Why Traditional Art Skills Still Matter – A Ramble

Although I seem to be using more digital effects than usual in some of my recent paintings, I thought that I’d talk about why more “traditional” art skills still matter.

In short, whilst image editing software, digital effects etc.. can make a painting look even better, they can only improve what is already there. What this means is that the underlying artwork still needs to follow traditional rules, use traditional techniques etc..

This is something that I was reminded of when I made the digitally-edited painting that appeared here yesterday:

“1992” By C. A. Brown

This was a painting which, for time reasons, I made relatively quickly. In essence, it is just a picture of two people against a reasonably plain background. Although I used some watercolour paint (and waterproof ink), a fair amount of the colours, lighting etc… were added to this picture digitally. Yet, I was still able to make this painting look vaguely good. But, how?

Well, the answers are fairly old-fashioned. For starters, one of the things that makes this painting so striking is the fact that – for the most part – it uses a carefully-planned colour scheme.

The main colour scheme is a red/green/blue one, with emphasis on red and blue (since these two colours [which are only complementary colours when viewed on a RGB computer monitor] look ominous/unsettling when placed together, which fits in with the gothic atmosphere of the painting). In addition to this, there are also some subtle hints of a complementary orange/gold and purple colour scheme too.

By choosing the colours carefully (a traditional skill), I was able to improve how the painting would look when I started adding digital effects.

Likewise, whilst you can use an open-source computer program to add dramatic lighting effects to your art, they’re going to look weird if you don’t follow some traditional rules.

For example, in order to make the digital lighting stand out in this painting, I used the old Tenebrist technique of making sure that at least 30-50% of the total surface area of the painting was covered in black paint. Since brightness is relative, making most of the painting extremely dark will make everything else (including the digital lighting) look bolder/brighter by comparison.

In addition to this, I had to add all of the shadows, reflections etc.. to this picture manually (using traditional and digital tools), so that the digital lighting would look a bit more realistic. In other words, this required traditional knowledge about working out where the light source will be and changing the picture accordingly. And, even though I messed up the placement of a couple of the shadows in the picture, it still looks vaguely right at first glance.

Without this, the ominous red glow in the corner of the painting wouldn’t look as realistic, since the people standing next to it wouldn’t look quite as “3D” as they do in the finished picture.

So, yes, although digital effects, image editing etc.. can seriously improve your art, they can only improve what is already there. In other words, you still need to learn and use traditional skills (eg: perspective, lighting, colour choices etc..) in art that you will be adding digital effects to.

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Sorry for the short and rambling article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Two More Quick Tips For Making Monochrome Art

Well, although I’ve talked about making monochrome art before , I thought that I’d return to the topic briefly today.

This is mostly because, due to being busy with various things, some of this month’s upcoming daily art posts (and possibly comics) will contain monochrome art for time reasons (due to being somewhat busy at the time of writing). When you’ve had a bit of practice, switching to monochrome is one of the easiest ways to make reasonably good-looking art quickly. Like this:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size drawing will be posted here on the 20th August.

So, here are a few more tips for making monochrome art:

1) Detail matters more: Simply put, one of the reasons why monochrome art can look really impressive is because the lack of colours draws the audience’s attention to the details of the underlying drawing.

As such, detail matters a lot more. Of course, if you’ve got limited time, then there are lots of sneaky ways to give the impression that your monochrome art is more detailed than it actually is (eg: shrouding large parts of the picture in darkness, using a variety of different simple shading techniques, impressionistic details etc..).

In addition to this, you can also make the detail in your monochrome art stand out more by ensuring that there is a good mixture between blank, shaded and dark areas in your artwork. In other words, try to ensure that each type of area makes up at least 20% of the total surface area of your picture.

Another good rule (which I didn’t entirely follow in the drawing near the beginning of this article) is to try to ensure that no two blank, shaded or dark areas of the picture are next to each other – so that each part of the picture stands out in contrast to the surrounding area.

Here’s an example of this technique in a monochrome drawing of mine from 2014 (based on a photo I took in 2004). Although there are some shaded areas are close to each other, they either use different types of shading and/or are separated with thick black lines:

“Berlin Noir” By C. A. Brown [2014]

But, even so, detail matters a lot more because the audience are going to notice it more.

2) Digital tools: I’m sure I’ve talked about some elements of this, but one reason why monochrome art is such a cool genre if you need to make good art in a hurry is that it’s a lot easier and quicker to use digital tools (after scanning or photographing your art).

One easy way to make digital copies of your monochrome art look suitably crisp (and to make any digital edits alterations stand out less) is to open the scanned or digitally-photographed copy of your monochrome art in pretty much any image editing program (if you don’t have one, then use this free open-source one) and look for the “brightness/contrast” option.

Once you’ve found it, lower the brightness and increase the contrast significantly (experiment until you get the levels right). This will make the black areas of your picture look suitably dark and the white areas look suitably bright. Whilst doing this with colour artwork will often result in some rather strange-looking results, it is a quick and easy way to make your monochrome art look clean and crisp.

Likewise, if your image editing program has a “hue/saturation/lightness” option, then lower the saturation to zero too. This will get rid of any colour artefacts that can turn up when digitising monochrome art, since lowering the saturation level to zero removes all colours from the picture (eg: if you try to do this with a colour image, then it will turn into a greyscale image).

Likewise, for time and consistency reasons, look for any selection tools and/or fill tools in your image editing program. You can use these to quickly fill large areas with black “ink” much more quickly and consistently than you can if you use physical paints or inks.

Seriously, all of the solid black areas in the preview picture near the beginning of this article were filled in digitally. If you don’t believe me, here’s a cropped (but otherwise unprocessed) scan of the actual physical drawing.

Yes, I could have filled these areas with paint or ink manually, but it was quicker and easier to do it digitally. Plus, notice how faded this picture looks – this is because I haven’t adjusted the brightness/contrast levels. Likewise, I messed up the proportions on the globe slightly in the original drawing, but was able to quickly and easily correct them in the final edited picture.

So, yes, when it comes to monochrome art, digital tools are not only useful, but they can also save you time and make any edits or alterations to your art a lot less noticeable (yes, you can make seamless alterations/edits to colour art, but it’s a little bit more complicated).

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

So, here are a few more tips for making monochrome art:

Two Basic Reasons Why Digital Image Editing Matters (If You’re An Artist)

As regular readers of this site probably know, it’s no real secret that I (heavily) digitally edit most of my watercolour pencil and waterproof ink paintings before posting them here.

So, for today, I thought that I’d look at two of the most basic reasons why I do this and why it’s an important thing to learn if you’re making art that is intended to be viewed on a computer.

If you don’t have a program that you can use to edit digital photographs or scans of your art, there’s a free, non-commercial, open-source one called “GNU Image Manipulation Program” (“GIMP”) that will work on most operating systems and can be legally downloaded here.

If you already have an editing program, then I’ll be using fairly non-program specific descriptions in this article, so it will hopefully be useful to you too. Most image editing programs (old, new, open-source, closed-source, cheap, expensive etc…) contain the same basic features.

But, if anyone is interested in the programs I used for the examples in this article, I used a combination of an ancient late 1990s program called “Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6” and an old version of MS Paint. So, yes, you don’t need the latest fancy graphics programs to improve your art with image editing.

(It also goes without saying that this guide is only intended for improving non-commercial online displays of art. If you are selling the phyiscal originals, or advertising a gallery showing of said originals, then you must display accurate, unedited photographs/scans of the originals. Showing edited copies when selling the original [or selling access to it] is fraud.)

So, why does digital image editing matter?

1) It makes your art look bolder: Depending on the scanner you use or the lighting when you take digital photographs, digitised copies of your art can look somewhat faded or “flat”. Faded artwork tends to bring out every small imperfection and it can also give artwork a slightly “amateurish” look too. Like this:

This is a cropped, but otherwise unedited, scan of one of my paintings. As you can see, it looks somewhat faded.

This used to puzzle me for a while, especially since most art that you see on the internet tends to look a bit bolder and more vivid. But, I learnt how to solve this problem fairly quickly after I started using image editing programs. All you have to do is to look for an option in your editing program called “Brightness/Contrast” or “Brightness and contrast”. Once you’ve found it, then lower the brightness levels and increase the contrast levels until your picture starts to look a bit more vivid.

You’d be surprised at the difference it can make:

… And here’s the picture with -15% brightness and +71% contrast. As you can see, it instantly looks a lot bolder and more vivid.

After this, you can further increase the boldness of your art by looking for an option in your editing program called “Hue/Saturation/Lightness” (or something similar). Once you’ve found this, crank the “saturation” levels to maximum. Repeat the process if necessary. This should make the colours in your art look very slightly more vivid.

Here’s the picture after two “100%” saturation increases. The difference is slightly subtle, but the colours are a bit more vivid than the previous example.

2) It allows you to correct mistakes: One of the great things about digital image editing is that it allows you to correct mistakes that you made in your original painting. This can be an absolute lifesaver sometimes, not to mention that the experience of salvaging a slightly failed painting can be an oddly satisfying one.

Although explaining all of the techniques would take far too long, pay attention to the “pick color”/”color picker” tool in your program when you’re correcting small mistakes. The icon for this tool looks like a pipette/eye dropper in most programs and it allows you to change the brush colour to the exact colour of any pixel you click on with the icon. This means that small corrections will blend into the rest of the picture a lot better than if you just use the stock colours available in your editing program.

Likewise, do you remember the “Hue” part of the “Hue/Saturation/Lightness” option I mentioned earlier? Adjustments to this will change literally all of the colours in a selected area of your image (or the whole image if you haven’t selected part of it) by a set amount.

So, small adjustments to the hue level are one thing you can use to improve the colours in your art. Likewise, you can also change the colours in your art by looking for options labelled “colourise”/”colorize” or “Red/Green/Blue”, which are best used to change the colour of smaller selected areas in your artwork.

There are, of course, lots more things you can do with even the more basic image editing programs. But, if you take the time to learn and experiment, you’ll have the confidence to salvage paintings you would have abandoned or to improve paintings that you already really like.

For example, here’s a newly re-edited version of the example picture (my original edited version from a couple of months ago can be seen here). Compare it to the unedited example at the beginning of this article and you’ll see how much difference digital editing can make.:

This is the picture after some extensive additional editing. With the exception of the rain in the background, most of these changes are fairly subtle. But, they include adding more depth to the painting through the use of blurring effects, brightness changes and extra shadows. They also include adding more realistic skin tones, altering the hue and saturation levels even further, correcting countless small mistakes and altering the framing of the picture slightly too.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Basic Ways To Get More Out Of Your Image Editing Program

2017-artwork-get-the-most-out-of-your-image-editing-programs

If you’re new to digital image editing, it can be easy to think that whatever editing program you’re using can only do a limited number of things. However, most image editing programs can actually do a lot more than you might initially think.

Since there are many different image editing programs out there, I’ll try to write the “advice” parts of this article in a fairly non-specific way that will apply to most programs.

However, I’ll be using examples from the 2-3 image editing programs that I actually use on a regular or semi-regular basis (eg: MS Paint 5.1, Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6 [it’s old, but still very functional!] and, very occasionally, a free open-source program called “GIMP).

1) Combine several effects and/or tools: Although the menus of your image editing program may only contain, say, fifty different effects and/or tools – there’s no rule against using many of these tools/ effects in combination with each other in order to create a huge number of effects that you can’t create with just a single option. In fact, you can use different tools/effects from multiple programs in conjunction with each other if you really want to.

The trick, of course, is working out which effects, tools etc… go well together. But, with a bit of thought and/or random experimentation (be sure to either keep unaltered backups of your images if you’re experimenting), you should be able to create quite a few effects that you wouldn’t be able to do with any one option available to you in your editing program.

For example, by combining the “noise” and “colourise”/”RGB” options that can be found in many image editing programs – you can create a corkboard-like texture fairly easily.

Likewise, you can also use several basic features found in many programs to convert photos into something that resembles videogame-style pixel art (although the tutorial is MS Paint 5.1 -specific, most editing programs allow you to do things like altering the colour depth of an image).

Or, to use a recent example, I’d just finished my usual MS Paint 5.1/ Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6 editing on a scanned painting that I plan to post here in July. However, it still didn’t quite look right.

Suddenly, I thought “What if I use the ‘dilate’ effect in Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6 and then lower the highlight/midtone/shadow levels“. Although the picture also required some extra adjustments to the hue/saturation/lightness levels after I’d done this, I ended up creating a really distinctive effect:

Here's a close-up detail from the painting to show you what the effect looks like. It made the painting look like a combination between an impressionist painting and a pixel art picture.

Here’s a close-up detail from the painting to show you what the effect looks like. It made the painting look like a combination between an impressionist painting and a pixel art picture.

2) Look online for undocumented features: Whilst this isn’t true for all image editing programs, some image editing programs contain extra features that aren’t listed in the program’s documentation. The easiest way to find out about these is, obviously, to do an online search for “hidden features in [Your editing program]“. You might be surprised by what you find.

For example, a couple of weeks before I originally wrote this article, I ended up looking up something to do with MS Paint. To my surprise, I also found several articles that list undocumented features in many versions of MS Paint.

To give you one example, you can freely alter the brush/pencil/airbrush size to literally any size by just holding down the left “ctrl” key and pressing the “+” or ” -” keys.

Likewise, if you select an area and then hold down left “crtl” – you can drag the mouse away from that area to create a quick copy of the selected area. If you hold down “shift” instead after selecting an area, then it will leave a trail when you move it. This can be used for creating bizarre abstract art, like this:

This was an abstract picture that I mostly created using the undocumented "trail" feature in MS Paint 5.1

This was an abstract picture that I mostly created using the undocumented “trail” feature in MS Paint 5.1

Of course, MS Paint is just one program. But, it might be worth looking online to see if there are any hidden undocumented features in the program that you use.

3) Shortcuts are your friend: Many image editing programs will contain keyboard shortcuts for their most essential features.

Although this may just seem like a boring, and easily ignored, feature – learning the keyboard shortcuts for features that you use often can save you a lot of time. Likewise, you can also use them in all sorts of clever ways too.

For example, in Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6, I leave the “RGB” settings at + 11% red, -4% green and -18% blue. This means that if I want to add a light skin tone to a selected area of a drawing/painting that I’m editing, I can just quickly hit the “Ctrl + U” shortcut for this feature and then hit “Enter”. If I want to add a slightly darker skin tone to a selected area, I can just repeat the process 1-2 times.

Or, to give you another example, I keep the “highlight/ midtone/shadow” levels at -31% highlight, -31% midtone and -36% shadow. By using the “Ctrl + M” shortcut, I can quickly make an image (or part of an image) look slightly more shadowy.

If you learn the keyboard shortcuts for the more well-used parts of your editing program, then you’ll be able to do things like this and much more.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Combining Traditional And Digital Art – A Ramble

2017-artwork-mixing-digital-and-traditional-art-article-sketch

Although there are plenty of artists who only use digital tools, I thought that I’d talk about combining digital and traditional materials today. This is mostly because I’ve done this (to different extents) in virtually all of the art I’ve made since about 2010/2011.

The interesting thing is that virtually every artist has a totally different approach to doing this. For example, in this “making of” article by Winston Rowntree (the creator of an excellent webcomic called “Subnormality), he talks about how he uses traditional materials for the line art in his comics, but adds all of the colours digitally after scanning the line art. The interesting thing about this is that, before I read this, I thought that his comics were created entirely digitally.

Still, before I read that article, I didn’t entirely realise that it was actually possible to do this. But, after some experiments with two of the graphics programs I use (an ancient late 1990s version of Paint Shop Pro and a free open-source program called “GIMP), I found that it didn’t really work out that well for “proper” paintings/drawings, but that it could be used as a quicker and easier way to make the title pictures for many of these blog articles.

I guess that the main advantage of this approach is probably the fact that traditional drawing is a lot more responsive, quick and intuitive than using a graphics tablet can be. However, adding colour using editing programs often seems a lot more labourious in some ways – not to mention that most colours in art made like this have a very “flat” and obviously digital look to them.

But with the rest of my art, I usually try to use digital tools to enhance the traditional parts of my art, to correct mistakes and to add effects that I can’t easily create using traditional materials . In other words, I usually tend to try to use traditional materials as much as possible – and then I use digital tools to make my art look better. Like this old “before and after” example:

I've used this example before, but this is an unprocessed (except for cropping) scan of the picture. It's closer to the original painting, but slightly more faded due to the limitations of the scanner.

I’ve used this example before, but this is an unprocessed (except for cropping) scan of the picture. It’s closer to the original painting, but slightly more faded due to the limitations of the scanner.

"La Chanteuse" By C. A. Brown (with a low-moderate amount of digital editing)

“La Chanteuse” By C. A. Brown (with a low-moderate amount of digital editing)

The main advantages of doing things this way are the fact that I still get to enjoy the physical experience of making traditional art (and actually have a physical painting to show for it at the end), but I also get to use digital tools to give my paintings a distinctively vivid “look” and to reduce my worries about making mistakes.

On the other hand, this usually means that I have to spend at least 10-50 minutes editing my art after I scan it. Although this isn’t usually too much of a problem with paintings, it’s become increasingly time-consuming in any of the comics that I’ve made recently (mostly because I’ve learnt several new editing techniques, and because the backgrounds in my more recent comics are more detailed and require more detailed editing).

So, how can you tell how much of your art should be traditional and how much of it should be digital?

Well, it’s all to do with practicality, artistic taste and personal preference. If you find it easier to work with traditional or digital, then this should probably be the main medium you should use. Likewise, if you have more traditional tools available than digital ones (or vice versa), then it’s probably best to mostly use the tools you have.

Likewise, if you prefer the look of either traditional or digital art – then it’s pretty self-explanatory which one you should use more of in your art.

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Sorry for such a short and basic article, but I hope it was interesting 🙂

Three Very Basic Image Editing Tricks To Improve Scans Or Photos Of Your (Non-Commercial) Art

2017 Artwork Three Very Basic Image Editing Tricks

So, you’ve made a painting that you plan to post online, but it doesn’t look quite right (even after you’ve scanned it and digitally altered the brightness/contrast levels in the image to make it look less faded). Well, don’t worry, there are a few sneaky image editing tricks that you can do which will make a digital copy of your painting look better.

Before I go any further, I should probably include a few caveats. The first is that, if you’re planning to sell the originals of your paintings, then any images of them you post online should be an accurate reflection of the original painting (so, don’t use any of the tricks in this article if you’re selling/advertising original artwork, since their use could be considered fraud in a commercial context).

The second caveat is that there are lots of image editing programs out there. Since I don’t want this article to be program-specific, I’ll be only talking about general types of features that can be found in most image editing programs. If you don’t have an image editing program, then there’s an open source program called “GIMP” [GNU Image Manipulation Program] which can be legally downloaded for free.

That said, how can you improve the digital copies of your paintings?

1) Tweak the hue levels: Most image editing programs contain a “hue/saturation” feature. The “saturation” levels control the intensity of the colours in your picture, but changing the “hue” level will alter every colour in the picture (moving each colour in the picture an equal distance along the colour spectrum).

Sometimes, if the colours in your painting don’t seem quite right, then you can alter the hue (and possible saturation) levels very slightly in order to make the colours look slightly better. This takes a bit of trial and error, but it can improve your painting significantly when it works.

For example, the original version of this edited painting had a very bright and garish red, yellow and green colour scheme – this was particularly noticeable on the striped covers of the market stalls. It looked terrible!

So, during the editing process (which also involved other types of editing too), I altered the hue/saturation levels:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here in mid-April.

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here in mid-April.

By setting the hue to “-7%” and the saturation to “61%” (along with an additional 4% reduction in the brightness of the image), I was able to change the colours of these parts of the painting to a more visually-appealing orange and dark pink colour scheme. So, you can improve the look of your paintings by experimenting with slightly different hue/saturation levels.

2) Use selection tools: All image editing programs have a “free select” tool of some kind or another. This tool allows you to use the mouse to draw a line around an area of your painting which the program will treat separately from the rest of the painting.

Most programs also contain a “reverse selection” or “invert selection” option which allows you to change the selected area from everything within the line to everything outside of the line. This can be useful if you want to select a large area of a picture, since you only have to draw a line around the small area you don’t want to select, and then reverse the selection.

What this means is that you can alter the brightness, saturation, hue, colour etc.. levels of one part of your painting without it affecting the rest of the painting. There are literally loads of ways that you can use this simple tool to make your picture look better. You can make the foreground stand out by only darkening the background, you can change the colours of individual parts of your picture etc…

3) Cropping: Virtually all image editing programs have a cropping tool, which can be very useful if you aren’t quite satisfied with the composition of your painting. The icon for the cropping tool will probably look like two diagonal halves of a square that overlap each other.

This tool allows you to freely select a square or rectangular area of your picture. Once you’ve selected the area, you can click on it and everything outside of that area will disappear. In other words, it allows you to trim the edges of your picture.

What this means is that if the composition of your picture isn’t quite right (eg: the main focal point of the picture is slightly off-centre or something like that), you can trim away the edges until it looks slightly better.

For example, here’s a digitally-cropped version of the square picture I showed you earlier – which has been turned into a landscape picture by cropping away the borders at the top and bottom of the picture (as well as the stall cover at the top of the picture), as well as part of the right-hand edge of the picture:

Here's a slightly cropped version of the picture earlier in the article.

Here’s a slightly cropped version of the picture earlier in the article.

But, if you don’t quite know what you’re doing, then keep a backup copy of your image before trimming and/or be sure to use the “undo” button if you make a mistake.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Salvaging A Painting With Digital Editing (Plus, An Art Preview)

2017 Artwork Salvaging a painting with digital editing

Well, for today, I thought that I’d show you what the digital editing process (at it’s most extensive) can involve for my paintings. In fact, I’ll be showing you how I managed to salvage a fairly mediocre painting using digital tools.

I’ll try to keep my descriptions of the editing processes I used fairly general – so that they can be applied to any editing software, rather than just the really old editing programs I use. At the least, virtually everything in this article should also be possible with free open-source software, like “GIMP“. Likewise, many of the examples used here will be re-creations of my original editing process, so they may not look exactly like the finished painting at the end of the article.

Anyway, when I was making a “1990s stuff/ awesome stuff”-themed art series that I’ll be posting later this month, I found myself in a bit of a rush one day. I had to think of an idea for a painting and make that painting in less than an hour and a half. Since the paintings in this series have involved more planning than usual, I went with an idea that wouldn’t require too much planning – a “film noir” sci-fi painting. This is, after all, one of my favourite genres of art.

The painting certainly wasn’t a “bad” painting, but it looked fairly mediocre when compared to the other more detailed and distinctive paintings in the series that I’ve made so far. Here’s a cropped, but otherwise unprocessed, scan of the original painting:

When I re-scanned this painting for this article, it accidentally ended up being tilted slightly. So, yes, there are spaces at the edges of this re-scan. They'll be edited out later..

When I re-scanned this painting for this article, it accidentally ended up being tilted slightly. So, yes, there are spaces at the edges of this re-scan. They’ll be edited out later..

Still, since I had more time than I expected to edit it, I thought that I’d do a fairly extensive edit. This is a re-creation of what I did.

First of all, I opened the image up in an editing program from the late 1990s called “Paint Shop Pro 6” and cropped out the blank space on the rest of the page (you can do this in any graphics program, since virtually all editing programs have cropping tools).

After this, I did what I normally do to give my paintings their characteristic “vivid” look – I lowered the brightness levels and increased the contrast levels (again, you can do this on virtually any program). In some paintings, I also increase the colour saturation level, but I didn’t do this here.

Choosing the right levels can take a bit of trial-and-error for each painting, and the best I was able to get for this particular painting was to lower the brightness to “-7″ and increase the contrast to ” 79″. This is what the painting looked like after I’d done this:

Here's the re-scanned painting, with altered brightness and contrast levels. Sometimes, this is all the editing that I do to a painting.

Here’s the re-scanned painting, with altered brightness and contrast levels. Sometimes, this is all the editing that I do to a painting.

As you can probably see, one initial problem with this technique is that some of the characters’ skin tones can look fairly washed out. I don’t always have time etc.. to correct this in all of my artwork (which is why they can sometimes vary significantly) but, since I had more time and motivation to edit this picture extensively, I decided to correct this problem digitally.

For the woman in the foreground, I selected the relevant areas in Paint Shop Pro 6 and manually changed the RGB levels to “+18%” red, “-4%” green and “-36%” blue. Again, you can do something similar to this in almost any image editing program.

For the man and the woman in the background, I opened up MS Paint 5.1 and used both a basic “brush” tool and the “pick color” tool. This tool, and other tools like it in graphics editing programs (eg: the icon usually looks like a dropper or a pipette) allows you to change the brush colour to the exact colour of the pixel that you click on when using the tool. This allows for a level of visual consistency that you won’t get if you use your paint program’s stock colours.

This is the result. As you can see, the three characters' skin tones look slightly more realistic when compared to the previous example.

This is the result. As you can see, the three characters’ skin tones look slightly more realistic when compared to the previous example.

But, after this, the painting still didn’t look quite “right”. For a ‘film noir’ painting, it just looked too… bright. So, what I decided to do was to use the “colorize” option in Paint Shop Pro 6 (most image editing programs have something like this) to alter the hue and saturation levels of different selected parts of the foreground and background. This option allows you to change the colour and the intensity of selected parts of the picture.

In general, I made most of the foreground area stand out more by not changing the colours. Instead, I changed the colours of most of the buildings in the background to various muted colours (by lowering the saturation levels of these areas of the image and altering the hue).

In addition to this, I thought that the woman in the foreground’s red outfit blended into the pillar behind her slightly, so I changed this to a dark purple using the same tools. Here’s a rough re-creation of what these changes looked like:

As you can see, most of the background is now more muted shades of blue and green. Likewise, the woman in the foreground is now wearing a purple jacket. I've also quickly airbrushed out the white spaces at the edges of the picture too.

As you can see, most of the background is now more muted shades of blue and green. Likewise, the woman in the foreground is now wearing a purple jacket. I’ve also quickly airbrushed out the white spaces at the edges of the picture too.

Even after this, the painting still felt a bit too “empty”. The sky in the background just looked far too empty for a bustling, futuristic city.

So, I started by adding the red headlights of flying cars to the background using the airbrush tool from Paint Shop Pro 6 for the larger ones and the brushes and pencils from MS Paint for the smaller ones. I also added some yellow lights to the laser gun in the foreground (using MS Paint) to make it stand out more against the dark background.

This is a rough recreation of the headlight pairs (of varying sizes) that I added to the background and the high-contrast markings I added to the laser gun.

This is a rough recreation of the headlight pairs (of varying sizes) that I added to the background and the high-contrast markings I added to the laser gun.

Finally, to add more drama and depth to the background, I opened the image in MS Paint and selected the “line” tool. After changing the line colour to light grey, I painstakingly added lots of thin diagonal lines of varying lengths (to signify rain) to the background. To add more depth to the background, I added larger vertical grey droplets of water falling from the edges of the roof in the foreground.

Here’s a close-up of what it looks like in the original version of the painting:

The rain from the original version of the picture. As you can see, the diagonal raindrops are of varying lengths (to give the rain more depth), I've also added water droplets falling from the windows and rooftop at the top of the painting. Plus, I totally forgot, I also made some small changes to both of the foreground characters' eyes, using MS Paint.

The rain from the original version of the picture. As you can see, the diagonal raindrops are of varying lengths (to give the rain more depth), I’ve also added water droplets falling from the windows and rooftop at the top of the painting. Plus, I totally forgot, I also made some small changes to both of the foreground characters’ eyes, using MS Paint.

And, there it is! That’s how I salvaged a mediocre painting using digital editing techniques. Although the final painting will “formally” appear here closer to the end of the month – since you’ve bothered to read this far, I thought it only fair to give you a full-size preview of the final painting…..

"1990s Sci-fi Noir Awesomeness" By C. A. Brown

“1990s Sci-fi Noir Awesomeness” By C. A. Brown

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂