CEZ – Class II

In this class we’ll have a look at the following concepts and techniques

Painting and Drawing in PS –
different Approaches

Last week was all about fancy brushes. They can be very useful and we might use them for our own stylistic purposes or to save time, but they won’t make us better artists.

Knowing all about the tools is one thing but knowing and practicing how to actually draw and paint is the other. So before we start this week I invite you to have a look at Bobby Chiu painting a monkey in 2 hours (the video is only 14 min.) with the default brush only. Also there’s some really nice tips in this video.

Having said that, in this weeks class we’ll have a look at examples of how to draw and paint in Photoshop. There’s probably a hundred different approaches to one goal and as you’ll work more with PS you’ll find your own preferences. Nevertheless there are a few different ways to achieve certain goals I want to present to you today.

Layered – Elements, Color, Light and Shadow separate

In this example we’ll create a painting of this little old TV set. We’ll use Layers, Clipping Masks, Selections and Smart Objects. The aim is to be able to stay flexible with all the elements, colours, positions, etc. This comes in very handy if we work for clients or in a team and want to be able to try out different versions.


Use the TV-starter.psd File from the base Folder Class-II or download here and work along with the Videos. Save a jpg copy of your final file into your Home-Assignments folder.

We’ll start with layering flat base colours for all bigger parts of our image.

Brush Settings

Use a round brush with 100% Hardness, Opacity and Flow. This is important because we really want to make sure our flat base colours are 100% opaque and nothing is showing through.

You can add a little Pressure Sensitivity for Size with a Minimum Diameter of around 15% your brush for more comfort. And smoothing as you prefer.

Set your Eraser

Set your Eraser Tool so the same Settings so you can switch between Brush and Eraser Tool by pressing B or E on your keyboard.

Adding Shift to brushing

For straight lines use the Brush/Eraser in combination with Shift:
If you paint holding Shift you’re only able to draw horizontal, vertical and 45° angled lines.

If you click somewhere and then Shift + click somewhere else PS connects those two points for you. This works best if Pressure Sensitivity for Size is off.

There’s no sound in the next video because it’s just me painting in those forms.

Now that we’ve got our base color layers we will use them as Clipping Mask for layers on top of them that will lighten and shade the base using Blend Modes.

We’ll add layers for the general light and shadow as well as for some shadow details and highlights.

INFO: The more layers we add of course the bigger the file and the more complicated the structure, but we’ve got more freedom painting and erasing things.

We’ll now add a few more details the lazy & fast way. By re-using what we’ve already painted we’ll quickly add some details.

Command + clicking (Strg + click on PC) on any Layer Icon or Mask Icon gives us a Selection of it’s transparency. Boom!

Note: There is a difference if you Command + click on the Layer Icon or the Mask Icon. Have a look at this little clip.

Working on less Layers and/or with more color mixing and more painterly

Keeping everything in separate Layers might have some advantages but sometimes you want to work more like with real paint and on only a few layers. This is where different ways of blending and mixing colours become very useful.

Colour Sampling

If you use low Flow and lower Opacity you can easily mix colours even with the Default Brush Tool and 100% Hardness by Sampling colours on the go with Option + click and continue painting.

The Smudge Tool

The smudge tool takes the pixels in the form of your brush tip shape from where you click first and then, depending on your settings, applies them along where you paint.

With a round brush and 100% Strength and Hardness it will create a repeating “noodle” of where you first clicked. Thats a nice effect, but not really helping with the blending.

Reduce the Strength and add some Angle Jitter and a little Scattering and things become interesting.

You can either work in the layer you want to smudge or in a new one with Sampling All Layers turned on.

Finger Painting adds a dash of your Foreground Colour every time you start to paint.

The Mixer Brush

The Mixer brush is similar to the Smudge Tool in that it let’s you mix colors and pixels.

If you turn on Clean the brush after each stroke in the top Bar, the Mixer Brush does not add color and only mixes the pixels that are already there, depending on the amount you set for Wet and Flow. The higher the Wet amount the more it smudges around. The lower Flow is, the softer it blends your colors. Load and Mix will have no effects.

Turn off Clean after each brush stroke and you’ll be able to load colour. To load your brush, Option-click the canvas. Or, choose a foreground color. The brush tip reflects any pixels in the sampled area. So you can brush with more than one colour at a time. If you prefer brush tips of uniform color, select Load Solid Colors Only from the Current Brush Load pop-up menu in the options bar.

  • Wet defines how much off the colour already existing gets picket up by brushing over. Higher values produce longer paint streaks.
  • Load specifies the amount of paint loaded in the reservoir. At low load rates, paint strokes dry out more quickly. This is more true with 0% Wet
  • Mix sets how much the loaded color will mix with the color already on the “paper”
  • Flow is the same as with the regular brush → lower Flow means less color at once and softer brushing.

I recommend trying out different Brushes in the “Real Oils” Folder in Adobes Megapack Brushes Collection.

You can either work in one layer or mix Colours from all Layers by selecting Sample All Layers.

Home Work

Create a Circle in any colour you like.

1) In the same layer with transparency locked : very roughly apply colours for lights and shadow. Use cool colours for shadows and warm ones for lights (or opposite).

2) Copy this layer, move to the side and then blend with a Brush, set to 100% Hardness, lower Flow (maybe also lower Opacity) and a lot of Pressure Sensitivity in the Transfer. Sampling Colours with Option + clicking.

3) Copy once more, change to the Mixer Brush or the Smudge tool and blend more.

Save a jpg into your Home-Assignments Folder.

Example – Duck

With this more painterly blending methods you can approach the next practice. Sketching and painting this duck.

We’ll start with a rough sketch and fine tune it with the Liquify Effect. Then we create a more refined sketch from this.

Next layer in the Base Colours for our Clipping Masks. Thus far it’s the same as with the TV.

Painting inside the body and the beak is now easy with cliped layers.

First start with some rough colours and change to the Smudge Tool to mix them up. Every once in a while activate Finger Painting in the Top Bar to add some new colours.

For the eye it’s smart to use a separate layer, so you’ll be able to move it around a bit.

After painting the feathers and beak as detailed as wanted (if you want more detail work with ever smaller brushes and more zoomed in) add some highlights with a small brush to feathers, beak, feet, eyes, etc.

Fine Tune, Overall Light and Shadow

Now we can tweak the overll lighting a bit more and do some final fine tuning.

You can do this by grouping all of your previous work and then clip some layers to that group. Use Blend Modes that lighten up like Screen, Color Dodge,.. for lights and also work an the overall shadows if needed in a layer that is clipped an is set toa darkening Blend Mode like Multiply.

A trick to get sketchy, stylised contours is to use your original sketch and set it to Linear Light and then clip a layer to it to paint different colours in it. Darker areas will darken your painting and lighter ones will lighten it

Home Work

50 min. challange: Try painting the duck on your own.
Sketch, paint, refine. Give yourself no more than 45-50 min. for the whole thing. Save a jpg in your Home Assignments folder.

Blend Modes

We all have surely used them already but do we really know what exactly they are doing? Knowing your Blend Modes will let you work more freely and it will be less Photoshop telling you what looks good but more the other way round.

Blendmodes change the colours of underlying layers according to the lightness and colour values of the layer the blend mode is applied to.

The most important ones are these three groups:

Darken, Multiply, Color Burn, Linear Burn and Darker Color

A layer with one of these blend modes only affects the underlying ones in a darkening way according to the darkness of the layer itself. 

  • White has no effect 
  • Black has maximum effect

Use these Modes for:

  • Shadows
  • Light images with dark elements
  • Textures that are based on white

Lighten, Screen, Color Dodge, Linear Dodge, Lighter Color

A layer with one one these blend modes only affects the underlying ones in a lightening way according to the lightness of the layer itself. 

  • Black has no effect 
  • White has maximum effect

Use these Modes for:

  • Lights
  • Dark images with light elements
  • Textures that are based on black

Darken, Multiply, Color Burn, Linear Burn and Darker Color

A layer with one one these blend modes affect the underlying ones in both a darkening and a lightening way according to the darkness or lightness of the layer itself. Thus creating more contrast.

  • Black darkens
  • White lightens
  • Neutral Gray (128) has no effect

Use these Modes for:

  • Lightening and Darkening with one layer
    (f.e. sketch lines in Duck painting)
  • Small detailed Textures after Effect High Pass was applied
    (sand, fabric, paper,..)
  • Custom noise layers
  • Every time you want to save the original tones and values and still want to apply some texture/noise/…

High Pass explained:


Sometimes we want to add more randomness or roughness to an image to make it look less “computery” (is that a word?).


There are a lot of ways to add noise. One of my favourite is to add noise to a layer on top of everything and then blend it with Linear Light, Overlay or Soft Light.

The advantage is that you can still work on everything underneath → the noise layer is completely non-destructive.

The end effect looks something like this.

How to create it:

Start with an empty layer on top and fill it with neutral grey (RGB 128 128 128). A quick way to do this is to press Shift + ⌫ which opens the Fill Dialouge where you’ll choose 50% Gray.

Also make sure to have Mode: Normal and Opacity 100%.

You’ve now got a grey layer, yay! Put it into Blend Mode “Linear Light”. It will become invisible, because, remember, neutral gray has no effect in the Blend Modes that do both lightening and darkning.

No we’ll apply some noise to this layer. The nicest noise you’ll get by applying Filter → Blur Gallery → Field Blur. This is a bit of a workaround as we don’t really care about the blur but we’ll only use the Noise settings.

Make sure a little bit of blur is applied. How much does not matter, we are blurring a uniformly grey layer anyway.

Now you can adjust the noise sliders on the bottom right until you’re sattisfied with the amount of noise. Zoom in to 100% but also have a look at the whole image while you set these. Once you’re finished hit OK.

You can now fine tune by taking you Noise layers Fill value down a bit to make your noise less strong

Home Work

Add a layer with some noise on top of your duck painting.
Save a jpg in your Home Assignments folder.


With Displacements you can create everything from just a slight grainy offset to crazy glitch effects.

Displacement works on the basis of greyscale information in one image (Displacement Map) to stretch and move pixels in another. Where your Displacement Map image is dark, pixels in your working image will be moved one way; where your Displacement Map image is bright, pixels in your working image will be moved the other way.

Use this for:

  • roughening up smooth edges
  • glitchy effects
  • semi fake mapping images onto uneven surfaces
    (cloth, bags, tshirts, paper)
  • wavy effects
  • experimenting with your own painted images as Displacement Map

Home Work

Create a quick illustration with some text and forms or take any of your own works and displace it with the above technique. Try at least two different images for Displacement Map (Noise, Paper, Water, something you painted,…)

More Know How & Inspiration

Bobby Chiu’s Youtube Playlist “Tutorials” has some nice tuts on brushes, drawing, painting and much more.

The 90 minute Art Challenge – 3 Artists paint an image twice a week and you can paint along for 90 minutes. Very motivating if you don’t know where and how to start practicing digital painting. And also just informative to watch.

Marco Bucci’s Youtube-Playlist “Painting Tutorials / Demos” ist quite extensive and has a lot of interesting tips in it.

Exercise Files from CG Cookie on Deviant Art. Very helpful and fun challenges and step by step instructions on how to create realistic digital imagery.

Neil Blevins (worked at Pixar) has an extensive of videos and articles on his website. For Example process steps for cencdeptual art, compositional balance, contrast. Super insight-full not only for concept artists.

Meybis Tuiz Cruz explains her process in details. Also very insightfull.