Thursday, May 15, 2008

Painter's Digital Watercolors

In this tutorial, I am going to cover the basics of using Painter’s digital watercolor brushes using last week’s experiment. I have to say up front that if you are looking for watercolor inspiration then this is not the place. I find watercolors one of the hardest mediums to work in and probably my least favorite. But people who make the switch to digital painting usually like Painter’s watercolor brushes the best.

Digital watercolors do allow you to experiment in a way that allows more freedom than traditional watercolor medium. (Those of you that have worked in watercolors know how unforgiving it can be.) The digital medium works the same as the traditional medium so I am not going to go into any watercolor techniques.

First we start with a sketch. Watercolors are the only medium where I will start on a white piece of paper. I find this utterly terrifying because you cannot set a cool or warm mood with the color of your paper. But just like in traditional watercolor, the brightness of the paper becomes your base color.

There are two types of watercolor brushes in Painter. There are the regular old “watercolor brushes” that have been in Painter for ages and there are the “Digital Watercolor brushes”. The watercolor brushes are better for sweeping in washes of color in backgrounds, but you will need tons of memory to use these without grinding your machine to a halt. The digital watercolor brushes work much more efficiently. You can select one of the digital watercolor brushes from the brush menu by clicking on the small arrow next to the brush.

Next you want to choose a kind of digital watercolor brush and customize it to your needs. I prefer to start with the “Wash Brush.” The real magic in this brush is controlling the “Wet Fringe” and “Diffusion.” In this sample, the left doodle has a Wet Fringe of 100% with a 0 Diffusion. You can see that this creates a brush strokes that goes on wetter because you can really see the color accumulating on the stroke edges. On the right the Diffusion is kept at 0 and the Wet Fringe is 0. This creates a smoother almost marker feel. To me, it looks more like what you can get out of Photoshop which I personally think looks more "digital."

In this next example, the Wet Fringe is kept at 100% and the Diffusion is put at 20. This creates a very watery fluid brush which might not be the right brush for objects, but would look fabulous as a watery backgrounds.

Another interesting brush is the “Wet Eraser” under the same brush grouping. This brush allows you to easily correct your mistakes with literally a wet erase. Something that is difficult to do with traditional watercolors. (Note: the wet eraser only works on layers. Once you drop your layer down you will want to go back to the regular eraser.)

At this point, the painting just has some light washes. I like a little texture so I always go over my watercolor paintings with some pastels using different textured paper. And that is what you can see in the final.

Another tip: Use lots of layers with watercolors. You can create a new layer in the same way that you do in photoshop by clicking on the small right triangle and selecting “new layer.” If you paint each wash on a seperate layer then you can lower the opacity as you go to and slowly build color. I drop the layer once I get it looking how I want it. (You drop the layer by clicking on the arrow to the right and selecting “Drop.” The drop is the equivalent to the "merge down" command in Photoshop)

I will cover Painter's pastel brush in another tutorial. I also plan to cover painting with a watercolor brush in Photoshop. The steps are a little less intuitive, but it can be done. Let me know if there is something in particular that you would be interested in seeing.


Ginger*:) said...

Thanks so much for the great Painter WC tips. The one thing you didn't cover, but maybe is included in the layering how to blend the digital watercolors.

Painter's regular watercolors will blend but I am not able to find a good way to soften edges and blend one color into another. I am going to try separate layers and see if that combined with changes in opacity will give me the effect I want.

Bearded Lady said...

Hi Ginger,
In Painter X, you can change the Wet Fringe AFTER you have already applied a brush stroke too. But it must be on a seperate layer. (The Wet Fringe controls the softenss of the edges.)

And as far as blending goes, Painter has all the same blending modes as Photoshop with a few extras. (The default is gel mode for watercolors) But I find with watercolors it is best to just adjust the edges and the opacity as you go.


Itziar San Vicente said...

Thanks for your comment!
I´ll read your explanations carefuly!