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Learning Digital Art

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  • Learning Digital Art

    I recently discovered some wonderful digital artists.
    One of them is Dave Mckeany.

    I would love to learn the techniques required for creating pieces similar to his.
    I paint and draw but am new to digital programs so I am pretty lost when I look at something like this.

    I would like to know what techniques someone like him uses to create surrealistic environments like he does.

    If anyone could lend me some tips, tutorial, links, or information of any sort on how I can go about learning this I would be greatly appreciative.

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    Hello, SeFu, and welcome to RetouchPRO.

    In looking at some of the works by Mr. Mckean, it appears that he uses many fairly standard, albeit semi-advanced, techniques to achieve his very impressive results.

    I would say one of the more difficult tasks is coming up with the themes and ideas for his creations. If you're into that sort of thinking and organization, you're WAY ahead of me.

    Regardless of what image creation program you're using (Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Painter, whatever), I'd recommend you learn fundamental skills before diving into projects of this nature. That's not to say the techniques are difficult to learn, but there are many and each assumes one has mastered basic skills.

    The good news: There are numerous tutorials on the internet that address the types of techniques he uses.

    Before going on, which program(s) will you be using? How would you assess your current expertise using it (them)? That will help me (and others) point you in the right directon.

    Thanks for asking your question. I look forward to hearing what some of the other folks have to say on this one.

    Again, WELCOME... Hope we can help you get moving.



    • #3
      Thank you. I am happy to have found this place. I was sent here by someone from another forum I frequent.

      I use basically Photoshop 5.5 but will get 7 soon.

      I guess I am a novice user of it, but a high level novice I suppose.

      One of my main questions in this work is his ability to blend things together so well.
      He is able to take images from totally different subject matter (And Im sure different lighting conditions) and put them together making them look as though the photo was taken at that moment and nothing was edited in.
      I dont know... its tough to explain.

      Like on the intro to that site... he has a hand with pencil and wing.
      Surely the wing was originally a statue, probably white.
      The hand, well... flesh colored.
      Pencil, yellow.

      He puts them together and texturizes them and then makes them the exact shade of gold... making them look as though they were never seperate.
      Thats what I would like to do... but more along the lines of the scenes he creates.
      For example:
      Oops, looks like the page is lost. Start your website on the cheap.

      or this
      Oops, looks like the page is lost. Start your website on the cheap.

      Thanks for welcoming me... I look forward to spending quite a bit of time here.


      • #4

        A quick and easy way to change the colors so that they match is to take a representative color from the picture you want to match with the eye dropper tool. make a blank layer above the layer you want to have be the same color and paint over that layer. When the images are covered, change the paint layer to "color" and change the opacity of that layer as needed.

        It doesn't always work right, but 80% of the time it does so it is worth a try. The other way to do it is to get into the channels and write down the color numbers and match those. Very complicated but effective, though I don't know how to do it well enough to write a tutorial for it.

        Cricket<jet lagged in China


        • #5
          yea but do you think he is using something that simple?
          I look at the hand and it looks almost as if the hand has been bronzed because its reflective and all.

          my first thought was maybe he oiled the hand before photographing it. That would make the bronze coloring look more realistic I would think.


          • #6
            I can relate to PS 5.5; have it myself at the moment. PS7, too.

            With the example pics to look at (thx for the links… that helped a lot), I can give some ideas on “what you need to be able to do,” but not so much in-depth “how to do them.” The how-to is better left to indepth internet tutorials or plain ol’ book learnin’.

            The blending of various unrelated objects is probably done using "layer masks." This is a basic function described an just about any PS techniques book and in numerous internet tutorials. The PS 5.5 "help" is pretty good, too. Learning to layer mask “effectively” is a skill that’s learned with practice. With a little time and a good eye, the results can be very convincing.

            Regarding getting the lighting just right… Some of this affect is probably achieved while “blending” components together (via the layer masks), and making use of Curves (or Levels) adjustment layers. See PS help on “Group with previous,” “Adjustment Layers,” Levels, Curves. While you’re at it, understanding layer blend modes will be helpful, too.

            FYI: For the purpose of effecting subtle lighting or color changes you can use the technique of airbrushing black or white on adjustment layers the same way as you can on layer masks.

            In some cases the PS Lighting Effects filter may come in handy. That would be one to explore.

            On the consistent colorization, Cricket had some good ideas on that. Also explore using the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer set to “colorize” for another approach.

            Using the “color” blend mode enables you to blend the hue and saturation of the you-pick the-color layer, but retain the “texture” (luminosity) of the layer(s) below. Indeed, part of an effect might be a function of how the image was originally photographed.

            One way to apply texture or noise as a way of making a set of objects appear to be related or connected is to create a layer above each object layer, fill these layers with 50% gray, and add noise or grain or texture to each. Then set the blend mode to Screen, Overlay or Soft Light (whichever works best). A variation of this would be to merge all the applicable “parts” layers into a single layer, and create the grain/texture layer once instead of once per layer.

            Hope this is moderately helpful and gets you going…


            • #7
              Wow Danny,
              Unbelievable help!

              I really appreciate you taking the time to post your advice and help, that gives me plenty to lock onto and bang my head against.

              I cant wait to get started.

              I need to get a book I think but your right, the help file does give quite a bit of info, I have been lazy about reading it. Its time I start.