One of the things I’m asked about the most is how I’ve done my color paintings. Quite often, they begin as black and white negatives. I use three basic techniques, and usually combine the techniques at some point. Let me just outline them briefly:
1. Mask some area in photoshop and then color that. I could write an entire post about the various ways of filling in these masks, but let’s just say that you should feel free to fill them with anything that Photoshop has available such as: solid color, gradient, pattern, photo filter… whatever will give you the effect you want. In this image I see that I definitely put some Photoshop patterns in (on the pocketbook and strap for example). Work in non-destructive layers. The biggest tip I can give you is to make use of the various blending techniques. Most often I’ll use “soft light.” But let’s just say that technique one is PHOTOSHOP MASK AND FILL.
2. Another approach is to use NIK Viveza to work without masking and paint areas of the image. As you go along, you should develop various palettes that you can use over and over – in this example I’m showing that I have a skin tone palette. This method is the most time consuming, but the benefit is that you immediately see what you effect is and you always have control over every aspect of a color, i.e. saturation, structure, hue, brightness, contrast…
3. NIK Color Effex is another approach. This is generally used for coloring broader areas. In the example above, I haven’t done much with the background, and I’ll probably use NIK Color Effex at some point to work with the background or to completely change the entire look of the image. In other words, sometimes I’ll work on small areas with the other methods and at some point go to Color Effex and using the Control Points completely change the entire look of the image. There are actually rare cases where I’ll take the thing that I’ve colored with a pastel look and turn it into a grungy bleached out or solarized image. Generally, I fall back on these latter techniques when the image just doesn’t work and I’m lost. And usually when I’ve gotten to this point there’s really nothing to save the image because it was a bad idea to start off with.
You just don’t know what is going to knock your socks off when you first sit there and begin to apply color.
I should also say that some of the more surreal color images are heavily photoshopped (technique 1) in the sense that shapes are added, changed, or removed.
I may also play with HDR or tonemapping at some point. Again – this is usually because I’m lost and just don’t like the way it’s turning out. In this case – I’m showing you an image that I really don’t care for very much. And you can see that the last two images in the sequence are the result of Tonemapping – and they really don’t help much. But I’ll leave the image sitting around and not give up on it and one day I may have an idea that will make the image worthwhile.
As I say, the biggest thing is to let your imagination flow, and to be used to the tools so you don’t have to think much about the technique – but equally important is the ability to sit back and see if what you did works. Self-editing. I could do another post just on the ability to self-edit. But what it gets down to is the ability to separate your ego from all the work you’ve put into the image. How many times I’ve worked on something for weeks, only to look at it one day and say – this really stinks. After that you might try to figure out why and whether there’s anything you can do about it.
But with each image – even if the final product isn’t very good – you will probably learn some new technique that ends up helping you on another image.
And here I’ll leave you with an image that does work.