I want to portray a ruined castle… help!
Digital art is full of shortcuts and tricks that can make the painting process a whole lot quicker. However, these same tricks can quickly erode the ‘traditional’ look of a painting, even if you start with a hand-drawn sketch.
You can overcome this by treating your digital art like a real-life canvas; working on as few layers as possible (a single layer is ideal), and using large, textured brushes at 100 per cent Opacity.
To achieve the look of an oil painting, I start with a dark raw-umber underpainting (I recommend painting by hand and avoid using the Fill tool) just to cover the canvas and remove the unnatural 100 per cent white background. Over this, block out your painting using wide, opaque strokes and textured brushes with a hard edge. You can find plenty of these online, along with replica oil brushes.
Minimise your use of the Erase and Lasso tools, and keep your brush and layer settings to Normal where possible. The Smudge tool can be useful here in moderation. Again, switch to a textured brush type and blend small areas at a time.
James Yip, US
Castles are tricky to paint. Their surfaces are angular and uneven, pockmarked with age and discoloured by the weather. Such problems are only exacerbated when they begin to fall apart! The key to painting a scene involving a crumbling castle is managing texture detail. While it’s tempting to meticulously draw every single stone or to apply a photograph texture on an Overlay layer over your work, these approaches often lead to a muddy final image. I want to simplify the overall shapes using chunky brushes and by paying attention to how the light hits the surfaces.
After sketching a rough idea of my composition in Photoshop I start looking for some photo references. Google is your friend here, and a quick search for “crumbling castle” brings up a wealth of helpful images. The reason I want to use reference rather than just jumping in to painting from imagination is that although I have an idea of what a ruined castle might look like, it isn’t something I’ve drawn often. Having reference images will help you to fill in the gaps of your knowledge and in this case it shows me how the light plays over the stone. Squint your eyes and pay attention to the big shapes and areas of contrast on the stone; these are the things you should focus on when you paint the castle. I hint at smaller details to break up the surfaces, but am careful not to push the detail too far.
Don’t be afraid to paint loosely! Work over the top of your mistakes rather than just undoing them, and try to emulate the organic traditional painting process. I study my reference photos to understand the perspective of this castle, in particular where areas of the stone have crumbled away.
I start by blocking out the large shapes in a shadow tone, then begin painting the light areas on top to bring out the forms in 3D.
Use hard, textured brushes at a high Opacity to complete your painting. Try to avoid unnaturally shaped brushes like the default Hard and Soft Round.