Friday, November 16, 2012

Blog 19 How I Made Painterly Sketches of Oregon Covered Bridges

Of the 300 covered bridges that were used in 1930,  more than 50 still remain.  They are visited by people with cameras from many many countries in the world.  Most Phototrips we have taken over the years have included at least one of Oregon's Covered Bridges.   Finally it was time to compile ALL the film into a gallery honoring the unique form and function of the covered bridge. 
But what a daunting task!! 

1. STYLE: There were more than 50  images to work on.  It usually takes about a week for a painting.  I needed a technique that would create a pleasing look but speed along!!     (I needed a Sketch Program or Plugin.)
2. TONE: Almost all covered bridges are white so I needed  to have a basic white color they could all share.  Photos were taken over the years and in different daytimes and seasons.  When a  color like white is not the same tone in all gallery images meant to be hung near each other, some bridge will look sick in comparison to another.  No. All bridges had to be honored equally.  The surroundings could vary...should vary...but the bridges should not have a color cast. Visit our 
Oregon Covered Bridges to get a handle on the style of this collection. 
Off to Photoshop. My first process was to make a good 16X22 @180dpi photo from the original.  I soon learned to forget the sign at this would have to be created at the end of the process.

It would be necessary to:
1. Select the bridge in every image, put it on a separate layer and do image\adjustments\Black & White.
2. Flatten the image
3. Do image\adjustments\shadows-highlights
to eliminate any pure white. (saving detail)
4. Lighten the bridge interior so you could see the boards
5. Trash any mask in Channels.  (The Sketch program does NOT like masks!)
I think a great sketch treatment of a photo is to use the "Akvis Sketch" program found at  It is well worth the money.  I tried many techniques with programs I already had, but none give the quick, clean, treatment that Akvis does.  My thought was- leave the structural detail of the bridge intact but make the surroundings surreal yet identifiable.  I would add my own color touches later. A closeup shows the strokes in clearer detail.
Using Style Classic, the settings I used were:
AKVIS B&W Sketch Light
Charcoal 3
Coloration 84
Color Pencil 27
Stroke Thickness 7
Stroke Length 88
Midtones Intensity 8
Midtones Hatching 42

As you see, many options...much trial and error...and then save the preset so you can use it again and again.  About 5 different presets were necessary for 53 bridges.

Not done yet! To get an image which is sharp enough and has enough color to be painterly, you return to photoshop. (And create a bridge sign that is readable)
  One down, 52 more to go.
From this original...

Using these strokes...

Comes this end product.

  My Tip: There are many ways to get the computer to help with your daily work!!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blog 18 Painting Utah's Photographic Landscapes

I make galleries of ~16 large landscape art in each.  All 16 pictures are of the same concept or location.  They make up a group of pictures that we take to a business where we switch last time's gallery with the new one.  They have to be similar in tone and style to make walking through the business a pleasing experience for employee or visitor alike.  When I make a gallery, I generally fall into a passion for it and it alone for about 6 months.  I do nothing else on the computer until the images are made.   Sure enough, it's been about 6 months since my last blog entry.

Here is the photo that I transformed into the digital painting on the right ; I found interesting these unique rocks (like stacked pancakes) at Zion National Park.

 1. My first act with EVERY picture is  to create a color scheme.  You'll recall from Blog 9... I use
to find 
strongly compatible colors.

In Photoshop, I choose a dominate color in the picture with the eyedropper and enter the color picker. Copy the hexadecimal number (Ex: b27b71) and enter Color Scheme Designer...paste in the box "Enter the RGB Value".  I usually use the triad of the original color...print screen and copy the clipboard to a file which you see here.  The blobs of color are my additional choices from the picture; these 21 colors will be the basis of my colorset.

2. My workflow's next step: eliminating detail from a photo by using the Photoshop plugin from Topaz Labs...Topaz Simplify 3 from  I spend more time setting up the photo in Photoshop than I do painting it once I set it up.  I want the light to come in from the right angle...the contrast to show what the subject is...the picture to have a certain "feel" .

3. In Painter 12   I experiment until I decide on brushes that will transform the picture.   Notice the detail I keep on each image!!!  I always keep track of what brush was used for a feature.  A quick review of Blog 8 will remind you  WHY!!!  I want to be able to recreate the exact brush even if I crash my machine...lose all my brushes...or am gone for a huge computer painting absence. (which obliterates my memory completely)

4. This picture shows the effect of using the Acrylic\Opaque Brush to scrub the detail out of the rock with a sweeping motion.  Each rock was painted with a chosen color, not a clone color.

Compare the original Zion with an area showing scrubbed rock. There is certainly no "photo" left when this treatment is complete.


  • Spend a lot of time setting up the picture and THEN paint it.
  • Scrub the detail out of a rock to give a painterly effect.
  • Always keep complete info on the brushes used to create the image.

Take a look at the images in "Painting Utah's Photographic Landscapes".   All 16 of the images followed the same workflow as Zion.      See you in 6 months.