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Understanding and Learning to See in Layers....

Discussion in 'Digital Airbrush Tutorials' started by RebelAir, Jun 9, 2014.


  1. RebelAir

    RebelAir Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Have been chatting about this to a fellow member and mentioned I would show a simple method I use to see into a painting..What I mean by that basically is to see what and how its constructed..For me airbrushing is nothing but simple layers, easy pictures require less layers, More advanced pictures more layers, now these layers are also generally blended into each other using texture or blending gradients and that really isn't the focus of what I'm talking about here, all this does is breaks the image into its most basic elements, shapes, tones and structure..Consider this the idea for creating a basic base to work texture into.

    I'll use a greyscale image to give you the idea..and post it over a few posts as I don't think this site likes longer posts anymore, keep getting errors LOL..Miiiiitttttccccchhhhhh LOL

    Little Boy.png

    So a complex little image of a boy, lots of detail if you look close but lets break it down into its basic elements. There are a few ways of doing this, I just tend to squint at the image these days, an age old trick that filters out all the detail and simplifies it, but lets get modern, open up an image software, I use Photoshop10 but most will have what you need..First lets get sill and topographize 9if thats the word LOL) the image..

    You get this..

    Topography.png

    This is a little overboard but see how it breaks the image into its basic shapes, tones and structure..Remember all its really showing is the highest points being lighter, the lowest points being darker..useful to get a feel for the shapes involved but again not something I'll use as a reference as such but something to help give the idea of what I'm expressing.. lets posterize it instead..

    Posterized image.png

    Ahhh something a bit more realistic to look at but expresses the same idea as the previous image,Notice the distinct colors know you can see in the reference..I count about 5..So whats our starting point, lets do the usual thing of starting at our lightest color and working to the darkest..(I tend to actually start with my mid greys but that's a different story LOL)

    Whats our first layer?

    Take your paint dropper tool and select the next shade up from white, use your fill area bucket (In ya paint program) and fill all the darker areas with that same color (Except the black as ultimately we still want to see that, otherwise the whole thing will just end up light grey)

    Light Grey Layer.png
    SDB777, Thiago, Nada and 3 others like this.
  2. RebelAir

    RebelAir Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Righto it let me post it...Wooohhooooo. Now to finish it..

    So we have the idea of layer 1, our light grey, paint that bugger in...

    Lets look at the next layer, i'll call it a mid grey, I'll simplyfy the process to 3 basic grey shades..

    Medium Grey Layer.png

    I may have missed a few spots with the fill tool but hopefully ya get the idea, leave the light grey you can still see in this reference but go ahead and now paint your mid grey to the boundry's it shows on the reference, again remember this can all be done of the posterized image, breaking it down this far is a bit of overkill but hopefully it better explains layering for some..

    Posterized image.png

    For the next darker grey AND the black I go back to the earlier posterized image, obviously paint your darker grey (Or charcoal as I refer to it) and then tighten in the last layer of the black details or darkest shadows, obviously not extending past their individual boundry's. Once finished you can then re-add the white that you see in this image as likely you may have lost some of it through the process..

    You know should have a very basic, flat toned image that represents the shapes and structure of the portrait, if so inclined, practice this a few times and then consider another 3 layers after of texture. Into your light grey, work some lighter grey or white texture both into the lighter areas and the next shade grey up area's, know take your light grey and work that texture into your mid grey, then take your midgrey and texture into your black areas, then paint it all again with a light dusting of each color in its specific area to assist blending the textures but as this tutorial isn't really about that, I'll just shut up know and hopefully leave you with a basic idea of how to start seeing the world in layers..many of us do it instictively but it is a learned process..good luck..
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  3. RebelAir

    RebelAir Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Will also leave ya with this, same process, much more complex picture but again use these tools, IE Posterizing and Topography filters to help define structure, some artistic know how is obviously also needed to blend it all together but all images can be easily mapped this way and it really does help learn the idea, once the idea is pretty well cemented, throw this one away as you'll see things a little easier in the future with any reference....Good Luck

    Jack.png Jack Topographized.png

    Notice it can change the color look, this can be adjusted but too much work LOL, color match from your original ref..

    Posterized..

    Jack posterized.png
    Tocean, SDB777, maffie and 5 others like this.
  4. Heliotropic

    Heliotropic Needle-chuck Ninja

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    Thanks Rebel. This definitely helps understanding layers. You are my hero.
  5. WhiteKnight

    WhiteKnight Code Dragon Slayer Admin

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    Thanks Rebel for the tutorial :)
  6. grantmartin850

    grantmartin850 Detail Decepticon!

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    Thanks Rebe;
  7. basepaint

    basepaint Air-Valve Autobot!

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    great help for airbrushing too as it shows what building up layers looks like too thanks rebel
  8. Oddball

    Oddball Detail Decepticon!

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    Now THAT I can understand ..... Thanks for taking the time to show us this, I can't wait to have a play with this whole idea. :D
  9. MeeshellMP

    MeeshellMP Goddess Queen of carts Mod

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    Nice demo!! Im sure all of us can learn from this!!
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  10. matty171

    matty171 Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Loving your work Rebel
  11. Zotilraxx

    Zotilraxx Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Thanks Rebel. This is very enlightening. ..
  12. mrsuthern

    mrsuthern Gravity Guru

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    very very cool.
  13. Nada

    Nada Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Need a program and this needs a sticky! Thanks Reb
  14. RebelAir

    RebelAir Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Nada not sure of most of the free ones, but have heard Gimps getting pretty darn good, ya may need their extension packs to find a filter that does similar to those I'm using in PhotoshopX but someone here who has used some of the free photoshopping programs out there may know the filters name that will do similar or the best freebie program to use to attain a similar posterized look..I did have a quick look by typing into google, "posterize my image" and some sites did pop up that gives a free resource by the look to do exactly that, won't post any though as some may be a little dodgy LOL, but a quick look at each may find ya an option that doesn't require learning any new software to do it..GL..
  15. Heliotropic

    Heliotropic Needle-chuck Ninja

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    I have used Gimp 2 to posterize a photo, and it worked great.
  16. Nada

    Nada Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Yeah gimp didn't like my laptop, I used to be pretty tech savvy I'll dig into it. Thanks again
  17. alfie

    alfie Young Tutorling

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    on ya! cobber,great explanation, now i"ll have to learn how photoshop works i suppose lol
  18. Oddball

    Oddball Detail Decepticon!

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    I had an old photoshop (7) which was driving me mad and was advised to get gimp.
    Basically the same format but much easir to use IMHO, of course the guys who use Photoshot all the time and mybe professionally may disagree but for the ocassional user Gimp is a good alternitive to Photoshop - and, it's free :)
  19. Immortal Concepts

    Immortal Concepts Detail Decepticon!

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    I've used photo shop for years and found gimp to lack what I needed from it. Plus the dpi was crappy and really hard to zoom in with clarity. I actually prefer painter over ps. Same concept and use of layers and masks, but with more natural paint tools. If you have used any type of other paint media, then it won't be hard to adapt. That is until you start using layer controls to preserve your lines and color in only what you want colored in lol. It's really not that bad learning to see layers. I always paint with doing the furthest background first and working forward. Pay attention to how the object works in nature, remember this is a 3d object you are rendering into 2d so you have to take physical properties into mind to execute properly. It may take more time, but your work will turn out cleaner and you won't waste time going back and forth trying to cover up a mistake or color shift. I primarily paint all in white first and define ALL my values. Don't stop with white till everything is satisfactory. Once this is done, the rest of the painting well basically paints itself. I use kandy and transparent blends over all my white. Your values predetermined by the white will make the colors darker and nd lighter as needed and you don't have to rework a line, use what you put down as a guide, like a paint by numbers. This is just like using a mask overlay in ps to keep your lines visible and paint only what already has color/value.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G900A using Tapatalk
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