Thursday, June 23, 2011

Photoshop for Paintings class results

As I prepared for this class I realized that there are a lot of tutorials out on the Net devoted to Photoshop Elements, but most of them are for people using it for advertising or photography. Yet in the last few years I've interviewed a lot of artists in my role as writer for art magazines and many, if not most of them, use this program as a tool to manipulate their pictures to use for paintings, in some way or another. Perhaps there's more online about how to do this than I found, but nonetheless this class turned out to be quite interesting to teach and instructive for my students.

Basically I outlined the various functions found in the Options Bar, Toolbox and Palette Well, before beginning to show how each feature can be used. If you're fumbling around in PSE, don't forget to use the online Help menu. It's worth your time to find information on the work area functions. For instance, this photo helps you understand some pretty basic but very important tools if you work in PSE 2.0:

(Adobe Photoshops Help photo)

I mentioned that I'm no expert, but there are certain things I do creatively that anyone can do to revive a dark, uninteresting photo, often making it into a colorful and unique painting subject.

My first tip (not original to me): start with a duplicate copy! Once your original photo is tucked away safe and sound you'll be far more inclined to just play around to see what you can do. I also suggest that you try whenever possible to use a high resolution photo so that when you crop you still have a clear, if smaller, print. I often crop several compositions out of one large photo and play with each one to see how I can tweak it, flipping them horizontally, changing the color scheme, heightening contrast, and even rearranging or adding elements.

Here's the photo we used for most of the demonstration and lecture I did:

It's a pretty dull image but it has some interesting parts to it. I like the variety of angles in the overall composition, from the line of each of the banks, to the angle of the hills, and the implied angle of the clouds, hinging at the slightly leaning vertical tree on the left-hand side. That foreground tangle is blah as it stands, but could benefit from  more color or contrast, and might even add another interesting angle if handled properly. The whole photo would benefit from cropping.

In the course of our explorations, when we reduced the photo using Image > Adjustments >Threshold and discovered that there's a small rectangle of light in the geographical center of the photo. Sometimes the simplest tools reveal something so basic! That will need to be addressed in the composition, either by cropping or by changing some of the values.

Probably one of the most useful tools is the Enhance >Adjust Color >Color Variations function. I routinely push the Color Intensity slider all the way to the right so that I can see the extremes of color.

I simply analyze what the image will look like if I add red, add green, add blue, add cyan, add purple, or add yellow. (The menu uses increased or decreased red, green and blue.) Of course, I can slide it back so it isn't so bright, but this way I know what will begin to happen, even if it's only adding a bit of subtle yellow to the mix. You can do this multiple times, choosing to add a little bit of red, or a bit more blue, or some purple, before saying okay.

After some quick playing around together, we came up with this outrageous version of the original photo:

And another version looks like this:

We just touched on some of the wonderfully fun things you can do in this program, but I hope it launched a few people into their own further explorations!

Have fun, gang!