Setting Up A Default Painting
By Neil Blevins
Created On: July 6th 2015
There tends to be two types of approaches when it comes to digital
- Category 1: Many people who paint digitally have chosen to use as
layers as possible, in an attempt to recreate the feel and spontaneity
of traditional media, where there are no layers and there is no undo.
And to these artists I say "awesome!" But I am not one of these
artists. :) I fall more into category 2...
- Category 2: I am someone who likes using tons of layers, so I can
go back and tweak any element at any time, and keep my work super
organized. As some people have noted, I approach painting a
little bit like a vfx compositor, assembling elements. And when I am
about to do a new painting, I generally start from a
default psd file, or my "Default Comp" as I like to call it.
So below is my default comp, a photoshop psd document that has a
series of groups and subgroups, providing me an organized place to put
all of the elements of my paintings. If you also want to choose the way
of unlimited layers, then maybe this will give you some inspiration on
creating your own default comp that's specific to your workflow, and
the kinds of layers you use to produce your own unique artwork.
First, here's the highest level of my default psd file...
Now here's an explanation of each group and all of its sublayers...
|This contains any work elements,
usually masks, that I want access to,
but that won't appear in the final painting.
|A simple group for the
background, whatever that happens to be.
|I have a main group for every
major object in my painting. For example,
if I have 2 characters and a mountain, then I have 3 main groups named
after the element. Each
main group has some sub layers.
- On the sketch layer, I place a
rough painted or 3d sketch of the thing I'm going to paint.
Shading is a layer set to Overlay where I paint large soft black and
white, to match the overall light of my sketch to the artwork.
paint is where I start adding hand painted details, bringing the
element up to the 80% mark. Sometimes I'll combine these first 3 layers
into a single layer if I have a more finished looking 3d element I'm
- Cast Shadow is where I add the cast shadow
of the element.
- Details is where I paint small details, plusing out the
- Material Texture is where I may place some texture from a
photograph set to Multiply, overlay, etc, to add texture to the
- Dark / Light is like the soft shading layer, except its
happens after all of the details have been added.
- Levels lets me to an
overall brightness color correction.
- Hue/Saturation lets me adjust the
saturation and Hue.
- I then paint bright Specular Reflections on the
object (if necessary) to help the object pop.
- Fog is where I apply
atmosphere so the object sits properly in the environment / background.
|Since many of my paintings
contain Mist / Fog / Atmosphere, etc, this
is the layer where I paint that stuff, ontop of the subjects of the
|A few FX elements. I'll paint...
- Weather (Snow, rain, etc)
Distortion (if the image is supposed to be really hot)
- Motionblur if an object needs to feel like it's moving fast
frequently just do this in 2D using Photoshop's motionblur filter).
|This contains various lens
- Diffusion is a layer set to screen for general glow.
- Glints is for
little stars that appear on super bright reflections.
- Lens Distortion
is where I may adjust the perspective of the paintings a bit to give it
a more dramatic look, like taking the photograph with a slightly
- Flares is where I place Lens Flares (using subtlety of
- DOF is where I blur out some features that are too close or
two far from the camera's focus.
- Chromatic Aberration is where I shift
the color channels slightly to give that broken camera sort of feel.
- And Vig is where I may paint a vignette, darkening the
edges of the
painting slightly to direct the eye to the subject.
|To make things feel a little
less digital, I'll frequently take scanned
images of dirt and grime and layer them inside this Group, setting
their Opacity to maybe 10% and setting them to alternate modes such as
Multiply, Overlay or Color Burn.
|All my primary color correction.
- If the image is supposed to feel like
film, I'll add a film grain layer
- a shutter streak (this simulates
glow from previous "frames" of film contaminating the current frame).
- Next is a layer set to Overlay or Soft Light where I paint
White with a large round blurry brush at low Opacity, just to help the
lights and darks pop on the image.
- Contrast is just a levels Adjustment
layer, so I can make the image darker or lighter, or crush the blacks
- HueSat is to adjust the saturation and maybe adjust the Hue
- Tone Mapping is a Curves Adjustment layer, in case I want
do any major color shifts like add more blue to the darks (think a more
subtle version of what instagram does).
|I will then take all the layers
below, flatten them and place a copy in
the Final Group. Sometimes I will run this image through an external
program such as Magic Bullet's Photolooks to apply other filters,
placing the result of that into this group on top.
|Any final super tweaky color
|Just my signature as a text
Here's a psd file
showing a portion of one of my paintings with all the layers / groups
intact. Notice I don't use ALL of the default layers I mention above,
just the ones that are appropriate to the painting.
So what groups and layers would you put into your own default comp?