.
Painting with Painter: Tutorials
In this chapter, Bloom explores cloning in Painter, with different media such as Pastel and Oil, as well as some of Painter’s unique brushes like the Impressionist, Van Gogh, and Fuzzy cloners. There’s a really nice still life demonstration, starting with photographing pears in shoe box, and ending up with an Old Masters style rendering complete with a convincing tabletop reflection.
Next there’s some more edge techniques, using both Photoshop and Painter. Bloom finishes up with a nice tutorial showing how to use the KPT Pyramid Paint plugin to help create a painterly look. (Some KPT (Kai’s Power Tools) filters were included with Painter IX, but not with Painter X.)
Digital Collage and Panoramas in Photoshop
The term “digital collage” refers to combining images into a single image. This is usually referred to as compositing. Chapter Six is about 45 pages dealing with artistic compositing in Photoshop, while Chapter Seven is another 25 pages using Painter. I should point out that this is a big book, over 600 pages long, with many full color illustrations, but no CD. There are downloads available from the publisher, but you will only find images there for a single chapter. Unlike most books of this sort, only one chapter is designed for follow-along, using the downloadable images. You won’t be able to duplicate the pears-in-the-shoebox tutorial, for example, since the starting image is not provided. This limits the book to more of an inspirational title, rather than a learn-from-doing title. Just something for you to keep in mind.
Chapter 8 spends a lot of space devoted to creating panoramas, which seems rather out of place in a book like this. Panoramas are not, strictly speaking, collages, nor do they have anything to do with painting. This is the sort of thing covered in the more typical Photoshop how-to book, and really doesn’t belong here. But if you’re interested, it’s here for you.
Chapter 9 is a whirlwind tour of Photoshop filters, used alone and in combination with Painter. Bloom explains that filters alone do not create art, but can be used as part of the painting process. The chapter begins with a rather confusing tutorial showing filter use in Photoshop, followed by bringing the results into Painter, using various cloning techniques, and even going into the brush creator to create custom brushes. It’s a bit much to absorb, perhaps, but it does give you some insight into Bloom’s creative process. The chapter concludes with a quick look at some high-end commercial plugin filters.
Combining Traditional and Digital Media
This chapter begins with some art media 101, defining terms like encaustic, intaglio, woodcut, and silk screening. The tutorials here just allow you to dip your toes in this very deep pool, so don’t expect to get more than some exposure here. Then Bloom veers off into a discussion of print-on-demand books, which seems to have nothing to do with a chapter entitled “Experimentation.” The author tries admirably to cover an awful lot of territory in a short 600 pages, but some topics, like this one, seem out of place.
Chapter 11, as mentioned above, is where the hands-on exercises are located. There are five exercises to put what you’ve learned into practice. The exercises are:
- A gridded collage
- Using masks and transparency
- Creating a panorama
- Painting in Photoshop
- Painting in Painter
These lessons are somewhat different from the ones introducing each topic earlier, and this time you have the original images, to download and follow along.
Essential Techniques for Photoshop and Painter
The final chapter is one that, arguably, should have been the first chapter, or left out altogether. In one chapter, the author runs through the basic skills that the reader should have before even opening the book. As I said, this book is not for learning the basic skills, and you won’t learn them from this short chapter, but at least here is a checklist of sorts of the skills you need to learn (elsewhere) in order to use Photoshop and Painter. This material could have been worked into the book throughout, as most books like this do, but here it’s been saved for the end. Also included here is another tutorial on the Art History Brush, which was covered quite well earlier.
Digital Collage and Painting: Using Photoshop and Painter to Create Fine Art is a great book for those digital artists just starting out who have a solid understanding of Photoshop and Painter. Readers lacking that foundation will still find a lot of value here, as the book exposes them to the world of creating art on the computer, and shows them what skills are necessary to achieve the results shown. It’s a welcome addition to the short book shelf of digital art books available. Highly recommended for the intermediate digital artist.
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