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Advanced Painter Techniques by Don Seegmiller

01/04/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Advanced Painter Techniques in the USA - or Buy Advanced Painter Techniques in the UK

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pub: Sybex/Wiley. 286 page illustrated indexed softcover. Price: GBP33.99 (UK), $49.99 (US), $54.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-470-28493-3.

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For those who need to be kept up to speed, I’ve been working on translating my painting skills digitally, playing around with Corel’s ‘Painter Essentials 4’ and discovering that there wasn’t much in the way of books on the software, not only towards that generation but even later versions of said software. Considering that ‘Painter’ is regarded as carrying a lot of useful digital tools to do your painting, there is still a lot of emphasis on the competition’s ‘PhotoShop’. Indeed, several times in this book, the author directs you to using it to accomplish particular things. Considering the outlay for the current versions of both software, I can well understand any apprehension for any artist wanting to explore this medium. As I’m in a similar boat, I thought logically and thought that looking at the only book on the market, ‘Advanced Painter Techniques’, about the software for Painter X might give some insight into refining what I was doing or giving some insights. Author Don Seegmiller has done a primer, ‘Digital Character Design And Painting’, a few years previously but only available in the secondary market these days.

Although you’re going to see the results of this in an article and painting later in the year, I did think it would make sense to review the book that the nice people at Wiley furnished me with so you can make up your own mind to get and read before getting that far. If you choose to get this book, then you’ll be at least up to speed with what I learnt.

Probably the most insightful thing learnt is the problems with skin texture and the main cheat used to get around getting realistic tones is to cheat and sample off the photo you’re working from. Although oddly, I’ve yet to see many digital artists resort to this, too much of a cheat, which probably explains the odd hues currently used and why the general comment that it doesn’t look that realistic or too plastically looking. Considering my forte is portraiture and animals, if I can crack this then everything else should follow. One thing I did share with author Don Seegmiller was the feeling that digital painting could feel like painting by numbers and that there was definitely a need to work with the tools to get the best effect and to go with the strengths of working digitally than think like you’re working as you would with painting on a canvas. Indeed, after I finished this book, I chose my digital brush based off the effect it would give rather than the type of medium it was supposed to represent.

One of the main abilities of digital painting is working on different layers. Granted that it makes for enormous picture files. The picture I’m working on is currently 65mB large and I’ve used five layers so far but it does allow you to change or delete things that have gone wrong before merging the layers together and reduce the file size. One of the lessons that has settled in from this book is remembering the scale of the size of the picture and not to work too large or if you do, to remember to reduce in scale at some point.

A lot of it is working out the appropriate brushes and what you can do with them. As this book is designed for ‘Painter X’ users, none of the links for picking up custom brushes and such are applicable. In fact, this book actually teaches you the limitations of ‘Essentials 4’ and that you can’t customise anything. I don’t tend to see this as a weakness, more of an occasion to learn to use what you’ve got. After all, when you paint on canvas, how often have you stuck with only a few brushes despite having a decent selection to choose from? Same difference. Likewise, remembering to use ‘Opacity’ to change how thick the colour is being the equivalent of how dilute you make the colour you’re working with. I did a comparison to Corel ‘PaintShop Pro X4’ and it has similar limitations which essentially means you have to learn to get on with what you’ve got.

One thing I wish all of these graphic software packages had was a means to identify the colour you want to use rather than just picking out the colour or blending what you need. When you also have to consider that what you see on the screen and what comes out when you print, there’s a lot of different things to consider.

Sorry, I’m digressing from the book a little. I suspect the scientist in me is still working on the limits. The strengths of this book are in giving the clues as to what brushes, textures and colour you need to create various effects. Although I haven’t used them to work through the examples given, it has hammered home that I don’t have to paint by numbers and look at what I need to find to make what I want to work with. Whether that will work for you depends on your own knowledge and experience.

Each of the nine chapters does give a step by step guide and about the only thing that there might be a limitation with is creating jewellery shapes but I suspect that came much later in the software generation.

The real trick now is seeing how much I can apply from this book to my own painting. If nothing else, I’ve learnt what to avoid.

Have I learnt anything? A lot more than I thought. I went over some colour issues with the painting I was working on where skin tone is concerned that has sorted that out better than I thought. Likewise, I have a greater understanding of adjusting the opacity of the colour I used to give a better muted effect. I’m sure the rest will follow and I will be referring to this book again and again if I get stuck with other problems.

GF Willmetts

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