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Book Review: Photoshop Studio with Bert Monroy – Digital Painting by Bert Monroy

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If you have never seen the art work of Bert Monroy then you need to check out his website and especially his digital painting Damen. I had the pleasure to attend one of his classes prior to the unveiling of Damen and was just awed by the complexity in its creation.

Keep in mind that this is not photography, this is digital painting. The painting took him over 2000 hours to create, is 40 x 120 inches (3.33 ft x 10 ft) in size, spread across almost 50 Photoshop files, had 15,000 layers, and weighed in at 1.7 GB after it was flattened. Talk about having some file management skills.

Photoshop Studio with Bert Monroy – Digital Painting was written to inspire others to look at Photoshop in a different way, to approach the tools from ways that are different than are outlined in the manual – in the ways that are different than most people use Photoshop.

Keep in mind that Photoshop Studio with Bert Monroy – Digital Painting is not for beginners. Monroy deals with rather complex issues such as Calculations and Layers Styles. These are pretty creative techniques and you have to be fairly confident in your skills. That is not to say you have to be an expert to use these techniques, but rather you have to know your layers from your channels and your paths from your pixels.

Photoshop Studio with Bert Monroy – Digital Painting is both a book about the artist and how he came to create the work that he has produced, as well as a technique book about using Photoshop to create digital art. The main book is 312 pages and contains 10 chapters. There are also five bonus chapters via PDF that you can get online when you register your book as well as the sample images that you can work with from Chapter 10 tutorials.

Chapter 1, “The Workflow,” discusses the thought process that goes through creating a digital painting. In this chapter, Monroy explains his workflow from getting his reference material to the planning of composition. Chapter 2, “Lights and Shadows” gets into some of the concepts of lights and shadows that are used as components to give an image its character.

Chapters 3 through 9 each focus on a specific painting. They are presented in the order in which they were created. In these chapters, he goes in to the how and why of what he does. Throughout the book you are given insight into the growth of the artist beginning with the work “Oakland”, in which he began using a new Mac G4 Tower that gave him more power to build better images because he could now create bigger files.

As you traverse through the paintings you learn about techniques as well. Some of the things you will learn to do is to build a stone wall, create neon signs, create rust, show fading reflections, adding grime, create a manhole cover, and many, many other things. These all take you to his latest release “Lunch in Tiburon.” For his final image, he then explores his complex work, Damen.

Chapter 10 features tutorials. Now that you have seen what he has done in his many works, it is now your turn to try your hand. This chapter contains a series of tutorials that you can follow. In fact when you register your book, you can download the PSD files to work with. Some are simple and some are complex. All of them are designed to let you explore many of the techniques he has highlighted in the book.

The five additional chapters that contain 116 additional pages are online and in the form of tutorials that cover brushes, channels, filters, layers, and pen tool patterns. These are effectively like getting personal instruction from the artist himself. Remember I made mention of him having some file management skills? His 35 page layers PDF will show you how he manages to reuse items for the creation of new work.

I was glad to see Photoshop Studio with Bert Monroy – Digital Painting being released. I know that the author has had previous books published; in fact he is credited with being a part of the very first Photoshop book when the product was first released, but the prior ones were for previous versions of the software and are currently out of print.

I have been a big fan of his work, and as such I am a big fan of his book. So I recommend that you go off and take a look at his website, and if you are comfortable working in Photoshop, then I highly recommend this book. Even if you are not as comfortable with Photoshop, perhaps just reading the book will inspire you.

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About T. Michael Testi

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