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Book Review – Painting For Photographers By Karen Sperling

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Before the era of photography, artists used many techniques to try to capture the moment. Most of these included working with light, color, tone, and composition. When photography came on to the scene and did a good job of capturing reality, traditional artists moved toward impressionism and other more abstract movements. As both art forms have now entered the world of digital expression, these worlds are colliding and giving artists many more venues of expression.

To compose and create a photograph feels easy to most people when it comes to creating traditional artwork, most photographers feel that to paint from photographs, you must be an artist. According to Painting For Photographers this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it is this books goal to show that anyone who can photograph can paint using photos. It is the same visual sense that drew you to photography can also help you turn your photographs into digital art work.

Painting For Photographers begins with a background in art, especially for photographers who have not taken art classes or for those who need a refresher. In fact the author is a journalist/ freelance writer who got into Painter because she wrote the first several Painter manuals. Painting For Photographers is 128 pages in length and is divided into six chapters.

Painting For Photographers

Chapter 1, "Art Lessons" begins by showing you the conccepts needed to turn your photos into paintings. You begin by learning how to choose the right kind of photo that can be successfully used for creating a painting. You then will look at choosing the colors, tones, and focal points for your painting. Next you examine composition of the image, you will see how best to develop body elements such as eyes, the nose, and hair, and then you will finish up by looking at examples from different masters of art like Hopper, Rembrandt, Renoir, and Cassatt.

Chapter 2, "Painting Tools" now introduces you to the tools of the trade. If you are going to do digital painting, along with a computer, you really need three things. Corel Painter, Adobe Photoshop, and a Wacom tablet. In this chapter you will look at what each product does and what you will use it for. Painter is your primary painting tool, Photoshop is more for image enhancement and manipulation, and the Wacom Tablet is what you use apply your brush strokes. Keep in mind that if you are serious about digital painting, a tablet is a must, and the Wacom is the industry standard.

Chapter 3, "Portraits" now gets into the real business of painting by first looking at portraits. You will begin by examining portraits in oil. Here you will begin to use the concepts that you learned in the first chapter. This includes how to add paint, working the eyes, lips, backgrounds, and more. Then you move on to other styles like watercolor, pastels, airbrush, photorealistic, impressionistic, tonal, and painterly portraits. There are also sections on auto-painted portraits as well as how to paint backgrounds.

Chapter 4, "Landscapes" seem like they should be easy, but because of their nature, they can be very complex. This chapter will show you what to look for in a photo that makes it good candidate for a landscape painting. As with portraits, for landscapes you will look at various styles including oils, watercolor, pastel, impressionistic, and auto-painting.

Chapter 5, "Pets" are similar to doing portraits, but there are some differences – most notably the fur. In this chapter you will explore painting of dogs, cats, and horses. You will learn some different techniques here for creating the backgrounds, dealing with fur and coloring.

Chapter 6, "Post-Printing" is all about what you can do after you have made your print. As the author says, the subject of printing is beyond the scope of this book. This chapter addresses what you can do with your final painting after it is printed. When dealing with paintings, most print to canvas so that you can then apply acrylic or oil paints on top of the print. First you will see how to apply a protective coating to the canvas and then you will see how to apply both acrylics as well as oils to your print to give it an actual painted look.

Painting For Photographers

Painting For Photographers is a compact, yet very informative book. It is very systematic in its approach and is filled with many examples that clearly illustrate the author's points. In many ways the book's approach is much like being in a workshop where the first part is the prep and the second is hands-on.

Obviously there is only so much that can be taught about Painter and Photoshop in a book like this, but the author does a good job about focusing on exactly what you need to know. There are plenty of other books that cover these products in more detail and I like the fact that she concentrates on the art – something that is missing in many books.

If you have looked at images made into works of art using Corel Painter and Photoshop, but were intimidated because you felt that you did not have the talent to paint, then I suggest you check out Painting For Photographers . For photographers who want to learn to paint, and for painters who want to move to the digital world, I highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • Cathy

    I introduced this book to my group of preschoolers and they loved it. The 4 year olds looked at it everyday and they had a go at using photos as inspiartion for their artwork and I could not believe the quality of paintings they produced. I’m sure the author would not have anticipated this interest from such yound artists!