Starting to paint in Photoshop CS5

I’ve got it in my head that somehow, I want to learn to paint.  But I don’t have the patience or desire to go out and pick up all the supplies that I need…brushes, canvas, paint, etc.  That, and the fact that I’m so intimidated by all of the selection.  So instead, I decided to try my hand in Photoshop instead.  My current setup is using a Wacom Intuos4 tablet (the Large model, which is 12.8″ x 8.0″), and Creative Suite Master Collection CS5 on Windows Vista.

After watching a number of demos that I saw using some of the new painting features in Photoshop such as the Natural Media Bristle Tips, and Mixer Brush, I was inspired to see what I could come up with on my own.  Let me start by saying that I have little to no experience in doing any type of painting, but it has always been something that I’ve wanted to try out.  I think it helps that I work for Adobe, and get exposed to a lot of design ideas – there’s plenty of inspiration on a daily basis.   Secondly, after reading a bunch of novels based on Japanese culture and art, I’ve developed a fondness for traditional ink-and-wash (sumi-e) painting.  I really hadn’t seen many examples of Photoshop being used for this type of painting, so I was curious whether I could make it work.

So I’m pretty much starting out hoping that my attempts don’t end in pure disaster.  To make a long story short, let me just share my first attempt…

I didn’t want to start off too complicated, so I wanted to select something as simple as possible.  After watching a couple of videos on traditional painting of pampas grass, I think I found something right up my alley.  It gave me a chance to practice playing around with the brush settings, getting used to things like the tablet sensitivity, and the kind of brushes I can use for the various areas of the piece.  From my own experience, I have found that I need to change my brush settings depending on exactly what I’m trying to do.  For example, for the stems of the grass above, I’m using a very different brush than the multiple, loose bristle type brush I’m using for the shaggy grass ends.

In this way, I think I’m losing a bit of the spirit of sume-i in that I’ve made things somewhat artificially (for example, the pink/red color layer I through in), but at the same time, I still feel that I’ve been able to put together a piece that in some way still some meaning and some story to it….at least to me.  So I’m fairly happy with my start, but I’ve got tons to learn.  I think my biggest failure here is in how long it took me to sort of figure things out, and how many times I pressed Ctrl+Z to get to where I was satisfied with what I drew out.  But I think in practice that will come.

In any event, I submitted this work to the Adobe Tech Summit Art Fair, and it was accepted, so I’m very interested to see how it looks on a real canvas, after being printed out.  Many more paintings to come I’m sure.

I’m interested in hearing about other people’s experience in getting used to working with a tablet, or any tips and tricks that people have found to organize your life in Photoshop?  Or if anyone else has any ink-and-wash style paintings that they’ve done in Photoshop, I’d love to see your work.

-Mik-Dog

2 Responses to Starting to paint in Photoshop CS5

  1. Paddy says:

    I think this first effort of your is just great! I’m in the same boat, though I’m trying to learn digital matte painting. Like they say, the 3 best techniques for learning to pait is 1) Paint, 2) Paint, and 3) Paint! Nice work.

    • mikdog says:

      I think that is good advice…been trying my best to keep practicing but have been finding it hard as I’m also trying to tackle Premiere and After Effects at the same time. Matte Paintings are pretty amazing. Best of luck with your work…feel free to let me know if you have a website showing your work I can link to.