After being suggested so many times, I decided to write this Photoshop Elements Review and work process script as it is one of the main, if not the main, tools that I use.
Once again, I apologize for not being able to point out my exact usual method of work and that is because I have no precise method of work. Most of what I do, comes from my traditional fine art training, and my crazy erratic and chaotic impulse to do things.
This is not a tutorial for learning purposes. I don’t even know if I should call it a review and script, but, maybe it’s not wrong to do it either because I will be showing you how I do a bulk of my work on my preferred software.
So, let’s go to my impressions about this great image program that I use constantly:
First thing that is very important to me in PSe is the ability to adjust the composition by cropping the image to a resolution, proportion and positioning of the image to something I find interesting.
I usually use the Fibonacci’s Curve Golden Proportion
Also known as Golden Section, the Fibonacci curve can be quite useful as a guide to where to put what and which major lines of the picture should be place where.
The Fibonacci curve has been used for centuries to do that and, along with the “Rule of Thirds” is an imperative concept for composition.
I also use multiples of the Golden Section to compose wider or taller formats.
I use the crop tool to set my composition up.
The image on the left, has the diagonal line from the horse’s knee going thru the point where the boot of the rider meets the saddle.
The other diagonal line follows the horse’s neck line thru the rider’s boot and the horse’s supporting back leg. Notice how the front elevated paw is very well located inside a section of one the Fibonacci’s inner rectangles.
That is a great and already natural area to choose as a Center of Interest for the finished work. In fact the back elevated paw can also work well for that, as well as the upper neck and head.
Photoshop Elements, although not as complete as the full version, has excellent color adjustment and effects tools. My next step is to play erratically with those. No rules here. I keep going (without losing my original and some steps that I prefer) until I get a result that is pleasing and highlights the areas I chose (Primary and secondary Centers of Interest). There is no perfect way or method here and the more you know about the software, the better. Good color fundamentals are very important, both traditional and digital. (they work differently). Good notion of depth of field and perspective is very important too.
This is a moment for some reflection about how do you want the sky in the final result.
Do you want it cloudless as on the picture? That could be a solution for some kinds of paintings with very light backgrounds.
On the other hand, and that is my most common choice, you may want to add some clouds on a new layer on top of what you have done so far.
I accomplish that by “stealing clouds from other pictures, or by using clouds brushes, or just by digitally painting them “by hand”. I don’t have a real preference, the choice depends exclusively on my mood.
Then comes underpainting:
an underpainting “In art, is an initial layer of paint applied to a ground, which serves as a base for subsequent layers of paint. Underpainting layers are often monochromatic and help to define color values for later painting.”
Two ways I underpaint:
- By hand
- Copying the a merged picture of what I have so far to a new layer and applying some higher contrast, black and white, artistic filter to that new layer. Some transparency can be adjusted too.
Honestly? I usually do both. Filter first and then hand-made heavy retouching.
Now comes the heavy “raise your sleeves, hands on” part:
New coloring layers will be applied with transparency masks. There is no rule for how many.
I usually start with one for each basic color and keep adding secondary and tertiary color layers until I’m satisfied.
Some times I do one layer with everything.
As usual, it all depends on my mood that day.
For this, I use a graphics tablet. My personal choices are the WACOMs and my model is the Cintiq 12WX
Lighting and Shadow Details
At least one layer for each. I add lighting and shadow details the same way I applied the coloring layer(s).
This is a very important moment along with under-painting. It is when I settle for the final Centers of Interest settings. The next step helps with that too, but here is where I give it the balance that I really crave for.
Final Touches Layer
Follows the same idea. No biggie here. Only one thing that I might want to add is that I save the color manipulated Layer and open it in another window so i can fetch for some colors (and their tones) that I want blown up into the observers face.
Mad Brush Artista
Sometimes, and rarely enough, thank God, I get crazy and go into frantic mode.
That means I randomly start adding layer, whichever, on top of layer, changing transparencies and all, in an erratic process that sometimes leads to total disaster because i end up saving at the wrong moment without having kept secure copies. What can I say? – many masters are known to have torn their work into pieces, haha.
Fortunately, more often than not, the result is satisfactory to me. I don’t like it much when that happens, but it’s a gut thing and I can’t help it.
When all that has been done, but I know that something is not quite in place, I test some other software like Corel Painter (which, by the way, may as well have happened in the middle of the painting), or even some filter for a final and subtle touch.
Hope that this article has helped clarify a bit about part of my working process.
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