One common way of creating a traditional pastel drawing is to start with a light pencil sketch on the colored pastel paper. Pretty quickly, however, the pastel covers over the line drawing. One of the (many) advantages of working digitally is that you can keep the line drawing visible until you no longer need it. You can even leave it as part of the finished piece. The method we’ll learn today uses three layers in Corel Painter: a sketch layer, a painting layer, and the canvas, which will serve as our colored pastel paper.
Step One – Start with a Photo
To begin, open up an image, such as this lily photo, from a stock photo disc. The size for this example is about 10 inches square at 72ppi.
Step Two – Create the Sketch
You can draw your own line art, of course, but I chose to use Painter’s sketch tool. To use it, go Effects > Surface Control > Sketch. This brings up a dialogue box. In case you can’t make out the settings, I used Sensitivity at nearly 4.0, Smoothing 2.6, Grain and Threshold Low at 0, and Threshold High at 72%. When you press OK, the photo is replaced with a line drawing on white paper.
Step Three – Your Sketch is Done
Here’s what the resulting sketch looks like. Notice we’re still on one layer, the original Canvas layer.
Step Four – Float the Sketch
I’d like to have the sketch be on a layer above my canvas. How you do this is something that took me years to figure out in Painter: you need to Float it! What the devil is that, you ask? It means taking what’s on the canvas and creating a new layer with it. (Similar to duplicate layer in Photoshop.) The reason this took me years to decode is that there is NO menu command to do this. You can’t duplicate the Canvas layer: you must Float it. Here’s how you float the Canvas: go Select > All, and then click on the “move tool”, which is right next to the brush tool in the toolbox. Hold down the Command key (Mac) or Control key (Windows) and click inside image area, anywhere. Bingo! Your sketch is now on a layer above the Canvas, and the Canvas is now blank. (Note: this is how it works in Painter X. They may have made it more user-friendly in Painter 11.)
Step Five – Fill the Canvas with Color
Now let’s apply a color to our canvas. One way to do this is Effects > Fill > Current Color. Pick a color you’d like for your pastel paper. If you choose a dark color, however, your line work will be hard or impossible to see in later steps. You can always go darker later. There’s another advantage of digital media: you can change the color of your paper even after the painting is done!
Step Six – Hey, Where’s my Color?
You told Painter to fill the Canvas with your current color, but the image is still white, right? What’s the deal? The problem is that the top layer is totally opaque right now. You can’t “see through it” to the Canvas below. Here’s where the magic happens. You will make the top layer into a special layer that you can see through, while retaining visibility of the linework. Cool, huh? I’ll show you how in the next step.
Step Seven – Change the Layer Blending Mode
In the layer palette, right up in the top left corner, you’ll see the word “Default.” That’s the Blending Mode drop-down. Click on the arrow there, and you’ll see all the available blending modes. Select the one called Multiply. Think of it as a sort of Add operation: it adds non-white pixels on the layer to the layers below. (That’s why I think they should call it Add, not Multiply, but that’s just me.)
Voila! A see-through drawing
Now you see your line drawing and the canvas color together. It’s like magic.
Step Nine – Insert the Painting Layer
Now we’ll create a layer to paint on. First, activate (click on) the sketch layer. Double click on the name, and a box pops up. Change the layer name to “Sketch.” Say OK. Let’s lock the Sketch layer so we don’t accidentally paint on it. With the Sketch layer active, click on the Lock Icon in the upper section of the layers palette. You’ll see a lock appear in the Sketch layer. Next, activate the Canvas layer, and go Layer > New Layer. A layer appears between Canvas and Sketch. Rename this one “Painting Layer.”
Step Ten – Paint the background
Making sure the Painting Layer is active, pick the Square Hard Pastel 40. Choose a good paper surface, like Artist’s Rough Paper. Choose a color for the background and paint away, letting the grain show through here and there if you like. You can just go with the Canvas color if you like, and skip this step. To be honest, I’m not sure why I did this step! I end up erasing it. Oops!
Step Eleven – Begin to Paint the Iris
With the Artist’s Pastel, begin laying in color for the iris. Notice how the magic continues: your line drawing remains completely visible even as you paint over it.
Step Twelve – Finishing Up
As I painted the iris, I decided I liked the near-black background in the original photo. To make the background black, here’s what I did:
- activate the Canvas layer
- choose black as your current color
- go Effects > Fill > Current Color
- activate the Painting Layer, and erase the background
As you erase, it will look like you’re painting with black, as you reveal the black Canvas. This is what I should’ve done in the first place, so I apologize. Sorry folks – we’re live here! When your painting is done, you can turn off the sketch layer, or leave it on and turn down the opacity to suit taste, as I did here. I included a lot of screenshots today, so that you could see everything I did. If anything was unclear, please leave a comment and I’ll answer it right away. Thanks for reading!
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