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January 21, 2013
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There's really no one way that I start a digital painting.  Many people have asked, so I did a short list of how I start my images.  I don't think it's all of them as no one method seems to work the best for me.  If I'm not getting anything with one method, I'll switch to another method and try that.

You can create a digital painting by starting it with a Base, apply Color, then apply Texture.  You use a variety of brushes the entire time no matter if you're on the base, the color, or the texture pass.

Start with a Base:
1. Paint in grey scale.  Use subtle variations in the value.  Make sure you use a wide range of value say from 2 to 8.  Also, vary the values during the transition.  For example, if you're painting 3, add value 2, and some value 4.
1.1 Grey Scales with an Image Overlay.  Slap down some gray values, overlay an image that's close to the colors you need.  Use regular layers to further define the image.  I find this method often leads to many surprises.  Just go with it.
1.2 Use an existing image gray scale.  CTRL-Shift-U to convert to black and white.  Mark the gray scale up more.  Keep marking it up until you see something.  Further render it out in grey scale.
1.3. Start with a random texture type brush.  Find something in the randomness.  Render it out into grey scale, apply color.
2. Start with an image.  Use lasso tool to randomly cut the image.  Rotate the selection.  Repeat until you "see" something.  Use layers to further define the image.  Switch to gray scale if it helps.  If you use this method, pick a light cyan blue and with a soft brush, push back the values.  This helps establish some initial distance in your image.
2.1 Start with an existing image.  Pick colors directly from the image to work them into a new image.  Keep marking it up until you see something.
2.2 Start with a collection of images, randomly arranged on your page.  Slap around the color randomly, use the selection tool, etc to pull out interesting shapes until you see something.
3. Undercoat.  This is like gray scale, but it's using a monotone color.  I find that colors are more harmonious using this method.  This is still just an experiment for me.

Apply colors:
1. Use color dynamics with hue jitter at about 10% for color variation.  Use regular layers to further define the image.
2. Paint directly on top of the base image.  I use this when most of the colors are already on the image.
3. Use soft light layer to slightly saturate and brighten the color
4. Use multiply with a gray value to take the existing color and basically add the gray value to it.  This works great for shadows.

Apply texture:
1. Use existing images for texture.  This takes a different type of skill.  Like setting the image to overlay, playing with the levels to achieve the value you need.  Then erase out what you don't need.  
2. Use Free Transform to reposition the image so it stays in perspective.
3. Use warp or liquify filter to bend the texture around the object you're texuring.
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:iconna-chank:
Na-chanK Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Helpful stuff!

I noticed your dA ID, and we're kind of alike! I'm a physics major and computer science minor, but I've been drawing all my life. I, too, want to keep up my artistic talents! (Even though it's sometimes hard to find the time.) I'm glad to see someone else engineer-brained is out here working the arts. Keep up the great work! I look forward to seeing more =)
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:iconjjpeabody:
jjpeabody Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Cool, well met. It's the creativity and problem solving that crosses the two fields. The greatest, of course, was Leonardo da Vinci :).
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:iconna-chank:
Na-chanK Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Indeed! =)
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:iconmtgrave1:
MTgrave1 Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2013  Professional General Artist
...forgot to ask > How do I go about getting a digital painting redone by you, as you offer above? This is an offer too good to pass up.
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:iconjjpeabody:
jjpeabody Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Just send me a message with the details. Though, I'm not sure exactly what you mean. Re-doing one of your digital paintings using one of the methods listed above?
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:iconmtgrave1:
MTgrave1 Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2013  Professional General Artist
This 'how-to' has really helped me. I resisted doing the value building with gray forever, but I now see how much better my work by using it.
thank you for this lesson!
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:iconmiashin:
miashin Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Wonderful read. Thank you so much for the breakdown, I've never actually tried painting over an older piece so I guess I'll give that a shot now. ^^
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:iconvengeance329:
Vengeance329 Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013
Thank you kind sir! I was definitely not expecting that kind of a detailed response :)

So if im interpreting this right, and im sorry if im not (trying my best to visualize it in my head), You start off monochromatic for a brief period with a decent variety of B&Ws values. You say from 2 - 8 so im assuming on a scale of 1% being white and 100% being black you would have 8 values of 10%, 25%, 35%, 50%, 65%, 75%, 80% and 95%.
I guess from there you would doodle (with a fairly big sized brush i would imagine) and slap these values down in a (guided) random fashion till you see something that you can work with potentially.
I started to get lost here after this point (Im so sorry, forgive me) Make a new layer with a "overlay" effect on. and if im not mistaken "find an image thats close to the colors you need" soooo if im wanting to make a certain portion of the drawing a side of a cliff or mountain.

So I would google that and look for something that simulates what im looking for and paste it to the overlay layer. Then use the eye dropper tool to mimic the photo (in a new layer or the same one?) I think i kiiind of see what youre saying here.

1.2 im lost again lol. Switch the colors back to gray scale annnddd. redefine the values some more?

1.3 Well I was never able to get far enough into a painting to be able to start texturing it unfortunately :( If you look at my albums youll see the point at which i give up at. Is texturing more of a "stamping" thing rather than a "stroking" method? Im sure Photoshop has texture brushes i just havent been able to apply them properly.

2.0 I believe i've seen this method done before in speed paintings on youtube. basically using a cutout of a random portion of a image and using its uniqueness to paste it on the canvas and rotate it around until it can be applied somewhere efficiently? and then saturating it to give it the effect of being far off and distant?

Alright I think ill stop there for now to see if im even remotely getting this right. I really appreciate you taking the time to explain this! ^_^
Sorry if i didnt get any of it. I tend to get a little dumbstruck about things.
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:iconjjpeabody:
jjpeabody Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This was more of how to start an image, now how to paint it. There's a lot that goes into the image. A good video to watch is one done by Feng Zhu Design:
[link] and [link]

I highly recommend ALL of his videos. The first one I linked is one of his best in my opinion because he goes into everything. The other videos are all sped up.

1.2 Correct. Instead of using the colors of an existing image, you're basically starting only with it's values.

1.3 There's a ton of good brushes all over the web. Many are here in DA. Just do a search and play around with them. It will take a lot of work to get use to them and to learn how to use your new tools.

2.0 Correct.
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:iconquirkybrainiac:
QuirkyBrainiac Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:clap:
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