One-Brush Digital Painting: Paint Your Pet in Photoshop | Ria Sharon | Skillshare

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One-Brush Digital Painting: Paint Your Pet in Photoshop

teacher avatar Ria Sharon, Practice Makes Better.

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Picking Your Reference Image


    • 3.

      Loading Your Brush


    • 4.

      Mixing Your Colors


    • 5.

      Prepping Your Sketch


    • 6.



    • 7.

      Wrapping Up


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About This Class

Learn digital painting with my simple technique of painting pet portraits in photoshop—using JUST ONE BRUSH! You can make sweet portraits of your pet like these from a reference picture and a quick hand-drawn sketch. In the process, you'll learn how to paint anything with Adobe Photoshop.

Photoshop is a truly powerful piece of software, with so many tools and filters that a beginning user can easily be overwhelmed: burn tool, dodge tool, smudge tool... what to use?! I’m all about keeping it simple, one brush and the erase tool is all you need! My approach is based on how I make art traditionally (like with paint, not pixels). I’ve found a way to closely replicate my analog way of painting in Photoshop, which allows me to stay true to my personal style. In this class, I’ll share my approach, step-by-step.

All you need to create your pet portrait (or any digital painting project): Adobe Photoshop, a tablet, and a scanner (if you start with a hand-drawn sketch).

See you in class!

Follow me on Instagram and sign up for Secret Sketches, my free weekly behind-the-scenes/inspiration email.

Meet Your Teacher

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Ria Sharon

Practice Makes Better.


There is no path to mastery that does not involve doing something over and over -- that's been my experience as an artist and illustrator!

So I encourage my students to take small consistent steps by creating bite-sized classes that make art a simple, easy, daily practice -- one that is joyful and fun!

I occasionally post what's in my own sketchbook on a brand new Instagram page. If you're interested in what goes on in my art-making process behind-the-scenes, join my private Secret Sketches group. That's where I share things that are not ready for the interwebs yet. :)


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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm [inaudible]. I'm an artist and illustrator. In this class, I'm going to show you how to use Adobe Photoshop for digital painting. I'm going to do that by demonstrating how you can make a portrait of your favorite furry friend. All you need for class, in Adobe Photoshop and a tablet. I use a Wacom. For my pet portraits, I usually start with a hand-drawn sketch. So if you want to do that as well, you need a piece of paper, a pencil, and a scanner to get it into Photoshop. Of course, you will need an inspiration image, so find an image that you want to work from, and we'll be ready to go. 2. Picking Your Reference Image: Here's my inspiration image for today's pet portrait. From this picture, I've made a simple pencil sketch. As you can see, it's pretty gestural. I'll use the paint to capture the details and the texture. I just used the pencil marks to define the edges to give the subjects and structure. It also doesn't have to be dark, thank goodness because I can adjust the contrast in Photoshop. This allows me to maintain a light hand, which is something that I like personally, I like maintaining this expressiveness. So I've scanned in this sketch, you want to make sure that you use at least 300 resolution at whatever size you intend to print the portraits. So this guy is going to be a five by seven print. Now it's time for your first assignment. It's simple, I swear. Pick an image that you want to work from. I usually tell my clients to send me a picture of their pet that clearly captures all of their features as well as a little bit of their personality, what makes them unique. Share that in the classroom. Click "start your project", upload an image. You can title it with your pet's name and we can go from there. 3. Loading Your Brush: A word on Photoshop brushes. There a lot of great brushes outdoor, either free or paid, that you can download. For this class, you're only going to need one. In Photoshop, select the brush tool. When you click the brush tool, that's b on the keyboard, it will bring up this brush menu up here, and you can pick the brush that you want to use. My go to brush, which I will demo in this class is brush three, which is from a collection of free watercolor brushes that I downloaded and have a linked that in resources section. How do you load a new brush once you've downloaded the Adobe brush file. It's super easy. I'm going to demonstrate with another brush that I downloaded from Creative Market. You click the little wheel or gear icon in the brush menu, which will bring up all of these options, one of which is Load Brushes. Then you just need to find the file that you downloaded. Here's the file I just downloaded called transparent cloud brushes. It has the extension abr, which is a Photoshop brush file. Hit "Open" and it'll add the new brush to the bottom of your collection. Let's test it, fun. Load up your free watercolor brushes from the link in the classroom, and I'll see you in the next video. 4. Mixing Your Colors: So just as if I was doing this portrait with gouache of watercolor, I'm going to mix up a color palette. But of course, I'm going to do that digitally. So here I have my inspiration image, my Yorkie, in Photoshop, and notice that it's an RGB. So before anything else, I'm going to change the color to CMYK again, because I'm going to print it. Now comes the fun part. I am going to make an adjustment layer with, this time, hue saturation, because I want to see what awesome colors are hiding in all those browns and grays. I'm going to slide this over the saturation control over, and you start to see that there are actually some blues, oranges, burgundies, purples, it's so awesome. So I'm going to play around with this a little bit. Then I'm going to make a new layer and sample some of those colors. So I'm essentially creating a virtual palette by using the eyedropper tool. Press the letter "I" on your keyboard to get the eyedropper tool. Then make sure that you're in your new layer and you can press "B" for the brush tool. Change your brush size to something big enough. Something nice and big, and make these dollops of paint. So go ahead and toggle back and forth from with I and B. So sample, and then drop another dollop of paint in a different color. I want some blues. So there are some in purples. Make sure you grab some highlights and some darker tones. Get a sampling as many as you want, and when you're happy with the palette, we will move just this one layer from this file to the one with my sketch in it. So notice that right now, they are side-by-side tabs in Photoshop. I need two separate Windows to be able to transfer a layer from one to another, so see how I just pulled that up and apart, and then I'm just dragging the one layer over until it appears in my sketch file. I'm just going to put it over here in the corner, much like a real paint palette. Now we are ready to paint. 5. Prepping Your Sketch: I'm opening Photoshop and opening my file. This is the point we can adjust the contrast and make the line work much darker using an adjustment layer from the Layers menu. You click on this black and white circle and you can pick levels. It brings up these sliders for dark tones, mid tones, and highlights. As you can see, you can make it as dark as you want. My objective here is to make this image pretty close to black and white. Making it especially certain that the background is 100 percent white. That looks pretty good. Once you're happy with your black and whiteness, you can flatten your file by going to the menu and then picking flatten. At this point, you want to convert the file to CMYK so not RGB, but CMYK and confirm that yes, you want CMYK. Next, double-click on your background layer so that it becomes layer 0 now. Then I'll go to Image, Canvas Size and make the canvas size the final dimensions for my portrait. My client wanted this to be a five by seven. I'll pick five by seven. It was originally four by six. Now you can see why I made a layer because I want to be able to move my subject inside the frame and see how it fits inside that five by seven space. Then I will make a few more layers. I will put my sketch layer on top and I'll label it so that I don't get confused when I have multiple layers going. The bottom one, I will fill with white so that again, I can see what this will start to look like when it's finished. The layer in the middle is the one that I'm going to paint on. I'm going to just adjust one more setting here. On the sketch layer, which is the top layer, I'm going to change the mode to multiply. I'm going to show you why. I'm just going to pick a random color and using the brush tool making the brush big so we can see, I'm going paint. Now if the sketch layer were on normal, you wouldn't be able to see that paint come through. That has to be on multiply for us to get the effect that we want. The very last thing that we do at this phase is to clean up the sketch layer. Zoom in, that's Z on the keyboard and get rid of all the stray marks using the eraser tool, which is E. So press E on the keyboard to get to the eraser tool and you can toggle back and forth between the eraser tool and the hand tool which is H. Just go around your whole art board and get rid of anything you don't want. So this is why I did this part last so that you don't have to watch me go through the whole thing. I'll catch up with you in the next video with a super clean sketch. 6. Painting : We have all of our layers and if you remember, we have to make sure our sketch layer is set to multiply. I labeled my layers, I can keep them straight as I go. This one I'll label painting and then I will make another layer that's called nose and another for the eyes. Now we're really ready to paint. Like I said before, I'll paint this portrait using just one brush. There are two brush settings that I'll be using a lot throughout the process though. This was an aha moment for me as I started doing more and more digital painting. These two controls will allow me to mimic my natural painting process. One is the opacity tool. So I can go anywhere from 0-100 percent and the brush size, I will stay on brushed 3 the whole time. But I'm going to be changing the size of the brush head, which I can do anywhere from 1-5,000 pixels. When I first started digital painting, I was thrown off by the fact that Photoshop brushes make that really distinct brush pattern and you can see the same sheep over and over, not the effect I want. So I am going to erase this, but I discovered that by changing the opacity and the brush size for the brush, after you work on a painting for a while, that pattern pretty much disappears, and you'll see that in this demonstration. I start by picking an under painting color similar to starting with a wash with real paints, and I use the eyedropper tool to pick up that color just like I would if I had a tray of paints in front of me, then I've picked B for brush. I changed the brush size, I can cover most of his body in a few strokes. I might play with the opacity a bit. But my objective here is to lay down a nice undertone for the whole project. I'll go back and erase some of those stray marks that you can see but for now, that's good. My painting process is pretty much regardless of medium is to work from large to small. So after I've covered the whole dog with one color, I'll start to isolate different areas that have similar colors. So I'll change my brush size and make it smaller. I see brown all along his muzzle and face, and brown on it's feet. Some along his eyebrows, I'll work this way for the whole portrait, picking smaller and smaller brush sizes to fill in more and more details, and loading up different colors on my brush with the eye dropper tool. Most of the time, I'll use my premix color palette. Sometimes I'll sample a new color, mixing two colors or creating a new one based on my eye. So this is where your artistic sensibility comes in. This portrait took an hour and 45 minutes to paint in real time. I'm not going to make you suffer through all of it, so I'll speed it up here in a minute. But I'll bring it back to real time when I want to point out a specific technique or hint. Before you get started, I want to offer this thought. It's really safe to play and experiment with digital painting, because it's the most risk free medium ever. Notice how I go back and use the eraser tool here. I use the same brush head for the eraser tool brush number 3 as I do for painting, I can clean up the parts around his ears but see what I mean about feeling free to make mistakes. If I had made those big blotches in watercolor game over, I have had to start with a fresh new piece. So you can really have fun with this. Now you see that I've gotten back over my under painting and now I can zoom in to closer areas where I want to add some detail. Again, this is the same painting process I use regardless of medium. Once I want to work on a smaller area, I can use the zoom tool, which is Z, and the hand tool H, to navigate around my canvas and as you can see, I also moved my color palette closer in so I can keep sampling easily. Here you can see me changing opacity, and brush size, and colors to get the effect that I want. I'm slowing down the video to real-time here. So you can see a very cool Photoshop feature called history. So let's say you've done something that you don't really like at all, and you don't want to use the eraser tool. You can use history to go back, I don't know 20 steps. Go to the Window menu, open the History palette, and observe what happens is I go back through my steps. Personally, I don't use this feature too often because I know I can rework an area just like I would by hand, by blending other colors together and covering it up. I can sample areas close by in paint back over the areas that I don't particularly like. But history is a really great tool if you just want to clean slate. I'm going to speed this backup and you can see how I keep working different sections, the portrait. Feel free to stop the video at any time and go at your own pace. As I worked through his body, I noticed that there are dark areas lower down in his torso, and I want to experiment with how to paint that. So I create a new layer underneath the ones that I've been painting on. That way if I mess up, I'm not really affecting what I've done so far. So that's another way that digital painting really makes this process forgiving. You can isolate when you want to do something a little bit more risky or you're experimenting, and that's why I isolate the eyes and nose as well. Now, that I'm almost done I'll erase any stray splashes again with the eraser and finally, I'm going to add a cast shadow to this portrait, just so he's not floating in space. All done. 7. Wrapping Up: And very final step is to make a PDF of your portrait for printing. Look at him, doesn't he look fabulous? So in the Layers palette menu icon select, flattened image and then I do a save as so don't save over your layered file. Title it and then under format, select Photoshop PDF. Then click save. Yes, confirm that you want to save it as a PDF. One last thing I do is I add a stroke to my file. I select, all, command A and then under the edit menu, I select, stroke. Just a one pixel stroke so that when I print this out, there will be a five by seven border around this that I can use it as a trim line, can't really see it because it's one pixel but that way I have a guide that places my subject exactly where I wanted him in the frame. Save that. I may have mentioned that I scan this sketch in really big. It's like 800dpi. So at this point I'll go into this image size and reduce it down to 300 resolution, which is the minimum that you want for printing and note that I wanted to re-sample it so that the pixels go down to five by seven at 300dpi. That way the file won't be super enormous when I go to print it. There you have it. This guy is ready to pack and ship. Thank you for taking this class, I hope you had fun and I'm really excited to see your portraits in the classroom.