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