Adjusting Reference Photo for Underpainting

I wish I figured this out on my own, but I found it on a U-tube video by Jason Morgan (JasonMorgan.co.uk). He’s a wildlife artist. This particular video is titled “Painting Tips – Preparing a photo for the underpainting stage.” You may want to view it after reading how to prepare the photo.

When a reference photo has a lot of detail, like a picture of a tiger, for instance, it is difficult to look beyond the detail for what the colors underneath should be.There is an easy PhotoShop process to help you out.

Open your reference photo in PhotoShop. This photo is from WildlifeReferencePhotos.com.

finaltiger

filter

Go to the menu bar and open up “Filter.”

filtergallery

Then open up the Filter Gallery. Your photo will be on the left and if it is too big, look at the bottom of the screen and you’ll see you can adjust the size down. The two filters that work the best for this are “Paint Daubs” and “Palette Knife” in the Artistic Filter Gallery.

paintdaubs

Play around with the stroke size and detail until you can see that the detail has been smoothed out to show areas of color. Don’t worry about the whiskers because they get painted in last anyway.

comparison

The adjusted photo is on the left and you can see the underpainting colors easily. But there is one more thing to do. Because the detail gets painted on top of these colors, it needs to be darkened for the underpainting. Go to “Image” and change the brightness by moving the bar to the left until it is a little bit darker. For more specific information on the brightness/contrast tool, go to “Finished Artwork: Brightness and Contrast.”

final

Now when you paint the details, like the hair, on top of the underpainting, they will be the right color and stand out beautifully.

 

 

Reference Photo Enhancement

I found a wonderful photo by Paul Sawford on Paint My Photo (pmp-art.com) that offers copyrighted photos that are free for artists to use.

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 10.56.18 AM

I loved it, but the detail was hidden in the dark picture. This is what I did in PhotoShop:

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 11.00.14 AM

First, I adjusted the Brightness/Contrast, but not too much so I didn’t lose the rich details in the white areas.

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 11.01.33 AM

Next, I adjusted the Vibrance to bring out a little more color.

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 11.03.43 AM.png

Finally, I adjusted the Color Balance to bring out the colors I love, especially teal or light blue. And a little yellow to warm it up.

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 11.05.20 AM

And this is the final picture in colored pencil on suede mat board. I picked up lots of detail and color that I couldn’t see in the original. I used the reference photo as a jumping off point, not as something to duplicate, so my final picture is more a representation of colors and shapes I want to emphasize. Here it is:

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 11.06.53 AM.png

I don’t think I could have produced as good a painting without the help of PhotoShop, and that’s why I use it.

 

Reference Photos and Copyright Law

When using a reference photo for artwork, it is important use to only copyright-free photos, or photos used with the written permission of the photographer.

When a photographer takes a picture, he owns the copyright.  Even if you pay for copies of his photos, he still owns the original image. If the photo appears on the Internet, it is not free to use. If you are able to contact the photographer and receive his written permission, it would be okay to use for artwork. Otherwise it would be an infringement of his rights.

However, after approximately 120 years from the date of creation, a photo may fall into the public domain. Photos of Native Americans taken in the 1800s by Edward Sheriff Curtis have fallen into the public domain and are considered copyright free.

Using a copyrighted photo and changing a small part of it is not fair use and is an infringement of copyright law. If it is a photo of cows, and you use a couple of the cows in your artwork, it is okay. If the photo is of a cow on a hill, and your artwork looks like that, then it is not okay.

Fortunately there are many sites on the Internet that offer copyright-free photos for an artist’s use. Some charge a small, reasonable fee, and some are free.

  • Wildlife Reference Photos (wildlifereferencephotos.com)
  • Paint My Photo (pmp-art.com)
  • Wendy’s Photos for Creatives (on Facebook)
  • Birds of the World (on Facebook)
  • Pixabay (pixabay.com)
  • Morgue File (morguefile.com)

These are only the sites that I’m familiar with. There are many more. If you want to email me sites that you like, I’d be glad to include them on this list.

 

Finished Artwork/Image Resizing for Low Resolution

Image Resizing for Low Resolution

There are good reasons to make a low resolution copy of your finished artwork. For instance, small files are much easier to send and receive. But more importantly, a low-resolution image can be a deterrent to an unethical Internet thief who wants to appropriate your artwork as their own, and use it on prints, mugs, and t-shirts to make money at your expense.

Adding a copyright symbol or name to your copy of your Finished Artwork doesn’t work as well as you think it might. It is fairly easy to remove it in PhotoShop and you wouldn’t know it was ever there.

However, prints, mugs, and t-shirt companies all require an image with a minimum of 200 dpi, preferably 300 dpi. If your image is 72 dpi to 150 dpi, it will be unusable for them. But it will be very good for viewing on your website, Facebook, Instagram, and wherever else you want it to appear.

Here is an image of Hunter at 150 dpi, 4 inches x 4 inches. If you zoom in, it is still pretty sharp.

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 12.42.50 PM

It is nice and clear for viewing on a monitor, but inadequate for printing, etc.

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 12.50.19 PM

I took my high resolution image and did this, in this order:

  1. I changed the resolution from 300 dpi to 150 dpi
  2. I changed inches to pixels
  3. I changed the width to 600 pixels, which is about 4 inches wide

You could also change it to 72 dpi if you want, but it wouldn’t be as good.

READ THIS. IMPORTANT INFORMATION

You are working with your finished high resolution image here. I will save it as HunterLR.jpg so I know it is my low resolution copy for posting on the web. If you simply hit “Save” here, it will overwrite your high resolution image and you will have to start all over.

When an image is downsized, it cannot be improved to 300 dpi again.

 

 

 

 

Finished Artwork/Image Resizing for High Resolution

Navigate to the top menu, and choose “Image,” then “Image Size.”

imagesize

You will get this box:

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 11.53.53 AM

This picture was taken by my Nikon camera and I have it set for 300 dpi. Usually if you take a picture with your iPhone, the settings are for 72 dpi and pretty large so you can increase the dpi, which also means decreasing the size by the same factor.

So I know that it is a very large file, over 20 Mg. You definitely don’t want to leave it this size if you plan to email it or use it on Internet sites. It is an excellent size to save as a high resolution file to send to a magazine, or have reprints made. I will save this file as HunterHR.jpg.

If your image is 72 dpi, you will want to resize it to make it high resolution.

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 12.11.40 PM

This step needs to be done in a particular order.

  1. Change resolution to 300, which is roughly 4 x 72.
  2. Divide width by 4, and enter 8.5 or 9
  3. The Height will automatically adjust to the change

Now you have a high resolution image, so save it with this designation and you won’t have to keep checking what size it is.

Finished Artwork/Brightness & Contrast

Brightness/Contrast

hunter101

It’s time to adjust the values. I intentionally do not adjust color balance because I want this to look as close to my original painting as possible.

brightnesscontrast

Go to “Image” on the top menu, then “Adjustments,” then “Brightness/Contrast”

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 11.44.40 AM

I move the brightness until I see black in the darkest part of the painting, which is the inside of the ears. Then I adjust contrast for the blacks as well. Click OK. Compare it with your original by using the History palette and returning to where you opened your picture. If you aren’t satisfied, try again and use either Undo or the History palette until you are happy with it.

 

Finished Artwork/Photographing your Painting

If you’ve been doing this for a while, you probably have your own way of getting a good photograph of your artwork. I’ll tell you what I do.

To me it is important to photograph my painting in natural light only. I have a bedroom that has two nice windows. I turn off any lights and place the painting flat on the bed, hoping to avoid any light coming in from the sides. I use my Nikon SLR and do my best to hover over it so the picture is square and not skewed. The hardest part is not casting a shadow. I take a few pictures and then open them in PhotoShop.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 12.53.45 PMOpen PhotoShop. You are greeted with a page with a large “New…” button and a large “Open…” button. Click on the Open button and navigate to where you have your photographed picture. If you don’t have this screen, then go to the top menu and click “File.” You’ll find “New” and “Open” here, too.

 

 

When you locate your picture, click on it and then “open” at the bottom of the little screen.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 12.40.06 PM

And then the picture opens in PhotoShop.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 1.02.23 PM

Whether I have scanned a picture or taken a picture of it, I find that the blacks are washed out and the picture needs a slight value adjustment. In this case, the brightness and contrast are way off.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 12.44.45 PM

You can see a grid because the first thing I do is crop it with the crop tool on the left, 3rd one down on the left of the tool palette. After you have determined how you want it cropped, move your cursor to the top left icon, the “Move” tool, and click on it. You’ll see a little menu pop up that says “crop?” and “don’t crop.” Click accordingly.

moveandcrop