I’m keen to re­al­is­ti­cally de­pict re­peated el­e­ments in a scene. What’s a good tech­nique to use?

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Kate Kudrow, Italy An­swer Lorena replies

Some­times, when work­ing on a paint­ing in Pho­to­shop we need to have sev­eral copies of the same ob­ject in a scene. Yet paint­ing each and ev­ery one would take up a lot of time. For­tu­nately, there’s an easy way to achieve this in a cou­ple of min­utes.

The best way to go about this is to draw the item you want to re­peat on a new layer. If you have a di­rect light source af­fect­ing it don’t worry about that un­til later. For now, just paint the item with am­bi­ent and re­flected light. Then select the Move Tool (V), hold Alt and drag. This way the item will be du­pli­cated on to a new layer. Re­peat this process as of­ten as you need to. You can also flat­ten a cou­ple of lay­ers at some point and use the same trick to re­peat the ob­ject even faster. While do­ing this, be mind­ful of the layer or­der and use the Trans­form Tool to change the sizes and di­rec­tion of your item.

When you’re done with the re­peat­ing process, lock the trans­par­ent pix­els of the layer your ob­jects are on (on your Layer panel click the square icon that comes di­rectly af­ter Lock) and paint in the di­rect light. If you want more va­ri­ety in the way the items look, you can now paint in de­tails that will make them look dif­fer­ent from one an­other.

Th­ese are my four ba­sic skulls, each of them sit­ting on a dif­fer­ent layer. I can now make copies and trans­form them to fit the im­age, be­fore ad­just­ing the light­ing on them.

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