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4.6 Refine Your Painting

Know how to resolve issues in your painting as you draw closer to the finish line. Clean up the details and add additional elements for a dynamic lighting effect.

4.6 Refine Your Painting

Hello, and welcome back to Surreal Digital Paintings. My name is Melody Nieves and this is Lesson 4.6. So how do you know when your painting is finished and what will it take to get there? In this lesson we'll resolve some issues by cleaning things up, learn how to refine your painting and paint unique highlights for a dynamic lighting effect. After my last adjustment layer in the previous lesson, I thought I was done, but in reality I had just spent far too much time in front of the computer. I was admittedly exhausted and had fried my brain a bit. It's important as artists that we break away from time to time and come back to our work with fresh eyes. After getting some feedback from my editor, I was able to see the painting from a different perspective. The main issue that needs to be resolved is the fact that the painting is still a little bit blurry. Although the water in the front looks pretty crisp, the edges of the fish bowls are too soft. To clean things up I'll add a new layer and set it to multiply. One of the ways to start refining a painting is to make sure that you go back and correct some of the shading. Use this multiply layer to add shadows to the fish bowl and you'll immediately see a difference. Not only do the bowls look more round, but it actually looks like it makes more sense within that space. I continue to use this layer to deepen the shadows for all the other elements and quickly jump around to keep changing up the area that I'm focusing on. Even though I don't have the reference tab next to the painting anymore, I can tell what the painting needs just by analyzing it. In order to pull off the intensity of this color and lighting scheme, I need to darken the shadows around the hair and face. This will also help me cover up pesky areas of the painting where the sketch shows through. Simply enough, the best advice I could give you is to just keep painting. Eventually you'll start to realize the areas that could still use some work for an even better result. Now I want to focus on the highlights again. I create a new layer and set it to Linear Dodge (Add). Unlike color dodge, this blend mode makes the color brighter, but doesn't give it warmth. Because of this, I'll paint more highlights across the hair to really clean it up. This part is a juggling act between the multiply and linear dodge layers. Sometimes I might want to dip into multiply to darken the shadows, then follow up by adding highlights to the area all over again. Work your way up the left side and follow through with the same on the right. Now that I've taken out the time to clean up these highlights, I'll add a few more adjustments for atmosphere. First I use the gradient tool to add a new layer with a fading white color. To enforce the sense of space between each detail, I erase the areas that are covering the foreground elements. This quick fade will really help to pop the fish and the water more forward in the painting. Then I add two new adjustments for curves and color balance to add more warmth. For the last steps, I'll juggle between intensifying the shadows and painting more crisp detail. If you ever struggle with your painting looking out of focus, then it's probably because you're using a brush with edges that are too soft. Avoid this by changing your brush or brush hardness often. Use a hard round brush to begin adding highlights that are created by the environmental light. For the glass necklace, use a bright turquoise color to outline the edges of each bulb. Then move on to the hair. In nature, objects pick up reflected light from their environment. In this case, we'll take some of the color from the background and paint it on our subject's hair. Use thin, delicate strokes to outline the left side of her hair. Make the strokes stringy so that they look like hair strands and even draw a couple of extra strands that could be moving in the wind. Once you're done with the environmental light, paint any remaining details that could really help this painting shine. Some of these details include white highlights on the water, wispy strands of hair on the subject's right side, and bright strokes of white to illustrate the shiny glass for the fish bowl. These extra details may not seem like much, but they were huge in transforming this painting. For the last lesson of this course I'll show you a quick trick for creating more depth of field by using a simple filter. So join me in Lesson 4.7 to see how it's done.

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