Saturday, January 31, 2009

DSFDF Challenge: San Francisco Victorian

San Francisco Victorian, oil, 6" x 12"

My take on the current challenge from the inventive

Different Strokes for Different Folks
(the working photo is at the right).

I always try not to look at anyone else's rendition of the weekly photo before I finish mine and post it, mostly because I'm intimidated by so many good variations--and there are so many great ones.

And as usual, Tom Pohlman has managed to do the painting I had hoped to do-- moody, full of juicy brushstrokes (hey Tom, this painting IS me loosening up--ha ha), although I would've never come up with the novel idea to add Mr. Poe in front.

It's been interesting, and very challenging, to paint subject matter outside of my usual work. I really like seeing what the other artists come up with, and it's been a great way to meet new artist friends.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Photoshop Tips: 8. Brightening your image with Saturation

Are your photos sometimes dull and grayed out, as opposed to your brilliant originals?
I've run across a few artists who mention that their images are not as 'bright' as the originals. Sometimes this can attributable to the time of day or other lighting situations which are not optimal; in my own experience, I've noticed that even different cameras take different photos. I have a regular camera and a backup/travel camera: take the same photo from the same angle, same time of day, and backup camera's photo will be duller (which I don't like) and somewhat 'bluer' (which I do like) EVERY time. It's probably in the factory settings of each camera (I've tried resetting them but I admit I'm no camera whiz. My small expertise is on the computer end).

But a certain amount of 'grayness' can be corrected in the photo editing process.
Today I'll show a quick sample of how to enhance a dull photo with Saturation. In the sample photo below, I've included copy of the photo so you can visualize the change that occurs. To begin, open the Hue/Sauration dialog box, click on CTRL+U (Cmmd+U for Mac users) or from the top toolbar: Image/Adjustments/Hue-Saturation (and for followers of these tips, yes, this is the same adjustment used in tip 4; only today we'll use a different aspect of it).

Make sure the 'preview' box is checked, so you can see the progression (in this case, on the top image). Click and hold down on the arrow on the Saturation line, pulling to the left to brighten (pulling to the right will dull the image down). A little can go a long way, in this sample I've only gone from 0 to +15. I also lightened the image slightly, using the bottom slider to +7.

I should point out, that with a box full of cool tools like Photoshop has, you may find that some work better on one image than another. For the most part, I'd choose to try the Levels before Saturation; it may correct your image to your satisfaction.

The steps I usually follow in order are:

  1. Cropping
  2. Levels, RGB
  3. Levels, other channels (if more color correction is needed)
  4. Color balance (to fine tune color)
  5. Saturation (if needed)
  6. Spot Healing (for small corrections)

In the case of this painting, I broke my own rule and took the photo indoors, thinking I could get away with it just this one time (it was after sunset, and I was eager to send it off to DSFDF). 30 minutes of tinkering later I had an image what was...well, okaaaaay... but I knew better. In the end, I retook the photo outside the next morning. This time the photo editing took about ten minutes, and the final photo is much better (shown in tomorrow's post).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What Is Art?

No Photoshop Tutorial today... I am taking off the next couple days to paint (imagine that)! To read the past Tips, scroll down or click here for the Photoshop Tips for Artists index.

Instead, enjoy some humor for the mid week from the incredible Aardman Animation Studio (it made me laugh so hard I couldn't write a tip today)! Click on the arrow to play.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Photoshop Tip 7: The Spot Healing Brush

Today's Photoshop tutorial will show how to remove small glare spots, scratches, fuzz, cat hairs, and other boo boos.
(Think of this as the 'cosmetic surgery' of Photoshop)

final edited image at left, Cuppa Black, 10" x 10"

First, a few notes. Thanks to everyone who's had a chance to peruse these tips and has found them helpful.
Here's a really great quote (Thanks Doug!) from the very fine painter Doug Hoover:

"R. I just wanted to tell you, as a 20 year recovering creative veteran, your Photoshop posts are spot-on. You know your PSD stuff. For a full-time artist, I think Photoshop is invaluable. And the only way to get good at this is to do it over and over. I started using Photoshop in 1995 and haven't looked back... You rock... D.


So, onto to today's tutorial:

Repairing small glare spots, scratches, fuzz, and other boo boos with the Spot Healing Brush.
First, I've opened the usual set of two matching images, and then used the Zoom Tool to magnify what I want to correct: primarily the cat hair (how'd that get in there??). To use the Zoom tool, click on the icon in the bottom of the side tool box that looks like a tiny magnifying glass. Holding down your Ctrl Key, (Cmmd for Mac users), click on + to enlarge, and - to reduce. (that's the 'plus' and minus' keys respectively.

Photoshop has a great little tool called the Spot Healing Brush; it is located on the main toolbox and the icon looks like a little bandaid. For small repairs on photos you can't beat this tool.

The Spot Healing Tool is very easy to use. Click on the tool, and then set the size as needed in the toolbar above: click on 'Brush' and a drop down palette will let you size the tool. To use the tool to take away dust motes, tiny raised spots that caught the light, etc., simply click on the offending spot. It will automatically blend into the surrounding area.

For scratches or hairs on a straight line
, click on one end of the line (the circle below indicated that starting point of the tool); then hold hold the shift key, and click again. The whole line should correct. If you get color crossover, undo the step (Ctrl+Z) and do in shorter segments.

Below is the corrected photo (on the left) line gone!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Photoshop Tips: 6. Reducing the appearance of glare in dark areas with Contrast/Brightness

The best way to avoid having to deal with glare in photo editing is to avoid it when photographing.
Try some of the photo suggestions that appear in the Index posting to eliminate this issue.
(Final edited image above: Parrot Tulips, oil, 24"x24")

Occasionally, though, you'll be in a hurry, photograph without checking, the painting goes out the door, gets sold... and the only record you have is a photo with glare-- as in this sample in the tutorial below. For those instances, here's a method that might help minimize the effect of glare at bit.

The Magic Wand Tool

With the Magic Wand tool, select the areas of glare that are most noticeable. (As in past tutorials, I've included a second 'control' image to the right, to help show the change.) In this case, it's the upper and left background. Select 'contiguous' on the upper toolbar to select only pixels that touch each other (otherwise it will select pixels all over the image). You can adjust the tolerance as needed; 32 is the default, it is set at 20 here. You'll see a dotted line around the area as you select it. To select more area at the same time, hold down your shift key while continuing to click on areas with the Magic Wand.

In the top toolbar, choose Image/Image Adjustment/Brightness-contrast. To darken, move the brightness pointer to the left. In this case I've reduced the brightness by -14. This allows the background to blend in with the dark areas at bottom and left with no noticeable line.

Release the selected area, and you'll have your result. If you get a 'line' or the fix doesn't blend in smoothly, undo (Ctrl+Z), try again, and adjust your increments.

If the glare covers a large portion and is noticeable over areas of light and dark, I would suggest rephotographing as a first step.

Here's another example of glare correction, and thanks to Sheila for allowing me to experiment on her fine portrait of a Tibetan Monk.
"Tibetan Monk" by Sheila.

This took a few extra steps, but was well worth it. Here's one more little tip that will help you-- when you use that Magic Wand in image with mixed shades, it's going to miss a lot of the lighter areas in the background. So while holding done your Shift Key, click that a few times, moving around to pick up more pixels, and then if you need to pick up strays, switch to the 'Lasso' tool (while still holding down the Shift key)-- it's right next to the Magic Wand. Move your mouse in a loop around the stray pixels, and then make your adjustment with Levels or the Brightness/contrast.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Photoshop Tips: 5. Using Color Balance to refine your artwork photos.

So, you've tried the Levels and maybe the Hue/Saturation tricks, but your image is still not quite there. Time for Color Balance.
I tend to use this one near the end of the editing process, as it seems more subtle to me. This is the tool for when your values are right, your contrast is correct, but the color is just a little off.
(final edited photo above: 3 Tangerines, oil, 9" x 12")

The image below has been edited for contrast and levels already; it does have a bit of a 'milky' look in real life, but the red of that tablecloth is off.

To open the color Balance dialog box, click Cntrl+B (Cmnd+B for Mac users, or Image/Adjustments/Color Balance in the top toolbar). As in previous tips, I've used a 'control' image duplicate on the left so you can see the change.

Starting with the Midtones, move the sliders to add more color as needed
; like many of the Photoshop tools, you will need to trust your eyes and experiment. It's also very handy to have the artwork right where you can see it as you make these adjustments.

In this case I could see that the tablecloth photo had too much purple (blue) in it, and needed to be more red. (I had painted it with a warm red earth, Blockx Capucine Yellow Deep.) The sliders were moved toward red and yellow, respectively.

In a separate step, I adjusted the 'highlight' colors
, again choosing to move toward red and yellow, but also a bit toward green. (Another mini tip: For each adjustment you make, copy the previous layer and adjust on the new layer. Then if you really get lost, you can back up).

As a final step, I adjusted the Shadows
, this time moving toward Magenta and Blue. This step was more logical than intuitive; shadows are often cooler shades. This is so close to original painting, I've amazed even myself.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Photoshop tips: 4. Hue: How to Correct Color with the Hue/Saturation Command

Just to show that the pros don't always get it right, either! I took this painting to a professional photo lab and paid to have a good image of it put on CD. I have to admit I was dismayed when I got it back-- my lovely chartreuse dahlia (seen at left in the final edited image: Sunny Mandahlia, 30'x30") was now leaning seriously into orange--!
(I have the feeling that digital cameras are programmed to shoot a full spectrum of color; when given a monochromatic image, it 'confuses' the interface and it tries to make up the difference, with sometimes odd results.)

Using Hue to edit and refine your artwork photos.
In the sample below, I've opened the original file and made a duplicate layer to edit on, as before. For the purpose of the tutorial, I've made a second 'control' image to help show the changes in progress.

To begin, click Ctrl + U (Cmnd+U for Mac users, or Image/Adjustments/Hue-Saturation on the top toolbar. This will bring up the Hue Saturation dialog box.

For this image, which I want to be less red and more green, I've moved the Hue slider to the right. Notice it doesn't take much; I've only gone from 0 to 10.

Note that the Hue adjustment method tends to work better on predominantly monochromatic images like this one; if your artwork encompasses more than a short range of color you may get some surprisingly interesting (if not useful) results.

Originally when I set this tutorial up, it was to show how to correct the color shift using the Green and Red Channels in Levels. While this can be done, I found that in this instance, using Hue was much more expedient. I'll revisit the issue of color adjustment with Levels at a later date, with a different image.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Photoshop Tips: 3. Levels: How to Correct Contrast with the Levels function, part one.

Levels magic

Levels is one of the most useful Photoshop tools I know of. It can be used to correct both color and contrast. It takes a little practice and some trial and error, but it can work wonders to improve your photos. I'll show several examples over time of how this tool works in various situations.

Right image: Final edit, Datura, 20"x20"
(Note: I've been asked to write about photographing small impasto canvases by Judy Mackey; it may take a few days but I 'll write on this topic, too. Have a question? Please ask!)

Today’s tutorial starts with an overly dark photo. This can happen a lot when photographing paintings with a lot of white in them. Let's see if we can fix it. (Note that it’s already been cropped and aligned as per tip 2. I've made a duplicate layer to edit on.)

Click Ctrl + L (or Cmnd + L for Mac) to open the levels dialog box
(it can also be accessed from the top toolbar: Image/Adjustments/Levels)
(Note: I've shown a duplicate file to better show how the levels works)

Using the default tab (Channel: RGB), slowly adjust the three arrows until the image is closer to your original art. I suggest starting with the middle arrow first:

  • the basic rule for the middle arrow is left is lighter, right is darker.
  • To darken your darks, move the left point inward;
  • to lighten your lights, move the right pointer back towards the center.
  • Make sure the 'preview' box is checked so you can watch the transformation.
  • If at any point you feel you've lost control, click cancel and start again.
  • Once the image is where you want it, click Enter.

This image will still need a little color correction, but you can see how much improved the photo is with this one simple step.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Photoshop Tips: 2. Cropping and Straightening

Have a question on how to fix a specific photo problem? Please ask! I'll see if I can be of assistance.

The most common complaint
I hear/see about artwork photos that artists take themselves is, 'The color's not right'. So in later tips, I will give several instructions on how to correct this issue with Photoshop.

For today, however, I'm going to start where I usually start myself, which is to crop and straighten the raw photographic image. I've seen enough uncropped, skewed images to know that not everyone knows how to do this simple fix.

The final edited image: Hibiscus with Two Skies, 30" x 30"

Crop and Straighten (using guidelines) *

NOTE TO MAC USERS: Anywhere the instructions say 'Ctrl+ ', substitute using the Command key + the letter specified. 'Apple+'.

  1. Open your original photo document. Always start with a good size photo; a .JPG that is 300 dpi and about 10" x 7" (to check the size of your photo from the toolbar, click Image/Image size).
    I like to make a layer copy of the original: Ctrl+A (select all), then Ctrl+C (copy), Ctrl + V (paste); and then save it as a .PSD. More information is saved in a PSD file. When the photo is completely edited you can save it as .JPG.

  2. Setting up guidelines: Click Ctrl+R. This will bring up the rulers on the top and left of your document (to hide the rulers, use the same command). To make a straight guideline, place your mouse on on of the rules, then hold down the key on your mouse and pull down or to the right. Put the guidelines close to the outer edge of your painting as it appears in the photo.

  3. To crop your photo, choose the crop tool from the side tool kit. Drag the crop into position, and then click enter.

  4. To straighten and align your artwork: click Ctrl + A (select all), then Ctrl + T (transform). Right click on the image and choose 'skew'.This will allow you to pull each corner outwards to correct the alignment of the image. If your image has internal 90 degree lines, as this sample does, you can add additional guidelines to help you. When it's adjusted to your satisfaction, click Enter.

    Alternately, if you image does not appears skewed but is merely rotated a bit off, you could use the Rotate function (also under Transform).

  5. To remove the guidelines, go to your top toolbar and click View/Clear Guides. Your image is now ready for color correction.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Photoshop Tips: 1. How to Afford Photoshop (plus options for other photo editing software)

I wondered if this question might come up eventually.... and it has! Yes, Photoshop is notoriously expensive (about $550 - 700 for the latest new edition, CS4). However, there are several ways to obtain a working copy without breaking the bank, and all legally:

(illustration, "The Thrifty Mouse", R. Garriott)

  1. Photoshop Elements: $70 and up
    This is Photoshop stripped down. It has all the basics you need to make your photos look great (and this product is touted as more friendly for the casual user.) Available at for about $70-80 for the newest version 7, and today I even saw a rebate that would bring it down to about $60, with Free shipping!

  2. Photoshop Student Edition: under $200
    If you are a student you can buy this; it has all the features of the full flagship Photoshop (check the Adobe website for requirements). The major sticking point on it is that it is not upgradeable; if you want the new versions as they come out, you have to buy them. But the price is about the same as the full fledged version upgrades, so it comes out even. Starting at $197 at

  3. Older version of Photoshop: $299.99
    Confession here; I'm still using Photoshop CS2 and didn't even realize until today that we're up to CS4. Although I'm sure the latest version has new groovy bells and whistles, I'm quite content with CS2. The good news is there's still a few copies available out there, and today's going price is about $300 at

Please note that the links I've provided are for PC; if you have a Mac you'll need to specify that when searching on Amazon. The software prices are about the same for either platform.

Other Options for photo editing:

Thanks to other bloggers who've written in!

Although Photoshop is the Holy Grail of photo editing, it's not the only photo product out there.

  • From other astute readers I've learned that some of these tips will also work with Microsoft Photo Gallery and Paint Shop Pro.
  • Actually many photo editing programs have these features; although the names might be a bit different. If you have a printer, you most likely have some kind of photo editing software that came with it.
  • Artist Kate wrote: Another option: download a free software called GIMP. It does a great deal of what Photoshop does.I personally love it.
  • I have also heard that photosharing sites like Google's free Picasa has retouching capabilities.

    If anyone knows of additional options, especially on the cheap, please write and let me know. Mostly what I hope to do is give people an idea of the terminology, so they can go in and figure it out themselves on what ever they use. If you don't know how to ask the question, it's hard to get the answer!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Photoshop Tips: Intro

In reading the comments on other's blogs, I've often run across phrases like , 'the photo's not really doesn't look like this', or 'the color is totally different in real life', 'the real painting isn't this dark', etc.

It made me realize (again) that for many artists, Photoshop is a big, scary program that will take months to learn. Which is not altogether true, because most of us only use about 10% of the capability of the program, and skip the rest of the bells and whistles. So my goal is to offer some basic photo editing tips that will help the novice photoshop user improve the look of their artwork photos.

Having used Photoshop since version 3.0 (about 10-12 years?), and having run an office where I had to teach many other staff how to edit photos, I've picked up some quick tips and tricks. As computers were barely on the market when I went to art school, I pretty much had to teach myself; however I'll be recomending some books, websites, and other resources that may be helpful to you.

I'll try and post a few Photoshop tips a week, with pictures that show the steps in action. If you have a question or topic you'd like me to cover, please let me know.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Thanks to a posting at Carol Marine's gorgeous blog, I ran across another blog of interest; "Big Happy Orange" is devoted to any and everything in the orange hue. Just shows a blog can be about anything! It also made me think about orange, which is a color that I can't wear with my olive tinted skin, but that I paint with... a lot. In the honor of "Big Happy Orange" I'm posting one of my recent 'orange' compositions.

"Tangerines & Tomatoes" Oil 8" x 24"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Prepping for DSFDF

(Above: finished painting. Below, first day underpainting.)

(For those of you who haven't run across the DSFDF challenge yet,
this one in particular was to be painted upside down).

Okay, so I see some of my friends trying out this new thing-- the Different Strokes for Different Folks blog, where each Wednesday a new painting challenge is posted. I visit the site a few times, looking the 'boots' project, and then later the portrait exchange. I start to get really interested in the possibilities. On December 31 I get really fired up, scroll to the bottom of the page where I think the New challenge is, and immediately start painting. I really want to beat the deadline, and I get really intrigued by the work in progress. Three amazing short days later I was ready to post! THAT'S when I go back and see I was mistaken-- I just did the project for week 11! Oh well... practice for the next one, which should be published tomorrow... and as a very kind friend said, "Hey- It's really not wasted effort- You still reap the benefit of the original intent of the challenge- ya know?!!!"

And you know, he has a good point. I hadn't handled any kinds of street scene in years. DSFDF asks that you challenge yourself, so I painted in a looser style (for me) and super saturated the colors... changed the layout of the windows a bit to heighten the geometry... it was enjoyable and I think I learned something new in there somewhere.

So, anyway... since I went this far, here it is (above).

Below is the original photo we worked from. To see the other paintings of the week 11 'upside down walker', go to

Monday, January 5, 2009

On the Idea of Commissions: Tropical Island

Oh boy would I love the chance to do something like this again!
A travel agency commisioned this mural.I built and stretched two canvases, approximately 4' x 10' and 4' x 7', later installed on the specially built wall (which afforded me the luxury of painting in my studio rather than on location. Painting in public is something I've never gotten used to).
This was also another entirely invented scene (with obvious affection for Matisse and Rousseau). I did get a lot of books on birds, etc. from the library.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

On the Idea of Commissions: 66 Diner

66 Diner acrylic 30" x 30"

So another kind of commission... this one also goes back quite a ways but I still remember how enjoyable it was to work on. At the time I was making my living as a self employed sign painter. This canvas was for the corporate office of a restaurant group; I also painted a number of simple signs (many on hub caps) for the interior of the diner. The set up was from their signature magazine ad; the model was a manager there at the time but I am quite sure she became an artist at a later date. The last time I saw her, years ago, she was working at an art supply store (the same art supply store I had worked at right out of high school).

Which leads me to another digression... having experienced a number of art related jobs over my lifetime (with many more to come, perhaps), and not a one matching what I thought I might do when I was in art school: I wonder how it is for you other artists out there... what were the unusual or common occupations that being a working artist led you to? I'll list mine if you list yours.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

On the Idea of Commissions: Lunch in Italy

"Lunch in Italy" oil 30" x 40"

In writing to an artist friend this week (I'll leave them anonymous for now), I learned that they had recently completed a commission based on a client photo but with the addition of a great deal of imagination...for starters, the photo was taken at mid day but the requested painting was for a sunset! (In my book this is one talented painter who can pull that off!) This got me to thinking about commissions in general (and wondering, among other things, how one might attract more, because some prepaid work at this point would be lovely)!

At any rate, I started looking at a few of the commissions I've done over the years, and this one came to mind as a good starting post. The client came to me with several rolls of snapshots of a trip to Italy, where he had proposed to his girlfriend. I was allowed to pick and choose among them, and recreate a place I had not yet been to (though I did make a trip to Italy some years later). There was a fair amount of invention in this as well; although the cat is one of many they photographed in Cinque Terre (and as anyone who's been there will tell you, there's no shortage of feline subject matter), the wine and food were largely fabricated. The wall also underwent some painterly restructuring, though it is based on some actual wall. As a finishing touch, the wife's name and year of 'vintage' were added to the bottle in an elegant script.