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1. Photoshop CC Review - Should Illustrators upgrade? A few tricks to help you decide

The Adobe User community is in a bit of a tizzy over the new subscription plan for Photoshop CC. If you missed the debate...users must now pay a monthly fee to use Photoshop. You no longer own your software. You own the right to use it when Adobe says you can use it.

There are a lot of cool new features for photographers, but for illustrators, the Brush Panel is a bit of a disappointment. Adobe really has not done much with it in years so I was hoping to be wowed with this upgrade. Here are three new additions to the brush panel:

1. Brush Pose

Brush Pose lets users "achieve stylus-like effects and let you control the angle and position of the brush". (Fig 1)
If you already use a stylus then this option will not change your brush. (I am guessing that if you are an illustrator still using a mouse to paint then you must either be A. below the age of 5 or B. have serious masochistic tendencies.)

2. Build Up

In theory, Build Up sounds swell. It "Applies gradual tones to an image, simulating traditional airbrush techniques. The Airbrush option in the Brush panel corresponds to the Airbrush option in the options bar." (Fig 2)


Unfortunately, when I gave it a whirl, I saw very little change in how my paint built up. The paint built up slightly darker, but it didn't really change how the paint combined with each different stroke. I tried several different brushes and made sure the "Enable airbrush style build-up effects" was checked in my Menu Bar. Here are a few examples:
A. The Soft Round Brush with no Build-up applied. This is two strokes

B.The Soft Round Brush with Build- up Applied. This is two strokes

Do you see a difference? Perhaps I need to be sipping the Adobe CC Koolaide to see it.

3. Paper Contrast & Brightness inside Brush Texture

The ability to add pattern texture to your brush has been in Photoshop for some time now. In this version, they have stolen a trick from Painter (it's been in Painter for at least the last 4 versions) and now allow users to change the brightness and contrast of the pattern texture. Here is the new menu inside the Brush Panel's Texture option (Fig 3)
Fig 3
In the examples below, I have altered the amount of Brightness and Contrast in my Texture.
 Contrast and Brightness set to 0

Brightness at 100% and Contrast to 0
Brightness at 0 and Contast at 100%
These are some great new features but I would still recommend using Painter to get more organic marks. The reason is simple. In Photoshop, the patten texture is tied to each particular brush that you customize. In Painter, the paper texture is controlled OUTSIDE of the brush. This means that it is more akin to real media. Just like real media, different brushes will react to the same paper texture in different ways. I don't want to have to customize a new brush every time I want it to react differently to my chosen paper/ pattern texture. That is way too much work.

Using Camera Raw 
There are some features that were meant for photographers that I can see coming in handy for illustrators. For example, Camera Raw Filter now allows users to make nondestructive editing without actually having a Raw file. This is probably the biggest reason to upgrade, especially if you use Photoshop mainly to color correct your art. One tool that I really love is the Radial Filter tool inside Camera Raw. Its was designed to allow photographers to create vignettes, but I see it as a magic light correction tool.

The image below is from my next book and it is taken from a chapter on how to paint like Renoir using Corel Painter.

Renoir was a master of light, but in my image, the shadows are too dark on her face to really convey sunlight. I could paint over it or I could use Camera Raw to fix it quickly.

Here are the steps:

1. From the Menu bar select Filter/Camera Raw. This will open up the interface for Camera Raw
2. From the top menu select the option for Radial Filter (Fig 1)
Fig 1

3. Drag a selection around the area that you want to become your vignette. (Fig 2). You can move this vignette area to any spot on your image by selecting and dragging the red circle in the center.
Fig 2: By dragging anywhere on your image with the Radial Filter tool, you can create a vignette.

4. In this case, I wanted the darker areas to be outside my selection area and the lighter area to be on the inside, so I clicked the Inside option. (Fig 3)
Fig 3

5. It is now blowing out my highlights too much so I need to adjust the exposure. I lowered it slightly and also increased the saturation. I then lowered the temperature a tad to remove some of the red. You can see the difference below is very slight, but it is noticeable.
The original image without any color correction. Her face is too dark and too warm.

The image corrected with the Camera Raw Radial FIlter. Her face is now lit with more light.

That is just one new feature. There are others that illustrators will benefit from. I will post more Photoshop CC tutorials later next week. Overall, if you use Photoshop to mostly paint, don't expect much. If you use it to color correct scanned or Corel Painter art, Photoshop CC might be worth the monthly fee.

If you are on CS5 or CS6, do you plan to upgrade? Would love to hear if you have used any of the new features in your work.

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2. Leeches, Maggots, and Digital Art....oh my

I will be speaking at the Waltham Public Library tomorrow at 2:00 PM about leeches, maggots, mummy powder, Louisa May Alcott as a civil war nurse, and giving a demo on creating digital art. That is quite a mix! Stop by with your leech loving/computer savvy little one. Ages 7+

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3. Back from CES and a few announcements

I am back from the CES show at Vegas and planning to give this blog some much needed love. I hope to have some tutorials up in the coming week but let me know if there is anything in particular that you would like to see? I have finally figured out how to do screencasts too so plan for most of the tutorials to be in video format.

Also have my next book announcement....stay tuned.

If you are a gadget girl like me, CES will leave you positively giddy. So much technology in one place. Here are a few pics:

Here is the Intel booth being set up. We did a quick demo to show how art is influenced my music and dance and vice versa.

Intel had this Salvador Dali like tree made entirely of Ultrabooks (you can guess what I want for Christmas). The metal at the base gave it this melty quality. Very surreal. 

Intel gave away at least a dozen Ultrabooks a day. And you get a laptop....And you get a laptop.... crazy. 

I also did 30 minute and 45 minute demos on painting digitally. I am using Corel Painter and a Sensu brush on an Acer tablet computer here. The system was super fast! (all powered by Intel). I absolutely loved the feel of painting with a real brush. I tried almost every brush on the market before choosing the Sensu. (Review to come later....)

Here is the finished piece.  

I stayed at the Venetian. Tres glamorous. This floor kind of messed with my head. 

And lastly and by far most importantly....I walked by these Jimmy Choos every day. (sigh) a girl can dream. 

1 Comments on Back from CES and a few announcements, last added: 1/21/2013
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4. Illustration Friday: Explore

This wasn't how he planned to explore the world. 
This print is part of a series that I am selling at my new Etsy shop

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5. IF: Lonely Girl Tutorial

For anyone who didn't get enough flower patterns in the last week's Digital Painting webinar. Here is a quick written tutorial on how to make a couple of flower brushes.

Fig 1
To follow along, download the flowers file:

Step 1
Draw your pattern. A few things to keep in mind.

  1. Use a 300 dpi file. 
  2. You must draw from left to right. Pulling out a ruler guide can help. Just click on the left hand side of your ruler to drag one out.
  3. You must put your pattern on its own layer so that it has transparency in the background. To create a new layer select Layers/New Layer. Do not draw on the Canvas layer.
  4. You can only use one layer. You can create your illustration on multiple layers, but when you are ready to turn it into a pattern, you must collapse the layers. (Shift click on all the layers and then select Layers/Collapse Layers)
Step 2
Make a selection around your pattern with the Rectangular Selection Tool. Remember that everything you select will be part of that pattern (even the blank space). I like to select some extra space from top to bottom to avoid feathering. (Fig 2)

Step 3
Hit the Capture Pattern button (Fig 3A) in the Pattern Libraries Panel. (Window/Media Library Panels/Patterns)
Fig 3
You will now be asked to name your pattern. Keep the Horizontal and Vertical Shift at 0.

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6. In case you missed it...

The webinar on digital painting is live on youtube. Someone had trouble with the sound but it sounds perfectly clear to me? Let me know if you have trouble hearing it. It might have been an issue that got fixed.

1 Comments on In case you missed it..., last added: 7/18/2012
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7. Illustration Friday: Lost

Arachne Lost
This painting depicts the story of Arachne who bragged that she could weave better than the gods. Not one to appreciate such confidence, Athena challenged Arachne to a weaving contest in which the winner got to keep her life. Of course, Arachne lost to the Athena, but the goddess felt pity on her and turned her into the first spider instead of killing her. Arachne's name in greek means "spider" and is from this story that we get the word Arachnophobia. 

Want to learn digital oil painting? I will be painting this picture from start to finish in tomorrow's free Corel Painter webinar. This is the last day to sign up. 
Learn the secrets of how to create paint with weight, depth and texture. 

8 Comments on Illustration Friday: Lost, last added: 7/19/2012
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8. Corel Painter Webinar: Secret Tips and Tricks

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
On this Tuesday at 11:00AM, I will be giving a webinar on my favorite Corel Painter tools. Some of the things I will be covering:

Making offset Patterns
Making more complicated seamless patterns (in seconds!)
Painting with Pattern Brushes and Masked Pattern brushes
My favorite Oil Painting Secrets
More expressive linework
Watercolor tips
Acrylics painting tips

You can find more information here:

Register for the Free Webinar here:

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9. Digital Painting for the Complete Beginner in stores now!

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your local book store.
A great review from Digital Artist magazine too!

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10. Illustrator's Day

Catch me at Illustrator's Day this weekend at the New Hampshire Institute of Art. I will be divulging my top Corel Painter 12 painting secrets. Walk-ins are still being accepted.

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11. Altered Cabinet Card

Working on some altered art this week for my next book proposal. I love taking old cabinet cards and transforming them into something new. This Victorian lady is Opera star, Alwina Vallerina and I found her over at the Cabinet Card Gallery. 

Now she is the High Priestess - one of the major arcana cards in the Tarot. 

1 Comments on Altered Cabinet Card, last added: 8/19/2011
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12. Cool Textures

Found these beautiful textures while doing some research for my next book proposal. Please read the licensing information before using. 

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13. Corel Painter 12 Release

Last weekend I demoed the new Painter 12 release at the New England SCBWI conference. I have to say this upgrade is the best yet. It turns out those crazy folks over at Corel decided that it was time to take Painter from ugly baby to prom queen. And I am so mad at them for that! Why? Because this week I finished by book on Digital Painting to be released next year by Watson Guptill and now....I have to completely rewrite the whole darn thing...very quicky!

Check out some of the Corel Painter gallery tutorials.

I am now going to crawl into my dark cave and weep like an abandoned baby. I will share some of my favorite new features once the tears dry. (insert melodramatic organ music here). 

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14. Come see all my mistakes

Catch me this week over at Kathy Temean's amazing blog. I am doing something I love to do on school visits - showing all my mistakes. It isn't pretty, but I hope it encourages other digital artist to never give up. 

1 Comments on Come see all my mistakes, last added: 3/12/2011
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15. IF: Mail

This painting was inspired by my daughter who recently figured out that Santa has a mailing address. The list keeps getting longer and longer. I don't know how she is going to fit it in the mail box.

4 Comments on IF: Mail, last added: 12/23/2010
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16. Illustration Friday: Burning....desire

This is my portrayal of Scaramouche and his burning desire for Colombina. It is a scene from the Commedia dell'arte. 

7 Comments on Illustration Friday: Burning....desire, last added: 11/16/2010
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17. Illustration Friday: Racing

Working on some Christmas cards this week. These kids are off to the races!

2 Comments on Illustration Friday: Racing, last added: 10/27/2010
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18. Illustration Friday: Acrobat

This is  Lillian Leitzel from Who put the B in the Ballyhoo?

3 Comments on Illustration Friday: Acrobat, last added: 9/23/2010
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19. I Feel Better with a Frog in my Throat in stores now!

Hot off the presses and in stores now! You can win a copy at the Raucous Royals Blog

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20. More posts coming soon

I have truly neglected this blog for some time now mostly because video tutorials seem like such a faster way to learn digital painting and I am just not up with the technology yet. I do have some old school step by step posts planned for creating illustrator patterns. Stay tuned...

In the mean time, I write almost daily over at my regular blog: The Raucous Royals

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21. Painter II ready for download

I have been going through the new features of Painter 11 this week and have decided my favorite new tools are the resizable mixer pallette (now you can make your mixer pallette REALLY BIG) and the Real Chalk brush. (it picks up your tilt like real chalk medium). I am going to be posting a new tutorial soon. In the meantime, I have a tutorial coming out in Painter magazine and I will post a link to subscribe as soon as I know which issue.

1 Comments on Painter II ready for download, last added: 4/6/2009
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22. A special Thanks to the KidzBookBuzz Blog Tour

I am a little late posting this, but a special thanks to everyone who participated in the KidzBookBuzz Blog tour for the release of my new book, The Raucous Royals. I especially enjoyed the fact that I found so many amazing blogs in the process.

Thank you to:

  1. The 160 Acre Woods

  2. All About Children’s Books

  3. Becky’s Book Reviews

  4. Cafe of Dreams

  5. Dolce Bellezza

  6. Fireside Musings

  7. The Friendly Book Nook

  8. Homeschool Buzz

  9. Hyperbole

  10. KidzBookBuzz.com

  11. Maw Books Blog

  12. Never Jam Today

  13. Quiverfull Family

  14. Reading is my Superpower

  15. Small World Reads

  16. SMS Book Reviews

I am going to post a link to some of the interviews over at The Raucous Royals Blog as soon as I get a chance.

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23. One author's way of coping

Author Brad Meltzer will definitely peak your interest with his video on bad book reviews. I prefer eating a gallon of ice cream.

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24. Stealing Caravaggio

Sorry for missing last month’s post. I have been caught up working on my next book, I feel better with a frog in my throat, the final cover for the fantastic Houdini Series by Thomas Lalicki (shown here) and lastly my new history blog ....which I swear you will love even if you hate history.

I do have a really quick Painter tutorial and it’s one that I think everyone can use.

Painter has many hidden tricks that go unused, but one of my favorite is right in the Color Sets palette. Have you ever opened that sketch to be painted and been stuck as to what color palette to use? Well, if you are really lazy (like me) you can steal colors from the masters. For this tutorial, we are going to steal from Caravaggio.

1. If you don’t see the Color Sets palette – select WINDOW/ COLOR PALETTES / COLOR SET. The Color Set looks like a bunch of swatches similar to how Photoshop displays them.

  1. 2. Open an image up that you feel has a good range of color or the correct colors.
  2. 3. Go to the Color Set , Click on the little arrow to the right, Select “New Color Set from Image”

Painter will now make a color set from that image. That’s it. Paint with Caravaggio’s colors.

This color set might not have every color that you want. You can also add colors to your color set by clicking on the little color swatch add symbol at the bottom (circled in red here)

You can also mix your own colors up in the mixer pad and then again click on the little arrow to the right and select “ New Color Set from Mixer Pad”

Let me know if this is helpful. And if you don’t have Painter, then just download a 30 day-trial to check it out from the banner on the right.

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25. Imagelexia. How to draw with a misplaced thumb

Reversing numbers is a peculiarity we all share. Even reversing letters happens sometimes in our addled brains. If we do it often, we have a fancy name for this phenomenon…dyslexia. But what about artists who reverse images in their mind?

Lets call it imagelexia because it makes me feel much better to give a name to my mental defects. I don’t know how it happens, but every time I draw hands, toes…even faces they get reversed on paper. (In my head, they looked perfectly normal.) Luckily, my critique group has caught COUNTLESS paintings of poor people with their thumb on the wrong side of their hand. My image of the Changs for Who Put the B in the Ballyhoo? had gone through proofing and legal and all the other smart people who are supposed to catch mistakes, but no one had caught the reversed thumb except my faithful critique group.

One of my critique group members, Penny Weber always draws expressive, beautiful hands. She has inspired me to do better. No more excuses. No more laziness. I vow to improve my hands. (Toes are another matter because feet really gross me out) And you faithful readers of this blog (all 3 of you) should also share in my quest for better hands…

Here are some tools:

1. Here is a website with 206 images of hands in art. Pure hand inspiration.

2. Drawing Dynamic Hands by Burne Hogarth
This is one of my favorite books for drawing hands in motion.

3. Here is a short video from Matt's Illustration demonstrating how to draw better hands. Matt advises to draw the thumb last. Makes sense.

Let me know if you have other tools to get those digits looking pretty.

Quick Announcement...
I have been greatly neglecting this blog, but I do have some tutorials planned for the next couple of months. In the meantime, please stop by the Raucous Royals blog and get your weekly dose of rumors, scandals and facinating royalty. Your feedback is always appreciated.

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