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Video Training Review: Artistic Portraits In Photoshop With Susi Lawson

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In her fourth video, Artistic Portraits In Photoshop, Susi Lawson continues her work of teaching new techniques for transforming photographs into works of art. In this video you will be primarily looking at the portrait through the use of Photoshop.

Along with winning Best of Show in the 2007 Photoshop User Awards, and first place in the Portrait/Wedding category of the 2008 Photoshop User Awards, Susi Lawson has continued to add to her awards with first place in the 2008 "Just Print It!" Moab paper contest and first place in the WPPI Kodak Award Photography Book in 2009.

Susi Lawson – Artistic Portraits In PhotoshopArtistic Portraits In Photoshop contains 19 videos covering 11 lessons that detail how to work with Photoshop to create artistic portraits. It covers techniques of working with brushes, painting portraits, and how to use photos to begin your work as well as how to create brushes in Photoshop. It comes on three disks; two of the disks contain the videos, and one has the necessary images so you can follow along.

The training begins with Introduction to Artistic Portraits in Photoshop. This provides a fundamental layout of what you will be taught in this series. It provides an overview of the techniques that you will need, and tells you where to find the training files as well as how to get help if you find yourself confused.

Lesson 1, Overview of Basic Tools is a brief overview of some of the skills that you will need to have in order to work with this video. The instructor covers how to work with layers, blend modes, opacity, dodge and burn tools, brushes and brush dynamics, channel mixer, levels, as well as several other tools in the toolbar.

Lesson 2, Custom Hair Brushes now gets into creating your own custom Photoshop brushes. In this lesson you will focus on how to create brushes for hair. She begins by building a simple brush and then shows how to make it look more realistic through the use of brush presets. Then she shows how to implement the brush so that you can use it in your art work.

Lesson 3, Paper Flower/Paper Flower Details takes an image of a girl and a photo of a pattern captured off of a paper bag and merges them into a portrait. In this lesson you will learn how to merge two images, work with the marquee tool, and the transform control. Then you will work with brushes to lighten up the girl's skin, highlight her hair, and lighten up the image.

Then you will look at some additional cleanup as well as how to add more items where none exist, such as placing flowers into the child's hand. This is done by taking the image of a flower from the paper bag by making a selection and duplicating them and then hand painting the stem.

Lesson 4, Urban Attitude/Urban Details shows how to create the image that is on the cover of the DVD. This begins with picture of the boy and an image of rusting electrical box. In this lesson you will work with clone tools, transform tools, and the burn tool to create the basis of the image.

Once you complete the image, you are then shown how to step back and look at ways to make a more definitive impact. First you will see how to make a border around the image, add some diffusion around the subject, and use of the dodge tool to bring out highlights of the subjects hair.

Lesson 5, Harry's Hideout now takes on merging two photos instead of a photo and a texture image to create a portrait using an image texture overlay. This time you will look at using blend modes to expose the underlying image, convert it to a black and white image, and then add a blue tint to add a bit of mystery. Finally, you will create and use a rain brush to give it a final look.

Susi Lawson – Artistic Portraits In Photoshop

Lesson 6, Watercolor Painting/Surface Blur for Watercolor Look examines how to work with a simple snapshot and turn it in to a work of watercolor art. You start off by increasing the canvas area to give you more area to work in. Next you will make some changes to the image by using some auto adjustments, curves, dodging, airbrushing the face, adjusting the hair, and the use cloning to remove some unwanted items.

Once you are ready, you will use the smudge tool to pull some of the existing color into the new border you created. You will continue to make the rest of the image into a traditional watercolor. You will see a number of little tricks in this video that will help you finish off this painting by bringing back certain elements of the portrait to make it more realistic.

Lesson 7, Retro Wrap/Retro Wrap Hair is a lesson on creating one of the more Rockwell-looking images that the instructor is known for. In this lesson you begin with a photo and an image of a background that was taken from some gift wrap and then cut the background out of the photo so that the gift wrap comes through. You will also make some other adjustments.

Next, using airbrushing, you will spend quite a bit of time learning how to work the photo. You will learn how to work the skin, the lips, the eyes, as well as the other objects that are in the photo. Finally you will spend quite a bit of time working on enhancing the hair for an illustrative look.

Lesson 8, Snow Globe Portrait Parts 1 & 2 now gets more creative with putting one image into the scene of another. This video takes the image of a girl who is wearing a sweater and putting her into the image of a snow globe that contains two snowmen. You start by changing the sweater into a coat and adding a matching knitted cap.

Next you will cut the girl out of the old image and insert her into the globe. You will see how to resize her to fit into the globe and make adjustments so she fits the scene properly. Then once that is done, you will see how to make additional enhancements to make it a much more illustrative scene with the look of a Christmas card.

Lesson 9, Snow Angel Parts 1-3 works with another little girl and creates a more vintage Christmas card style of image. This takes images of a candy cane, a cap, and a winter sky. You begin by creating a couple of new snowflake brushes, and then set up the image with the new winter sky background.

You will see more advanced techniques of transforming to form fit a two dimensional cap into a more 3D look, closing up the buttons on a sweater, adding a collar to the sweater, and adding the candy cane, as well as adding shadows to make it more realistic.

Then you will work the skin, lips, eyes, and hair. Much of this is similar to what you have learned before just with different techniques to fit different situations. Finally you will finish off with adding texture and snowflakes for special effects.

Susi Lawson – Artistic Portraits In Photoshop

Lesson 10, Custom Moon Brush examines how to take a photograph, in this case the moon, and use it to create a brush. Here you see how to select and create a brush from a single photographic image that can be used in your images and photographs.

Lesson 11, Creative Framing instructs you how to create a frame from another image. In this case it is made from the image of a wooden wall and in fact forms the frame that is scene on the image from the front cover.

As with all of Lawson's videos, I found Artistic Portraits In Photoshop, incredibly easy to follow along with and it will have you working with these new techniques from the first lessons. What I like in these videos is the fact that you are not shown just techniques, but rather given complete projects to work with. When you are done you will have a sense of real accomplishment.

What also works is that you first get a very short lesson on the base fundamentals of Photoshop and then on working with brushes. Then you get right into complete projects that you can accomplish with the basic skills. Thorough you are given additional skills that increase your abilities as your confidence grows.

Artistic Portraits In Photoshop is available from Susi Lawson Photography for $80.00 plus shipping and handling. You can also check out her other videos as well. Best of all, the previous three other videos; "The Fine Art of Photoshop", "Portrait Magic," and "Photoshop Magic" are available at a special bundled price.

If you are still not sure, what I suggest is that you check out Lawson's gallery over at Susi Lawson Fine Art Photography. My guess is that before long you will find yourself wanting to see how she does it. I very highly recommend Artistic Portraits in Photoshop.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • http://www.studiowestphotoaz.com Jeff Hansen

    Michael couldn’t have said it better. I too, highly recommend all of Susi Lawson’s video tutorials. Take your photography to the next level with these excellent educational videos.