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Old 03-13-2008, 05:43 PM   #1
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Default So you want to learn painter eh?

So you want to learn painter eh?

I am going to approach this tutorial with the mindset that you the viewer already have a bit of understanding with photoshop. Here I intend to hopefully teach you a thing or two and add another powerful digital tool to your artist tool belt.

So the basics:

Important Hotkeys! (well, most of em anyhow)

B- Brush
N- Erase (I use a custom eraser personally
Alt(hold)- Eyedropper selection
V- Line tool
K- Bucket fill
W- magic wand
R- Marquee select
Spacebar- Move canvas
Alt+spacebar- Rotate Canvas (one of painters best features for tablet users)
Ctrl+shift+n- New layer
Ctrl+n- New Document
Ctrl+s- Save
Ctrl+shift+S- Save as

Painter general layout (ignore the custom palette for the moment). I also never use the mixing palette as I just handle all of that on the canvas itself, the color wheel is good enough for me. Others rave about it though so if you like it, go for it.

So the largest difficulty for most digital artist when first using painter is the obvious interface and brush engine differences between this and photoshop. Photoshop is an additive brush system which basically ‘stacks’ alpha maps onto one another (like when you adjust your brush spacing). All blending and such by nature requires a little more effort in this program but it does allow a great deal of control in many regards.
Painter’s brush engine is quite vast in comparison. The entire goal of painter is intended to mimic traditional medium in a digital format as best as possible. For the most part it succeeds but there will be times when you might find painter a little quirky in this regard.


In this section I am going to cover just a small portion of painter’s brushes, primarily the ones I have found most useful for myself. Now keep in mind that every artist is different so what works for one, might not be ideal for another. Feel free to experiment and have fun!

As you can probably see the great thing about painters brushes are the natural texture buildup they apply. Unlike photoshops additive system of stacking opacity painter has alot of underlying blending going in with every different brush.

Personally I tend to work in this method: tinting brush for basic block in/layout. Airbrushing/erasing on seperate layers for edge control. Custom oil brush for the real 'painting'. Really though it all depends on your process and texture usage on what you will really need.

Brushes (Advanced)

To further customize a selected brush you can bring up the brush creator window with ctrl+b. Here you can adjust size/spacing/cover type and dab type. For the Oil/round camelhair brush I like to set the dab type to circular to allow a little smoother control over the blending versus the standard bristle brush.

A quick screengrab of the brush creator window:

You can also bring up a pop up menu with all the brush settings to adjust on the fly by going to window>brush control> show general.

So now that I have some great brushes how do I add them to a palette?

This is another great thing I love with painter is the custom brush palette setup. All you have to do once you have the brush adjusted how you want it is to click the little arrow beside the brush icon and drag it into the grey area of your window, this will create a new palette that you can stick other brushes into at your leisure.


So in this next part I am going to walk through a little of my process and hopefully demonstrate how I like to use painter and photoshop in conjunction with one another.

Since I don’t often see this often I am going to make an ass out of myself to demonstrate the importance of pre-planning and prepping an illustration piece. The subject in hand is going to be based off a character/story of mine so I am familiar with the content and do not have to work through the design of the process and can explore the composition while I work (another nice way of saying fix all my f*ck ups along the way because I didn’t plan).

1.) Using a standard 8.5x11 format I begin to lay in the composition of my piece. When exploring ideas like this I like to silhouette out my shapes as I find this a rather sculptural and explorative method of working. I start out with the artist oils brush to build up underlying texture to work with as I proceed.

2.) Once I have a general idea I may add a bit of linework to nail down some proportioning/ideas. I personally like to use the pencil/cover pencil variant for this.

3.) This is typically abnormal for me, if I had been working in a production setting I would carry out my value study much further before adding color and make sure all my underlying image was ready to rock n roll. Always remember that value>color anytime. In this case I create a layer above my value and start adding some desaturated washes to work in some ideas. Typically I work between the tinting and airbrush at this stage. I always use the airbrush on a separate layer so I can erase and cut out edges when needed.

4.) Just working a little further with the tinting brush very quickly just pushing around blobs of color to find what im looking for. There is still a definite lack of contrast at this stage, in reflection I definitely would have strengthened my values before moving forward.

5.) Here is where painters short comings rear their ugly head. Basically the program sucks at anything image manip related. So with that in mind I save my file out as a psd (never use painter file format it just blows). Here I crop the frame to readjust my comp and continue building up my form.

6.) Working a little more in photoshop I continue to build up the form and add some background elements. Also notice the desaturate layer above my work. That is a good way to check yourself while working in color, this is to make sure that my values are gonna ‘pop’.

7.) After adding some texture elements I save the psd out once again and head back to painter. This time using a custom oil/round camel hair with a dab type set to circular I resume painting. Always keep in mind to work from big to small, the devil is in the details so do not get caught up in them.

8.) So after painting for a bit I felt like tweaking my contrast and colors. Moving back to photoshop I add adjustment settings on separate layers above the piece to find anything that strikes my eye.

9.) After some more adjustments in photoshop I move back to painter and really sink my teeth into the piece to finally start giving it some pop and really bring it all together. Fixing any anatomy/lighting/general issues along the way. I try to stay at 100% zoom the whole time as to keep my eye on the entire piece instead of a small portion of it. I am mainly alternating between the painter airbrush and custom oils brush for the remainder of the painting.

Final) Once I am somewhat content with the piece in painter I pull it back into photoshop to make any final color/contrast adjustments as needed.

Some final thoughts,

I love painter for what it is but if I had to weigh the two photoshop is hands down the far more versatile program for all of its other features. At the moment I tend to do most of my character work in corel painter and my hard edge/environment work in photoshop. So to list some pro's con's of each I would have to say:


-Rotating canvas
-More natural brush engine, can quickly build brush texture
-Color wheel

-Sucks at image manipulation in comparison to photoshop
-Somewhat convoluted workspace
-Brush engine can lag on lower end machines


-Easily customizable brush system
-powerful all round package
-better layer support

-lacks any real blending to the brush system
-no rotating canvas
-color selection not quite as intuitive as painter

Hopefully this thread will prove useful as I will continue to update and edit this in the future to improve and expand upon this quite a bit.
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Old 03-13-2008, 06:07 PM   #2
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It's really nice to see your workflow. Basically all you beefs with painter/phtoshop and going back and forth is something I know myself. World would be perfect the day Photoshop and Painter has a bastard child, eh?
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Old 03-13-2008, 06:46 PM   #3
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I would be the happiest man ever if painter just became a plugin for photoshop.
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Old 03-13-2008, 08:05 PM   #4
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pwoah this is awesome thanks for putting in the time.

isnt photoshop cs3 supposed to have a rotating canvas
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Old 07-01-2008, 07:43 AM   #5
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Photoshop CS3 does have a rotate canvas... but it's the same as older versions as in you can only rotate by 90°. One way around this is if you free transform on a larger canvas but that can sometimes cause undesirable results. If CS3 has a rotate canvas feature that is similar to Painter then I haven't found it yet. I like painter but my PC has been slowly dying so I have the same issues as lower end machines as far as lagging and such with certain brushes.
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Old 09-30-2008, 02:56 PM   #6
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i wish i could see the images :(
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Old 09-30-2008, 03:44 PM   #7
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So you want to learn painter eh?

Thanks Kaen, I use painter a bit - but never really confidently.
However I cant see the images ):
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