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Welcome to Learning to Paint Digitally, Edition 2.  I am amazed at the enthusiasm of the digital community with my first article, I really did not expect such a huge response, and honestly I am thrilled.  I am so glad I was able to help so many people, so, lets get started on Edition 2 already!

The Plan:  This series is not only to give beginners a starting point, but also to help even seasoned painters with tricks or tips they did not know before.  My hope is that we all learn something we did not know before since there are so many ways to do one thing, it is my belief that reading how one person may do something will strengthen our skills as artists and help us to learn and develop our own style and techniques.

The Promise:  My promise to the community through this new series of articles is that I will:
  • Read each Tutorial before presenting it to you.
  • Try each brush set myself before including it in the "lessons."
  • Try to be as clear and simple as possible.
  • I will continue to take your suggestions for tutorials, brushes, and resources.

Please Remember:  I may not do things the way you do them, and you may not find somethings useful or you may not agree with a technique I choose to use or feature/discuss.  My advice is to please note me and offer your suggestions.  I am going to speak from my experience and the tutorials that people have suggested in order to write these articles.  I am sure there are many other ways to paint different things, so lets keep an open mind while we try to cover all the bases and learn new things!  

Getting Started:  First things first.  What will you need?  Since I mainly use Photoshop CS3 for all of my digital works these tutorials/lessons etc. will mainly concern the use of this program.  We may briefly touch on other programs, or mention the use of materials such as poser models, but the main focus will be on and in Photoshop and the tutorials that will be provided will use this program.  (You may be able to adapt them to other programs such as Paint Shop Pro.)  You will need some basic knowledge of Photoshop and how to navigate inside the program, these basics will not be covered.

So, Sue, will I also need a tablet?  It will help greatly if you have one, it will make painting much easier and you will have a lot more control than you will with a mouse.  You can still participate if you do not have one, but it is highly recommended for pen pressure, sensitivity, brush settings, etc.  Now is a good time to make sure you have the latest driver for your tablet by checking the manufacturers website!(Very inexpensive ones are now available at places like Best Buy.)

For this edition I want to first show you the results of some of the paintings that were done for the first article:
Foggy Creek by chasing-butterflies:thumb65826520: a place by angelmarthy Waterfall by chasing-butterflies Steps by AnimeLuver25
You must note me with your work from the articles if you want it featured here!  Thanks!

All paintings have some sort of background.  Whether its a portrait with a simple splash of color or a complex scene, its something that needs to be considered when planning and painting your image.  For this article I would like to concentrate  more on the background of your image.  Not only will this be an exercise in backgrounds but also a bit about blending your surroundings.

First we are going to start with brushes (again!)  If you were lucky enough to grab a copy of Septembers ImagineFX then you have the DVD companion disk and a great set of brushes by our very own dahlig (I am huge fan of this magazine and its quite helpful to digital artists.)  Nows the time to grab those brushes off the DVD and to read the article they correspond to!  I bought a copy of the magazine a few days ago and was amazed to see that some of the same stuff she was covering in the magazine tutorial I would be covering here.  So, fear not, if you don't have a copy, its ok, its just an added bonus!

Below are some brushes you will find extremely useful - and I am going to cover how to use them so that you can create your very own painted backgrounds for your artworks!

The Textures:
You will need some basic texture brushes, you should already have these from the first article, the larger ones are useful for laying down the foundation of color on your blank canvas.  For this tutorial I am painting a few quick basic trees and grass, but you can choose to paint whatever you want.  In case you missed the article here are some of the basic texture brushes from that article, plus a few additional ones I have recently found:
GVL Soft Texture brushes by gvalkyrie Grunge Texture Brushes by Scully7491 .:My Brushes 4:. by David-Holland Artistic Photoshop and GIMP Brushes by redheadstock Brushes by Erikor Watercolours 3 PS 7.0 by Pfefferminzchen:thumb39729069::thumb10391283: backyard texture brushes by cosmos-Resources
You can do some of your own searching by browsing the following category, Resources > Application Resources > Photoshop Brushes  Don't forget you can check the end of each article for links to previous articles!</sup>

Once you find a brush you like, don't forget about brush settings which were covered in Edition 1, using a large texture brush with settings set to the following works really great for laying down the basic colors:

  • Check box for Shape Dynamics > and then Pen Pressure on (there are also two check boxes at the bottom of this tab for flip X & Y Jitter, these are useful if checked as well)
  • Check box for Scatter > and both axes on
  • Check box for Other Dynamics > Pen Pressure on

Start Painting:
Open a new canvas, and fill it with a basic color for your background, use your brush to lay down the other basic colors on a new layer.  You must also keep your lighting in mind, although you can alter it as you go along, having a general idea of which direction your light is coming from is going to help greatly.  In my tree painting I am using one texture brush, I have filled the new canvas with a dark green, and I have used the brush over the top of it on a new layer starting with a darker green for the bottom and gradually getting lighter towards the top where the sun would be coming through the trees in the back.

BG Tutorial Walkthrough by cosmosue

If you used a very rough texture brush now is a good time to slightly blur the textured layer to give it a more faded/softer feel.  This is only the basic layer, it doesn't have to be perfect.  I have actually gone back and tweaked my color scheme by clicking the texture layer and going to Image > Adjustment > Color Balance, my finished image looks nothing like what I started with!

Make a new layer above this one.  In my case, I am painting trees in a small outcropping probably near a field of some sort.  I choose a color brown that matches the greens/greys I have already painted in, remember, nearly everything will reflect light and the colors around it, even if its only very slight!  I paint in one main tree to the side, this one will have a lot more details in the end.  The trees in the back I paint with a slightly more greenish - brown color to match and fade in with the background better.  Now I have a very basic forest, but its not good enough, there are a few other elements I normally add before adding my figures, though the background is worked on through out the entire painting process, I now need to clean up my trees and put in some grass.  While cleaning up my trees I have decided to go back and completely re-do them, this happens in painting quite often, don't get discouraged!

I specifically followed this fantastic tutorial on painting trees:
Tutorial - Painting Trees by jezebel and I highly recommend checking it out as it helps a great deal in achieving realism and covers a lot of the very important things with trees.

Also other "tree" tutorials:
Trees Tutorial by Sadir89:thumb59350493::thumb5158511: Pine Tree with Snow-Tutorial by Rach-Resources

Here are a few things to keep in mind with trees, plus some little tips and tricks:

  • Trees seldom go straight up and down, they curve and have very irregular shapes
  • Trees are never smooth!  They have knots and bark
  • For a large forest you can sometimes get away with duplicating trees and flipping them, though try to make them different or blend them in so its not noticeable
  • There are many different types of trees and roots, be sure to check stock photos for ideas and references

Currently there is 4 layers to my work so far.  The base layer (color filled), the textured layer and very basic colors/highlights (going from darker at the bottom to lighter at the top), and two trees, I had a lot more but I have since removed them and changed a lot of things.  I'm going to move on to grass and finish highlights/shadows on the trees later.

Theres a great shortcut you can use for creating grass in the background and that is by using brushes (of course!)  The key to remember here is that the magic is all in the brush settings, and how you apply the brushes.  Try downloading and experimenting with some of the below grass brushes:

Grass brushes 2 by Katikut Grasses and Plants Photoshop and GIMP Brushes by redheadstock The Grasslands by midnightstouch Grass and reed Brushes by miss69-stock
Just a sampling of whats out there!

Here are a few things to keep in mind with grass, plus some little tips and tricks:

  • As you go deeper, and further back into the image, the grass will be smaller, and fade into the background.
  • Not all grass is the same color, stamp and paint the grass brushes on with several different hues or greens, browns, yellows, etc.
  • Grass can be highly reflective and there are going to be spots that are darker and lighter than other spots, it should never look "flat."
  • When you are happy with the grass try duplicating the layer, and flipping it horizontally, it helps to fill in areas
  • Try applying a very light gaussian blur to the grass at about .4%
  • Adding grass to the very front is a nice effect
  • Erase bits of grass you don't need, also this will help to blend in rough edges
  • Create areas of sunlight or small highlighted areas using the dodge tool, the burn tool is good for blending the bottom grass and making it appear darker

The final thought to remember when painting grass is this: Even though you have used a few grass brushes, you must still go back with a very small round brush (pen pressure or fade selected) and paint in individual strands of grass!  Make sure to blend in the brushed on grass with your hand painted strands to make the entire thing come together.  Grass with the proper highlights and shadows is going to go a long way in making everything go together well.

The Details:
Once I have in my basic trees, grass, etc. I go back over everything and put in more highlights and shadows.  I tend not to stay in one place too long but work more all over, I get bored of one thing, and move on and come back to it later.  Below are some very useful brush sets you can use for small details.  Remember, they are not simply meant to be stamped and thats it, you must go back over them and paint in details, highlights, and shadows, but they are a great quick trick to use in pinch as a guide to work from!

Tree Bark:
Bark 2.0 by nokari Tree Bark Brushes by Rach-Resources Bark by Xtacy420
These brushes are great, after you paint your trees make a new layer above them.  Choose a brush and stamp it on the tree trunk, you are going to have to keep rotating the brush to making it look best.  You will also need to set your layer style to overlay, or soft light.  Experiment with color and opacity to get the look you are going for.

Cloud  Tutorial by Reine-Haru:thumb54053680: Short tutorial- Clouds by Sadir89
A few great tutorials I found while compiling resources for the articles.  Clouds are a lot of fun to paint, and can be one of the easier things to paint for your scene/background.  Its one of the only areas you might be able to get away with using a soft brush!

eb05_rock_01 by elementboarder05:thumb10229563::thumb21914158:
These are used the same way as the tree bark brushes, they are meant to help you texture your paintings for a more realistic look and feel.  You should set the layer styles to overlay, soft light, or something similar to get a decent outcome.  Remember to experiment with color!

The Assignment:
So, with all this info on nature backgrounds, its probably about time you all got painting your own!  I'm including a few stock photos to use as reference only!  Some things I didn't cover, some I did, but basic shadow/highlight technique and blending can be applied to pretty much almost anything.  In future articles we will cover lighting and so forth, one step at a time!  Make sure to link back to the refs you use, and upload to scraps if your work is a practice work or if it is unfinished, WIP!

Yellow Fields by BethLeda Sky Obscured Sun by Book-of-Light-Stock Field 3 by kate-stock Fall colors 2 by LucieG-Stock Canada 18 by Cat-in-the-Stock:thumb66157956::thumb30952557: cliff by bloodydawn:thumb52676619:

Please note me with your finished image(s) so that I may link them in the next article!

A Final Reminder:
Remember brushes are great for a base, and to cut small corners in your work and make it a little easier but they should be used in moderation and should be blended and painted to properly fit in.

Miss Edition 1?  Catch up here: Learning to Paint Digitally, Edition 1
Add a Comment:
SweeetSecret Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2009
I love painting but could be better - thanks for such a great thing!!!
Kairi292 Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
love it :heart: XD
Kuwaizair Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008
why is painter so neglected and unloved :(
WisheWing Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2007
So useful, thanks for adding :love:
desmo100 Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2007
Thank you for posting these tutorials! It looks as though you put a lot of thought and work into creating them. I'm sure they'll be a very big help to all of us who are interested in digitally painting.
Beautelle Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
great feature!!! thanks for providing great stock images and brushes!!!
SPyWorkz Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
cool .... I always wanted to create a digital painting.. Thanks for the tips.
midnightfox21 Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2007
i really like this^^
awesome article:3
Zefyrinus Featured By Owner Oct 15, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
Is there a part 1 somewhere?
inisipis Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2007  Professional Filmographer
Awesome place.:)
popcorn-pops Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2007  Student Filmographer
These are awesome!
Placidus-Sinistra Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2007  Hobbyist Photographer
Thankyou very much for featuring my little foray into edition 1! I'm excited to do the second challenge too, now! top job on this report, really really helpful!
lady-lark Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2007
wow. that is a lot of useful tutorials. :)
ElrondMcStyle Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2007
Very good! But for me it´s to hard to understand all... my English is to bad :(
00Jules00 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2007   Interface Designer
Very good topic, very well done
Continue posting

PS, I've done a painting of the sky foto you submitted, 100% Mouse drawing!!!
rasTD Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2007
i dont know how to say thank you..loves
Inoyoshi Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2007
LOVE IT!!! Just what I needed
fubuki-hime Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2007
yay! looks fun!
AnimeLuver25 Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2007 one! xD i am feeling unsure.....o_O
Minois Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2007
:hug: Thanks for the time and such a great and useful article :-) I plan to try my first photomanipulation soon, this is a real help :thumbsup:
skifi Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2007
I can't help it, I love these tutorials, and I feel really grateful for them, you can't imagine how useful they are for me..... :worship: *worships*
monochromatic-stains Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2007
great news article. very informative.
rev-Jesse-C Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2007
wow - fantastic! :D
slivers Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2007
Thank you very, very, very much for posting this!! :glomp:
wave3 Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007
Very useful :) You should make more like this.
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
There are 2 so far and there is more coming =)
Amazonofexeter Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional General Artist
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
Rachzee Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
:thumbsup: Great work, Sue! :bow:
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks rach your resources are awesome :hug: I will be using several in the articles =)
Rachzee Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
I'm honored! :w00t: :love:
miss69 Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007
This is very informative and I'm sure very helpful to alot of people, including me :D
Now just finding some spare time to put it all into practice. :)

Also Thankyou Cosmo for including some of my brushes :hug:
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
nianiniel Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow, great article. Thanks so much!
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
You are very welcome =)
Haibra Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007
Thanx .. XD
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
Marker-Guru Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2007  Professional Traditional Artist
you linked my tut :D thank you :D
awesome article:D one for the bookmarks :D
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah I didn't know you had any tuts like that I came a cross it and was like ooh good stuff!! Thank you =) :heart:
Marker-Guru Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Traditional Artist
HAHA I am a tutorial junkie :D

gonnarain Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2007  Student
Wow great information. Thank you for putting it together.
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
Your welcome :heart:
Athziri Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2007  Professional Digital Artist

thanks for the time!!
very nice! :heart:
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
KD1only Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2007
Thank u for the useful info !!
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
Renilicious Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey Sue, you wouldn't want to convert this into a PDF to have as a download from your account, would you? That way you can conserve all the links in the document.

Alllllso... do you accept non DA links?
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 5, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
I was trying to stick to dA so I could use thumbs =)

And I dunno how to convert to pdf =(
chasing-butterflies Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2007
I can make it a .pdf for you if you want, although I don't think it really makes a difference as far as the links go - I mean if the owners of the things you link delete them later on they won't be available even if they are linked in a .pdf on your account. Because I don't think we can include the originals without everyone's permission can we?
cosmosue Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
Well I think I'll just have it the way it is for now, easier I think?
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