Carlyn Beccia – Digital Painting for the Complete Beginner. Includes techniques using Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop

Jul 18, 2019

Carlyn Beccia – Digital Painting for the Complete Beginner. Includes techniques using Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop (Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, 2012).

Back in Spring, we introduced a new series here at the Reading section of digitalEPIGRAPHY, which would include some of our favorite books regarding the techniques and methods used in creating digital art. Our next entry is Carlyn Beccia’s manual “Digital Painting for the Complete Beginner”, a practical guide to digital painting with Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. Beccia is an artist, graphic designer, author and illustrator of children’s books, who also teaches digital painting. Her book aims to “translate traditional painting techniques into the digital medium so that you can push your own boundaries.”

Excerpts from the Introduction

“As everyone knows, art is very subjective, so my teaching method will be influenced by what I like and dislike. I am personally not moved by overly blended, super smooth digital art that looks, well … digital.

I love art where you can see the hand in the painting and want to reach out and touch the paint. My favorite artists are Cézanne, Sargent, Leyendecker, and, most of all, Michelangelo. These artists were all very expressive painters. Their brushwork feels alive to me. They do not merely create textural eye candy nor do they only model a form with their paint. Their paint leads your eye around their forms. Although I will never be able to paint like these masters, the tutorials in this book are inspired by them and written to encourage you to combine the digital medium with the old masters’ techniques.”

“You could master any one of the digital painting programs on the market today and still be a lousy painter, but if you don’t learn the basic software skills then you will never be able to create masterpieces.”

Painter or Photoshop?

“I use both programs in my workflow and I would not be able to sacrifice either. I use Photoshop for all my collage work, color correcting, fixing composition problems, and preparing for press. I use Painter for all my brushwork… if you cannot afford both then hopefully this book will help you decide which program is right for you. In the end, software programs are just tools. It’s the artist that makes the difference between a good and a great painting.”

Book description

“For readers with little to no experience of digital painting, this guide begins with the fundamentals, including understanding brushes, canvases, and available media – with opportunities to practice and experiment along the way. Once you’ve got a taste for the tools, supports, and media available, follow the tutorials to create a variety of artwork, including drawings, sketches in pastel, watercolor and oil paintings, and mixed media pieces.”

Digital Painting for the Complete Beginner. Includes techniques using Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop. Contents.

The book is divided into two main parts. The first part is called “Digital Painting Essentials” (Part 1, chapters 1-15), which offers an array of computer techniques for beginners. It begins with the absolute basics (such as file types, color modes etc.), then introduces the toolboxes of Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. Throughout, the book covers both applications and explains the differences between the two and which is recommended to use in certain cases. The first part also discusses Layers, Masks, color and brush settings, printing, and many other features essential for a digital artist. 

The second half of the book is made up of 12 tutorials, which are built upon the knowledge acquired in “Digital Painting Essentials”. Each tutorial is numbered with a difficulty level of 1-3, from easy to more advanced, and focuses on a new subject (for example applying patterns, kaleidoscope painting, digital collages, capturing light, watercolors etc. The last two lessons are a collaboration with artist Jennifer Morris.). All tutorials begin with the introduction of a digital artwork, which is then followed by a step-by-step guide through the process of creating them. The application a tutorial is based on is indicated at the beginning of each chapter: some are either for Photoshop or Painter users, but 4 are doable in both applications. All in all, there are 8 tutorials each for Photoshop and Corel Painter users.

Some of the brushes, patterns, and textured backgrounds used in the tutorials have been uploaded to the author’s website, so they can easily be downloaded if one would like to use them in their own digital art. 

Sample pages

What we like

  • There can be no digital art without knowing the medium. This book is not a manual for Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter, it aims to teach general digital painting techniques rather than how to use a particular software. The author may be drawing digitally, but she is aiming for a paper drawn look that one doesn't see much often when accessing digital media. As our readers should be aware by now, at digitalEPIGRAPHY our application of choice is Adobe Photoshop.
  • The first section of the book called "Digital Painting Essentials" has a useful array of techniques that are immediately applicable, including a detailed tutorial on how to scan and clean up a traditional pencil sketch for use in Photoshop or Painter. Epigraphers using mixed media or converting from traditional documentation methods towards digital might find this section particularly useful for their work.
  • Carlyn's explanations are clear with plenty of visual examples. She covers what tools are available and how to use them, while assuming the person reading knows very little about the program. Each chapter is corroborated with a plethora of excellent color illustrations, screen shots of the tools and settings for easy reference, and a “quick tips” box with useful tips to apply to one’s own art.
  • The author has a chatty and easily accessible writing style. And, despite the whimsical illustrations throughout the book, including most sample artworks of the tutorials which some might find slightly off-putting, the book is very professiona. The projects are fresh and creative, and most of all, helpful in showing the possibilities of digital artistry. 

Additional reading

You can purchase “Digital Painting for the Complete Beginner by Carlyn Beccia” from Amazon US ($19.68), Amazon UK (£12.56), and Amazon France (EUR 17.49). It is also available at Barnes&Noble ($23.62).

To read more about Carlyn Beccia’s books and other projects, visit her website.

Précis and commentary by Júlia Schmied

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