6 June 2012

Photoshop, paint and the 'build'

Back in 2001, I never used a computer. I was totally married to my paint, pens and inks. I refused to believe that I (personally) could achieve anything visually pleasing with the warmth and richness I often wanted in my work on a......(intake of breath)....computer.

However, a friend badgered me and introduced me to Photoshop. I never learnt how to use it properly. I barely know half of what can be achieved with it even now. I just blindly went in, almost trying to convince myself it was a lost cause. I surprised myself. I think the endless years of building up paintings using layers of thin inks and watercolours to achieve some depth really helped me. I started using my pencil line as my pen line, which made me feel a bit free, as I magically found I could 'float' the line above my colour keeping it sharp.

These days I often get asked by people just how I achieved a certain look from photoshop. The answer is I'm pretty rubbish at explaining it and I don't think too much about it. I set out knowing what I'd like to achieve but never how to manage it.  I approach it like a normal painting. I steer clear as much as I can from the 'magic wand' tool and use the brushes, pastels and pens pretty much as I would as if I had them actually physically here. I like just scribbling. Photoshop doesn't have to be smooth or joinless. Who wants smooth? I have a lot to learn still, I even sometimes come full circle and bring in paper that I've splashed onto to actual real life paper....just to shake it up. In fact that's very exciting.

I thought I'd show the screen shots of how I've actually built up a page. You'll see how simple it is, and actually just how similar it is to (shhhhhhh)....'real' painting.

This is a spread from 'My Adventure Island' by Timothy Knapman and Me (Sarah Warburton) published by Scholastic 2012.

So, just a pencil sketch and a sense of woodland and Autumn.
I have separated my line out in Photoshop using a clever 'Ready to Paint' function I downloaded. This allows the line to 'float' above any layer. Using a separate layer underneath all the line, I've concentrated on the characters so that whatever colour I do from now on I can make sure they aren't lost.
Colour! on a new layer underneath the line and the characters the colour experiments starts. I decided fairly early on that long shadows would add a nice woodland feel.
On top of the background colours but beneath the characters and the line - the trees now give a more dramatic look to the spread.
Quite a subtle change here, but I've added a 'carpet' texture to the woodland floor. This adventure-but-at-home idea subtly appears in book in various places. This is a square of carpet scanned, then adjustments made for contrast and then turned into a separate 'line'. This is then dragged into the picture and worked upon with erasing parts and painting parts on top, again building up a colour.
Let there be light! Adding these touches are always my favourite. This time I use a layer on top of all the layers, including the line as then as the light is built up slowly using a very subtle pastel tool on a very low opacity. Keeping it on top of the line gives it the real sunshine feel.


Jon Davis said...

very interesting indeed, a few things there that I may try out :) Thanks ever so much for posting this.
And an ace pciture too, of course :)

Joanne D said...

What a fantastic idea sarah to show the magic of your work. Thank you

Bob Ostrom Studio said...


Caryl Hart said...

Wow Sarah! Thus is AWESOME!! You are so talented!!

June said...

Sarah... can I come and watch you do all this one day :o) You make it sound so easy and logical, but without your illustration and colour skills, it just wouldn't look the same.

Frances Cony said...

Fantastic, Sarah!

June wants to come for a day. I have a feeling this spread took longer than a day...

Unknown said...

fabulous!!! please add the following widget so I can follow you :0)))

Rachel said...

It's great to see the different stages, Love your work!

Sheena said...

That's such a beautiful spread and so fascinating to see how you did it.

Jess Ferro said...

That's so AMAZING! I love to see the process :) I've been wanting to learn how to use photoshop but haven't yet, I love the last screenshot where you added the light...I like painting and drawing on the side, and I've always struggled with how to create that sort of light, and it's cool how you did it on a, dare I say it, computer!

Kiran said...

Loved the process. I could not find 'ready to paint' action anywhere... Can you share it here please? :)