Alright, I've decided that I want to learn how to paint digitally.
Problem: I don't know the first thing about painting in any medium.
I tried to paint a gorilla here, before I realized that I didn't know the first thing about what I was trying to do. The grisly results are pictured below.
Where should I start, guys? How can I learn how to do this? And don't tell me "paint lots". I know that, I intend to attempt a painting every day this month, but I don't even know the most basic principles of this.
I’m sure there will be someone along shortly who has a lot more to give than I do but I’m a digital painting newbie too, did my first painting a couple of days ago having never even done a traditional painting before so I think we’re in the same boat.
You’ve pretty much identified the darkest areas there but you’ve blocked them in with a quite light value which might’ve put you on the back foot straight away. My first step (usually this is in graphite but “same difference” because it’s what I did on the digital paintings too) is to block in the whole silhouette with what I think will pretty much be the mid-tone and then start working in the dark and light values. I have no idea whether this is the “correct” approach but it’s my approach and I only care about the end result really, not whether something is conventional. I’ve seen some artists start with a totally black silhouette and then work it up from there too.
So, what I would do with this is put a silhouette down and really darken the areas you’ve blocked in then start throwing some more values at it based on what you can see in the ref you have there (great reference too).
Whilst painting a lot is essential to improvement, I agree some sort of instruction is a big kickstart for getting going. I second checking out Jandered's link to Ctrl+Paint above, there is an invaluable wealth of videos there geared for beginner digital artists. The whole Painting section is full of bits to help beginners get off the ground. The paint blending exercises are especially useful, and may be a good place to start.
Like knave said, try to get the values blocked in to match the image - just start with big shapes like you have here, big brush, high opacity. It might help you to desaturate your reference picture so you don't have to think about colour at this point and just concentrate on value. Once the values seem about right (blurring your eyes to check helps), try making a layer on top of your lineart and painting over it, blending the chunky values and covering the lines as best you can. If it is easier, you can lower the lineart opacity for this. It also might help you to make a mini palette of values ranging from black to white that you can eyedrop from for convenience too.
Thank you both, your advice is definitely helping me achieve results!
The way you are blocking in is definitely showing a better understanding of the separation between light and dark.
It may help you save time and achieve a smoother finish if you use a bigger brush to block in the biggest areas - I don't know if you have used this yet, but many artists use the [ ] keyboard buttons to control it to avoid going back and forth to the slider constantly. (Or the wheel on some Wacom tablets.)
You know, it's kind of funny. I think I had it for a second there, but now I seem to have lost it again, I can't seem to see as I did. Here's another successful portrait study, then a pair of failures. Has this ever happened to anybody else? Sudden understanding, then loss of that understanding? There isn't really anything to do about it but keep drawing, it seems.
I almost always get my drawings wrong... And once that goes wrong, all of the other elements of the rendering are thrown off. I just don't spend enough time on the the drawing and I really don't like measuring... But the more I do it and the more I realize that nothing will ever come out right if sufficient care is not taken to establish that everything will be correct, the more I try to do it right and just take the time needed.
Drawing, when done correctly, is a very logical process. Because of that I never get it right... I understand the logic, but I just refuse to believe that I have to put that much effort into a monkey, a tree or whatever, into something I don't really care about that much, I just want a nice drawing... When I think like that I usually end up with nothing. So, to stop the philosophising and get to the practical part - I'm basically saying - find something you really care about, something you're really interested in and then draw that... Because you are likely to spend many, many hours and many, many attempts on the same drawing until you get it right. Afterwards it will be easier and quicker, but the procedure will remain the same.
First - establish your drawing. Your drawing is done in lines, because lines are a good tool to use for measuring. Your drawing is used to position elements on your canvas, to establish relationships between features or details. I think almost everyone uses straight lines, because curves are very difficult to duplicate. I always get them wrong. Using straight lines I can focus more on correct proportions and accurate measurements and worry less about the curve. The curves will come later on, as the drawing progresses. Paintings are done in stages, you don't just go for the finished result, although with practice, I suppose you could dispense with some of the steps and end up at the finish line quicker. For us though, we start with simple lines. Lines that indicate where the drawing starts and where it ends. How wide is it, in comparison to its height? How far along the height are the eyes? Where are they located width-wise. A lot of drawing is simply measuring and trying to locate with precision points in space. You use angles - the green lines indicated on the drawing. Simply hold your stylus or pencil to an angle and transfer it to your drawing. It's that easy. We look for vertical and horizontal lines, what aligns with what? And in this case with the gorilla, we establish that the eyes are tilted, so we don't draw them horizontally. How do we establish the tilt? We simply hold our stylus up and transfer that angle over. We look for convenient measures. We look for halves and thirds. I find it very hard to measure 1/8th of something. Better to get thirds and halves correct and then rely on verticals, horizontals and angles to pinpoint something. Another note - the drawing that you see, this is a result of many corrections. I didn't just get everything right the first time and some elements might still be off (apologies for that), it's a result of checking everything over and over and spending the time to verify anything that I put down. Every line is a statement. Every time you put down a line you are essentially saying - this is so. And if that's not true, it will show up very, very soon. So just as you would measure your words before saying something that you know is not true, the same goes for lines.
Here's an overlay of the corrected drawing over the original. Just a matter of slight adjustments. Getting some proportions more accurately and aligning features better. Also, never forget that you can always double-check your drawing by just laying it on top of the photo... Just see what you've done wrong and you'll also start noticing with practice what you tend to get wrong... I always get chins wrong. I don't know why, there's just something weird about the angle of the chin for me, I even got it wrong in this picture. So that's something I know I have to look out for.
The second stage is values and it's just getting the correct reflectance of an object. Or in other words - getting right what's lighter and what's darker. None of that includes line. Line is our tool for positioning, it has no place in the final painting, except as a stylistic choice, if you choose to retain it. The real world has no lines, we use lines as an abstraction, to simplify and break down a complex arrangement of tones and shapes.
Maybe I'll try to do the value stage tomorrow and continue this
Don't despair. I know exactly how you feel
This is some awesomely helpful information, Volen! I tremendously appreciate you taking the time to show me this, and I'm going to use your techniques in today's study.
Thanks very much, I'm glad it was useful... I'm sorry I never posted the value study, but to be honest I'm not too comfortable with value myself, so I really didn't want to try to show something that I can't do properly.
I did make this though, it's probably something you've already seen, but just putting in the shadow shapes is enough to make the form to begin to read.
Sorry for the late reply