Using layers in an illustration
I use photographs - my own shots - as the basis for the illustrations I produce, but it's important to understand that they are a "basis" only. Photos are good for giving you the potential structure and proportions of a painting, but the actual construction, palette, colour harmony, tonal balance, light and shade, etc., are decided during the illustrative process. The overall composition is more important than being completely faithful to the contents of the photo. Parts may be omitted or changed - while staying true to the subject of the illustration, however - a painting titled "St. Ives" should probably bear some resemblance, however tenuous, to St. Ives.
I shoot photos with a Canon DSLR camera, in RAW format, then process them with Adobe LightRoom to give a high-quality JPG file. The image size is enlarged with Photoshop from the standard Canon 240dpi to 300dpi, and I use the pixel resolution of the photo for the "canvas". I often crop the photo for better composition.
I usually make a preliminary drawing using the ink tool, but not always. The illustration of Honfleur, for example, was done directly with the oil brush and without any preliminary drawing.
The next stage is to decide on the medium or media to be used - each of which has its own characteristics. With some exceptions, most of my illustrations use mixed media, i.e. different tools and utilities in the ArtRage program. I very often use a combination of ink, pastel and airbrush: ink for the basic colour, and pastel and airbrush for shading and other textures. One of the most useful features of the program is the ability to create a painting in separate layers, with the topmost layers taking precedence over the lower layers. I can create different layers for sections of the illustration and then lay a basic ground colour for each section. The little slideshow above shows preliminary use of layering in the creation of the "Still life- freesias" painting, with the back wall, table top, leaves and glass - plus their individual textures - as separate layers.
Bit by bit, the layer colours and textures are built up, the shading carried out until the illustration is completed. Another valuable tool in the program is the "eraser" brush. This tool is useful for nibbling away at a wash to create edges which look more natural than edges which have been painted in - very useful for leaf work, for example.
While the ArtRage program has been developed very much around the concept of creating sophisticated media - oil, watercolour, ink, pastel, etc., ProCreate is built on a foundation of a large selection of different brush tools, with less emphasis on the textural qualities of the media. The main difference between ProCreate and ArtRage is that the ProCreate painting is done only on to the iPad, rather than also with a separate tablet, which gives a more conventional approach to the handling of the paint tools. In other essentials - colour palettes, layering and mixing of media, the techniques are very similar.
When completed, the illustration is exported as a JPG, converted from RGB (red/blue/green) mode to CMYK - essential for quality prints - and then uploaded to the Printspace hub for storage and printing.