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Who else could supply the ultimate tips for using Painter along with Photoshop than the award-winning fine artist, designer and educator Cher Threinen-Pendarvis! Her latest work The Painter X WOW Book has hit the shelves

Painter: Creating a Woodcut from a Photo

... Cher Threinen-Pendarvis

before and after Open a photo and clean up the background; copy the Canvas to make a new layer; create a color woodcut plate on the Canvas; create a black woodcut plate on the new layer; retouch the black plate; add clouds and texture.

At right you see John Derry's original digital photo of the pagoda, contrasted with the woodcut we'll be creating in this tutorial. (expand)

With Painter's Woodcut filter you can start with a photo and achieve a look similar to a conventional wood block print. You can simply use the color arrived at by the Woodcut filter defaults, or you can enjoy complete control over choosing the colors.

The traditional wood block printing process involves simplification of detail in the lines and color areas. Inspired by Japanese wood block prints from the 1800s, John Derry created Pagoda, which is based on one of his own digital photos. Painter's Woodcut filter helped him to reduce the number of colors in the image and to fine-tune the colors for the final artwork.

1 Choosing a photo.
Open a photo with good contrast and color. A bold image with a strong focal point will work best for this effect.

2 Cleaning up the sky.
To focus more attention on the pagoda, Derry simplified the sky by selecting it and applying a blue fill. Choose the Magic Wand in the Toolbox and click in the sky. Adjust the Tolerance in the Property Bar until most of the sky is selected; at this point, edges are most important, since you can clean up any small internal "debris" by painting on the mask later.

wand tool

Save the selection as a mask in the Channels palette by choosing Select, Save Selection.
In the Channels palette, open the eye icon to the left of the mask's name.
Choose black in the Colors palette and paint on the mask where you need to add more mask; use white to remove areas of the mask (for instance, to remove debris). To use the mask to isolate the sky, choose Select, Load Selection. (See Chapter 5 to read more about working with masks and selections.) Next, fill the selection with blue by choosing Select, Fill with Current Color.

image mask and layers
Above, left: The Image viewed with the mask eye icon open, and (center) the active selection with the blue fill applied

3 Setting up layers.

The Woodcut process is easier to control when the color elements are on a separate layer from the black elements. Derry started his layering by making a duplicate of the original image. To put a duplicate of the image canvas onto a layer, choose Select, All (Ctrl/1-A), press the Alt/Option key and choose Select, Float. In the Layers palette, turn the new layer's visibility off by toggling shut the eye icon to the left of its name.
(Above right: The visibility of Layer 1 is turned off and the Canvas is selected.)

4 Cutting the color "wood block."

In the Layers palette, click the canvas name to activate it for the colors. To access the Woodcut dialog box, choose Effects, Surface Control, Woodcut. When the dialog box appears, disable the Output Black check box. The options for Black Output will now be grayed out. In the lower portion of the window, accept the default number of colors (16), and smooth out the edges of the color blocks by adjusting the Color Edge slider to the right. (Derry set it at approximately 11.46.)

color dialogs
Increasing the Color Edge to make simpler, smoother shapes (left) and brightening the gold color (right)

Woodcut previews
It's possible to view two previews in the Woodcut dialog box: the working woodcut image and the original image. By default the woodcut image is visible. To see the original image, drag the Grabber hand in the Preview window. When you release, the preview of the woodcut will be visible again.
The Woodcut dialog box with the standard preview showing a color woodcut image and dragging with the Grabber hand to reveal the original image
When the edges were as he liked them, Derry fine-tuned a few of the colors. For instance, he chose a tan color swatch (at the bottom of the dialog box) and made the color brighter. Click on a color square to select it; a red outline will appear around it. Now that it's selected, you can choose a new color in the Colors palette and the swatch will change to the new color. To sample a color directly from the image Preview window, press the Ctrl/1 key and click on the Preview. To change the color, choose a new color in the Colors palette.

To see other areas of your image in the Preview window, drag with the grabber hand cursor to move around the image preview. When you're satisfied with the colors, click OK to accept.

Next: Woodcut Previews and Cutting the Black Plate


Excerpted from The Painter X Wow! Book by Cher Threinen-Pendarvis. Copyright ©2007. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press.

The Painter X Wow! Book

Cher Threinen-Pendarvis Cher Threinen-Pendarvis An award-winning artist, author and educator based in San Diego, California, Cher Threinen-Pendarvis has always worked with traditional art-making tools. Also a pioneer in digital art, Cher has created illustrations using the Macintosh computer since 1987. She has been widely recognized for her mastery of Painter, Photoshop and the Wacom pressure-sensitive tablet, using these electronic tools since they were first released.

bullet The Painter X Wow! Book is the book that all fine artists must have to get the very most out of Painter! It's not just about using Painter -- it's about inspiring examples and techniques for creating fine art, photography, graphic design, multimedia, and film that will raise your work to a new level.

In this new edition, bestselling author and renowned artist Cher Threinen-Pendarvis takes her readers step-by-step through this revolutionary program, revealing the best practices of numerous digital artists. With her clear, instructive approach, Cher quickly gets beginners up to speed and provides more advanced users with additional insight on the latest creative and productive techniques.

coverDon't just dream about getting better --
become the best you can be with this latest edition of
The Painter X Wow! Book

If you use a Graphics Tablet

Then you must have The Photoshop and Painter Artist Tablet Book! This is the ultimate for artists, illustrators, photographers, and designers of all levels who want to tap the creative power of using a tablet with Photoshop and Painter and develop their own unique style of painting with these applications. If you don't have a tablet, you should try one! If you get into tablet painting, then you'll definitely want to pick up a copy

bullet See our complete review of The Photoshop and Painter Artist Tablet Book
bullet See our previous interview with Cher: The painter behind Painter WOW
bullet See another exclusive DTG interview with Cher: Working with Graphics Tablets


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