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1) Drawing and coloring in Paintshop Pro (PSP from now on) is a medium like any other. It's not much different from learning to draw in Oils or Watercolors. It has a lot of adventages, some faults – and no real shortcuts. When you control it, you can make really beautiful works with it.
2) I'm still using PSP 6, quite an old version, for 3 years now. Even in this program, I'm yet to discover all the possibilities. Keep looking for features I didn't mention.
3) This lesson follows the process of painting 'Chrome Bikini 2' (CB2 for short), a picture I drew of a half naked sex android. I'm going to explain on how to draw flesh tones, metallic surfaces, hair, faces and so on.
4) I'll be using my trusty mouse, no Wacom tablet here, guys.
5) When I'm talking about opacities, the deal is this: low opacity is 10-20. Medium Opacity is 20-40. High opacity is 40-80. I don't use opacities below 10 or above 80 in this drawing (or any other, as a matter of fact).
A few tips to working in PSP:
1) The good thing about PSP (and other programs) is the use of different opacities in the brushes. Making half-transparent brushstrokes is the key for your drawing style: you can immitate oil paintings by simply using small brushes with low opacity, and If you want higher opacity you'll get a more cartoon-like style. Don't leave the opacity bar on 100%, that's just a waste.
2) Use the paint brush as your trusty tool. If you know how to manipulate the shapes and Sizes of the brushes, you can get a clean wonderful brushstroke. The other brush tools are just for special cases – don't be too tempted to use the available image manipulations tools too much, it will show through.
3) If you need to 'patch things up' after moving or rotating a selected area, use the clone brush with high opacity. Right-click on the outside of the 'scar' to sample the texture, and gently stroke the brush across. It takes a little practice, but in the end it's easier than repainting the area.
4) In all brushes, the best way to achieve a 'drawn' look is to use a round brush. In specific cases, let's say that you need to draw on grass blades, you can use the vertical brush.
5) Resizing a selcted area: let's say you drawn a figure and the hands are too small for the arms. Select the hands with the Freehand Select tool, switch to the Arrow tool, right-click the selection and choose 'copy'. Then drop the selection with ctrl+D, and press ctrl+L. Viola, you now have the shrunken hands in a seperate layer, in the middle of your image. Drag the layer with the Mover tool so it overlaps its original position, and press shift+S. Check the 'precentage of original' box and the 'maintain aspect ratio' box, and make sure you clear the 'resize all layers' box. Now scale up the hands as much as you need. If you're working with a single layered (raster) image like I do, don't forget to merge the new layer back to the drawing with layers->Merge->Merge all.
Stage 1: Getting started
One of the important things to remember is that PSP in good for coloring – not sketching. You should begin by making a rough sketch with pencil and paper.
I made this basic concept sketch for CB2 – as you can see, it's pretty much the same pose, but with some horrible proportions. Although it's always possible to make small corrections during the coloring process, I urge you to make the basic sketch as good and accurate as you can. To help me out, I used a model and resketched the image.
The second one is much better, even though it will have some changes along the way. Notice there aren't many lines other then contours – not much shading and hatching. You only need this sketch to give your coloring efforts a firm base, nothing more – all the lines will be drawn on anyway.
After you've completed the sketch, scan it. Make sure the output file it *.TIFF.
Note: you should always color your picture in TIFF format (or psp) and never in JPG. The JGP files lose a lot of detail and sharpness with every single save. TIFFs are common files, they'll open well with any program, and they keep the image exactly as you've drawn it. They're quite big, so if you want to save copies or show a friend online your progress, use File->Save as->name.jpg. The copies will look less sharp even to the naked eye, but they will be much much smaller (difference between several Mbs and a few 100 kb at most).
Step Two: Doing the face
I had some real issues with the android's face. I wanted to make her beautiful, but also very human and not doll-like. In my first attempts I tried to color it from scratch and see how it goes – not a very good idea.
Without planning, my original face lacked realism, and looked quite old. This was because I failed to realize the basic thing about painting human faces (in oppose to drawing or sketching them): less detail makes the most impression. In my original sketch for the face everything was drawn out: the ridges of the nose, the bags under the eyes, the cheekbones and mouth – it was all there. But the details, which are a good thing in sketches, tend to be cumbresome when you impliment them in colors.
After realizing my mistake, I took a small brush and removed all the unnescesery details, leaving a bright face with very distinct expression.
A good tip I can give you is to try and find a photograph similar to the facial expression you're trying to convay – or better still, working with a mirror or a model, to see for yourselves what you should put on the image and what not to. I used the photo of Keira Knightly from 'King Arthur' which had a similar look – It's one good thing out of that movie, I guess.
The trick with facial features in any computer program like PSP, is that you can select a specific element (let's say right eye) and nudge it a pixel to the right. After all, proportions is the name of the game. Just use the freehand select tool eith point to point Selection type and 1 feather to catch the piece you want to move about, press ctrl+f to make the selection float (thus making it into a temporary layer) and then use ctrl with the arrow keys to nudge that piece. If you feel you've passed the perfect mark, use ctrl+z to take you as many nudges back as you like, and ctrl+shift+z to take you forward again if you've just missed it while backtracking. Using the freehand tool is essencial to making a face work – you shuffle the eyes, nose, mouth, chin etc. Until it just clicks.
Note: if you don't float your selection, you'll get the 'background color' where the moved piece was originally. This is only useful if your'e manipulating a sketch on a single-color background. When your'e painting like in this case, it's usually safer to float your selection before moving it.
Another inportant and usefull tool to help you paint and correct mistakes is the rotate tool. You need once more the use the freehand select and to float your selection. Now press ctrl+R. You will get the rotate console. First of all – uncheck the 'rotate all layers' box. When it's cleared, mark right/left (self-explanatory) and the degrees. In my painting I suddenly realized that the neck looked awefully strained in its original position.
I tried to mimic the position in the mirror and saw that if the chin is higher, the pose makes more sense. I then used the selection+float tools, rotated the entire head a few degrees to the left, moved it to the proper position and dropped the floating face back on the canavas using ctrl+D.
A few smudges with a small brush cleared the jagged borderlines, and I proceeded.
Note: rotation of a selected item will make it a bit blurry. If it looks less shrap to you, then before you drop the float remember to go to the Image->Sharpen->Sharpen menu to fix this side-effect.
Stage Three: Doing the skin
The main thing in this specific pic was to get the flesh colors right – skin tones, curves, shine. To make it look real. Now, in order to do skin tone properly you can use various methods – but after trying for some time, I found that the best way takes 3 steps. I wouldn't recommend skipping one of them, since I already tried all kinds of shortcuts. Good dedicated work always wins. Note that all of the things I'm about to say are relevent only to close-ups – on long shots you don't need that much fuss. So let's get to it:
First step: Undertones.
If you ever colored a human figure and found it looking like a plastic manekin, this is the step you left out. The human skin up close has a lot of different colors and shades under the basic skin color, and those should be drawn first. In general, you use 3 basic color groups when painting the undertones of the skin (and this includes all skin coloration and ethnicities): Group A is based on red , pink, orange, burnt sienna and so on – warm reds and oranges. It's applied to all the areas of the major muscle groups: Back, chest, Shoulders, arms and legs - depends on how muscular your character is. Group B is based on Yellow, cream, peach, dark ocher, yellow burnt umbre and pearl. It's applied to major fatty areas: thighs, breasts, arms, buttocks and face – again, depends on how soft your character is. Group C is based on blue, violet and purple. This is applied only in small doses in the specific areas where the skin is very thin, shimers with sweat or anywhere where you might notice the veins against the skin: around the eyes, the wrists, the neck and the back of knees and elbows. Notice it has to be at least 2 shades lighter and less saturated then your colors of choice in groups A and B.
Now that were aquainted with all 3 basic groups, let's start the work: use a small brush (sizes 1-10) with about 35-45% opacity. Start coloring all the exposed skin on the character, and don't bother blending different groups when they meet: it's all tinting work, and every stain is distinct from others. Think of splitting various sections of the charecter into chunks: the shoulderblades in reds, the back of the arms in yellows – and at some places, like the lower back on 'Chrome Bikini 2', consider using groups A and B intertwined. You can gently blend the differnet tones in the same group where they meet, if you want. Don't use much lighting and shadowing – keep the colors bold, around the same saturation level and with little contrast. It may take a while to work up an entire body with this method, but if you apply the right color family at the right parts of the anatomy – it's going to pay off a little later.
When you're done, the figure will look a little like a stainglass window: the red bits will look like scars, the yellows will look like ugly stains and the blues will look completely alien. Not to worry.
Second step: Uniforming color.
This is the easiest part, and depends a lot on the lighting of the picture. Now it's the time to decide if your character is in the bright sun, cold neon lights, warm dimmed candle-light – beacuse this is where you paint it. The stage is easy: find the most common shade of skin tone to match your figure, factoring in light and skin color. Just try to emagine the complete picture, and see in your mind's eye the most dominante tone. Enlarge your brush to 20-40 size, and drop the opacity to 10-25 tops. Now, with soft circular motions, cover all the exposed skin. All your hard work of tinting in Stage One will blend gently together. It starts to look like human skin, but because you're using just one tone, it still doesn't look three-dimentional. Again, not to worry. Remember to cover the body evenly: where you have the most contrast between two color groups, use a second and third layer. In other places use just one or two. You should still be able to notice your undertones clearly under the uniform color.
Third Step: Lighting and Shadowing.
Besides the ambient lighting, there has to be some visible light source to illuminate your figure. Where is it coming from? Does it have multiple sources?
After you figure this out – Start working. Using the same color you uniformed the skintones with, start applying lighter and darker patches aroud the body. Up your opacity to 30, and use whatever brush size you need. In CB2 I added light from two focal points: the rear (notice the arm) and from above. Notice that the areas where you shade and light will be a lot more opeaque by now – this being the third layer. I took great care not to cover to much of my previous work, and the lighting does seem more dramatic when you see smaller bright stains. Try using patches of really bright and drak shades of the color you chose – and don't cover it all, just where the light strikes the hardest. You can use white and black only if you want real strong contrast – and in that case, don't exceed opacity of 20, so that some of the underlying work will show through. Remember to do touch-ups with light colors: if you want a nice gleam on the shoulder from sweat, you can use very light blue. For a softer shine on the thigh – use a little light yellow, and so on. The rules on these are just like the rules on Stage One (in regards to what shade of highlight goes where).
After these three steps, you're all set. You can try and fix some contours from the sketch you started with, maybe enhance a stain here and there – but if you worked by these instructions, the skintone should be glowing and realistic.
Step Four: Doing the hair
Nothing to it, really. The only thing you need to remeber is to do it in two layers – or it will look 'helmet-like'. The bottom layer is done with a medium round brush (sizes 10-20) with medium opacity (30%). Use color two shades darker and more saturate then the overall tone, it will serve as a primar. If you're doing a blond, start with ochre; brunettes start with black. I did a redhead in this pic, so I started out with dark vibrant orange.
In this stage don't bother coloring the individial strands, your brush is too thick – just cover the main area. Remember to use the brush along the hairs, with long strokes that resemble the kind of hair you're trying to make. I did mostly straight vertical/diagonal strokes, because the hair in this pic falls down without curls. If you're doing curls, use circular strokes accordingly. In this layer feel free to use dark and light shades of your primary color, but don't bother with actual highlights.
After you're done with this darker layer, drop the brush size to 1-5, use slightly lower opacity (20-30%) and the actual color you want the hair to be. Start painting in the strands. This is tedios work at its best, but good attention to details really shows. It took me a while, but I fianlly did it: the trick was to visualize where the main parts of the hair drop, and use strong shadows and highlights to make the hair thickets feel 3D. Remeber that hair really shines – so you can use clear white, with the smallest brush, to highlight specific areas by drawing 'white hairs'.
Step Five: Doing the metal bikini
OK, so far I played it as if I know what I'm doing – but this here is the second time I ever tried to paint metallic surfaces. It was a real challange, but after several layers I think I can tell you what to do. First of all, I went to the official Boris Valejo and Jolly Bell site. They are two of my favorite artists, and draw plenty of metal clad heroes. I looked carefully at their work, and chose one pic to use as reference. Then I tried to find other metalic items to use: pictures of coffee pots, motorcycles etc.
Doing the metal isn't as easy as the other stages. Like in the skin, you should do three layers in order to get it right. The first layer is the easiest: open your color pallette on the reds, and choose one of the grayer reds (to the left of the color scale). This is you basic metal color for chrome, iron, steel and silver.
I thought a blue-gray color is the right way to go at first, but red-gray is better. Use your grays from light to dark in a low opacity brush, until you get your surface completely smooth. In my case, I needed to make the shorts look spherecal, so I started by using shades of gray to make the sides a bit more dark and the center lighter. It's souldn't be too contrasted at this point, but is should be very smooth, without evident brushstrokes.
The Second layer is the reflections. If you have somthing that will reflect in your shiny metal, draw it in now. Don't forget to deform it properly, so that it will emphisize the shape of the metal. I didn't have any specific object in this design, but I decided to reflect somthing green in the bottom side (the floor?)
The reflection layer is essensial to make your metal look shiny and real – don't skip it.
Note: when objects reflect in metal, they tend to blend in with one another smoothly – so when you draw something that's reflected, don't draw in its contours. Not even if you're doing it cartoon style. That way the metalic surface will look complete, and not like a jigsaw puzzle.
The final layer, as always, is the illumination. Remeber that metal doesn't return the light like other surfaces – because it's smooth and shiny the lighting is reflected very brightly. Use pure white for this purpose, and a small brush. When I did the skin (stage 3) I already decided where the light comes from, and all that was left is to draw it in.
Notice the narrow strips of bright white near the edges: When you're making metal armor, usually the edges of the pieces won't be razor sharp, but a bit soften and bent. That reflects a lot of the lighting. In this layer you can insert the scraps, dints and other imprefections in as well.
A quick recap of all the stages:
And the finished product:
FARP Article Guestbook
2 Dec 2004
Yay! First comment here EVER! *hops around like mad* Your tutorial is totally gorgeous! Thanks so much for sharing, I got PSP as short time ago and now I know how I can use it! Your example painting is awesome, I'll run and visit your gallery right now. Thanks again, I bet this tutorial will be very, very useful for all the others struggling with PSP out there, too.
9 Jan 2005
The Incredible, Inedible, Indelible, Hannah Provenza!
This is the best tutorial for PSP that I've seen. It goes over everything I've been trying (and failing) to figure out on my own. You've explained all the logic behind your work, and it's easy to understand.
Thanks so much!
13 Jan 2005
Thank you very much! I'm really grateful! I just got PSP and it didn't really make sense to me! I think it does now! Thank you
12 Apr 2005
Thats reaally good and all but im rubbish at art and i just dont know how to use all those multi colours and shades to get the right tone. To me skin is one colour - i dont know how to choose and do the mixture of colours
Where (or how) do you get PaintShop Pro? It seems like everybody has it but me and I want to get my pictures to look cooler than an hour sketch and some colour pencils. Anyway, your tutorial is awesome and you do so well.
OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!!!!! lol I can't wait till I get paint shop pro nice installed!!!!!!!! Thank you so much for puting this up!! I'm such a moron I never looked at the tutorial's option because I forgot what tutorial meant.... You just made my day!! I can't wait to fiddle with this program........!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
17 Sep 2006
Ilena L. Gecan
I love you. You have solved my skin tone dilemma. Your techniques for creating skin tones are so much simpler and more sensible than other methods I've tried. By just following the 3 step process you can achieve a huge range of skin types, and really personalise your technique. To anyone who reads this I suggest you give it a try. The tutorial is easy to understand and well illustrated.
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