Tools Help

Index

  1. Introduction
  2. Getting Started
  3. Installing the Tools
  4. The Workspace
  5. Papers
  6. Picking a Painting Tool
  7. Brushes
  8. Color Swatches
  9. Painting Palette
  10. Watercolor/Gouache Actions (wg)
  11. Charcoal Pastel Actions (cp)
  12. General Actions

Introduction

This document is the help for version 9 of the tools.

Three versions of the tools are available:

  1. Watercolor & Gouache Only: items marked with (wg)
  2. Charcoal and Pastels Only: items marked with (cp)
  3. Complete Toolset: Watercolor, Charcoal and Pastels (includes all the tools in 1. and 2. above)
Any item which is not marked with a (w) or (cp) is available for all three versions.

Note: If you had already purchased the Watercolor/Gouache toolset or the Charcoal/Pastel toolset and you have now purchased the other toolset, the download file will be for the Complete toolset, so the installation will replace the PaintingDigitally tools currently installed.

Getting Started

You need to have or do the following before you can start to paint:
  1. A Wacom Intuos Pro tablet, preferably with the Art Pen as this gives rotation as well as tilt (although you can paint with the Grip Pen). The Medium tablet is ideal although you can paint with the Small tablet. Any tablet from the Intuos 4 onwards is fine. You should set the tablet sensitivity using the Wacom Tablet Properties app. Other makes of tablet may be fine, but I have not tested any.
  2. Install the tools (see Installation v9 Tools).
  3. Change the workspace to the Watercolor Workspace or Watercolor Workspace Minimal (the latter is recommended as it gives you the biggest painting area).
  4. Make the paper (see below).
  5. Pick a brush and color and paint on the painting layer (Watercolor, Gouache or Pastel/Charcoal Layer).

Installing the Tools

To install the tools please follow the appropriate link below:
  • For Version 9 tools: Installation Version 9
  • IMPORTANT: For Version 9 tools and Photoshop CS5 or later you should run Photoshop as Admin in Windows and as root user in Mac (Running as Root User in OSX) otherwise some of the scripts needed to load new papers may not run. If you installed the tools without Admin/root privilege just re-install by running Photoshop as Admin/root.

    The Workspace

    You can select the painting workspace (Painting Workspace or Painting Workspace Minimal) from the Menu: Window/Workspace.

    Painting Workspace

    The Painting Workspace is set up to provide easy access to the tools, swatches, actions etc., while still giving a reasonable painting space. It also sets up the keyboard shortcuts.

    Painting Workspace Minimal

    The Painting Workspace Minimal is organised to maximise the painting area so that all of the panels are minimised. Keyboard shortcuts are provided to make it quick and easy to access any panel or other painting function.

    Keyboard Shortcuts

    Both the Painting Workspace and the Painting Workspace Minimal have the same keyboard shortcuts:

  • Ctrl P: Print view. This is normally the best size to print at.
  • Ctrl Alt P: Preset Manager. This is useful if you wish to quickly reorganise your tools. (Mac: Command Option P)
  • Ctrl /: Lock/Unlock Layer. (Mac: Command /)
  • B: Brush
  • S: Smudge Tool
  • E: Eraser
  • H: Hand Tool
  • I: Eyedropper
  • N: Clone Stamp Tool
  • R: Rotate Tool
  • F2: Tool Presets
  • F3: Brush Settings
  • F4: Brush Presets
  • F5: Swatches
  • F6: Color Picker
  • F7: Layers
  • F8: Styles
  • F9: Actions
  • F10: History
  • F11: Info
  • F12: Navigator
  • The panels are organised in the reverse order to the function keys, that is from top to bottom (so F2/Tools Presets at the bottom and F12/Navigator at the top).

    Action Shortcuts

    Note: If you find that your Actions have no shortcuts this is probably due to a Photoshop bug. To get the shortcuts back go to the Action menu and select Replace Actions and click on the 'PaintingDigitally Actions v9.atn' file. This should hopefully get your Action shortcuts back. If it does not then you can put the shortcuts in manually by removing Button mode (Action Menu) and double-clicking on the action (on the blank space, not on the text of the action). You will then be able to specify a function key (or shortcut).

    Papers

    Making the Paper

    To make the paper see the video below or follow these instructions:

    Making the Watercolor/Gouache Paper (wg)

    To make the paper (which means making the correct layers in Photoshop to give a watercolor effect when you paint) you should:

    1. Create a new document at a resolution of 150 Pixels/Inch. The size of the document should be your intended print or display size. The resolution MUST be 150 Pixels/Inch. The Color Profile should be either Adobe RGB or sRGB. (Note: Adobe RGB is preferable if the intended output is print; sRGB if the intended output is the Web.)
    2. Run the Make Watercolor/Gouache Paper action.
    3. Make sure that the Color Swatch loaded is the Winsor Newton Adobe RGB swatch if your document is in Adobe RGB, or the Winsor Newton sRGB swatch if your document is in sRGB.

    Making the Charcoal/Pastel Paper (cp)

    To make the paper (which means making the correct layers in Photoshop to give a charcoal/pastel effect when you paint) you should:

    1. Create a new document at a resolution of 150 Pixels/Inch. The size of the document should be your intended print or display size. The resolution MUST be 150 Pixels/Inch. The Color Profile should be either Adobe RGB or sRGB. (Note: Adobe RGB is preferable if the intended output is print; sRGB if the intended output is the Web.)
    2. Run the Make Charcoal/Pastel Paper.
    3. Make sure that the Color Swatch loaded is the Unison Adobe RGB swatch if your document is in Adobe RGB, or the Unison sRGB swatch if your document is in sRGB.

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    Changing Papers

    After you have set up the watercolor/gouache or charcoal/pastel layers by running the Make Watercolor/Gouache Paper or Make Charcoal/Pastel Paper action, you can change the paper by running one of the actions shown at the right. You should do this before painting, but you CAN do it even after you have completed your painting. HOWEVER, when you change paper, the brushes for that paper are loaded and many of these (especially the Dry on Dry, Charcoal and Pastel brushes) have a texture which is the same as the paper texture. So if you change the paper after you have painted, the texture of the painting will no longer match the texture of the paper.

    The first 12 papers are watercolor/gouache papers and the next 12 papers are charcoal/pastel papers. If you have purchased the Complete toolset you will have all 24 papers and the brushes and erasers for these papers. If you have purchased the Watercolor/Gouache toolset then you will have the first 12 papers and the corresponding brushes. If you have purchased the Charcoal/Pastel toolset then you will have the last 12 papers and the corresponding brushes. Note that with the complete toolset, the brushes will work on all the papers correctly, with the right texture. So you will be able to paint with pastels on a watercolor paper or paint in watercolor on a pastel paper.

    Note: For PreCS5 tools the brushes are not automatically loaded (this is a restriction in Photohop). Instead a message will be displayed asking you to load the brushes. To do so you should open the Menu item in the Brush Presets panel, select Replace Brushes and click on the brush name for this paper in the drop down list. Click OK to replace the brushes.

    Changing Paper Color

    To change the paper color use the Change Paper Color action. The action first desaturates the background layer and it then creates a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. To change the paper color simply tweak the Hue, Saturation and Darkness sliders until you get the paper color that you want.

    This action is particularly useful for pastel painting, but it can also be useful for gouache and charcoal. If you are using a watercolor paper that has some color and you want to make it white, you can use the action as a quick way of achieving this.

    Changing Paper to Custom Pattern

    The Change Paper to Pattern action can be used to change the paper to your own or to a Photoshop built-in pattern at any time after the Make Watercolor/Gouache Paper action or the Make Charcoal/Pastel action has been run.

    The following steps should be followed:

    1. You must have previously run the Make Watercolor/Gouache Paper action or the Make Charcoal/Pastel action and not changed the names of the basic layers made by this action.
    2. Run the Change Paper to Pattern action.
    3. When asked to do so by the action, do Edit/Fill.
    4. Choose Pattern for the Contents (as shown at the right).
    5. Select your custom pattern from the drop-down list.
    6. Press OK.
    7. Apply a Levels adjustment to the layer if the paper is too dark (Background Locked will be selected).
    8. If you wish to change the paper color apply a Hue/Saturation adjustment to the layer.
    9. If you have set the actions to Button mode click on the Change Paper to Pattern action again to complete the action (the action color will have changed to bright red, indicating that it has not completed).
    10. OR ...If you have not set the actions to Button mode click on the Play Action icon again to complete the action.
    11. If the Paper (Overlay) group is darkening the paper too much, unlock the Pattern (Multiply) layer and apply a Levels adjustment to it. Then re-lock the layer.

    Note that the brushes that have a texture will not have the correct texture for the pattern you have selected. You can modify them by changing the Texture setting in the Brush settings panel (Window/Brush, or click on 3-paint-brushes Icon, or F3).

    Adjusting the Paper

    You can make changes to the paper after you have made it:

    1. Paper Color: use the Change Paper Color action to change the paper color (see Changing Paper Color)
    2. Paper Texture: unlock the Background Locked layer and apply a Levels adjustment to it. You can reduce the texture by moving the middle slider to the left or increase the texture by moving the middle slider to the right. You can also apply a sharpen or blur filter to the layer to make the texture more pronounced or softer, respectively. Lock the Background Locked layer when you have finished. If you find that the Paper (Overlay) group is adding too much or too little texture to the paint then you can reduce or increase the opacity of the group.

    Picking a Painting Tool

    The painting tools are the Brushes, Erasers and Blenders. There are two ways in which these can be picked or selected: through the Brush Presets, and through the Tool Presets:

    Brush Presets

    When you create the paper (or replace the paper with a different one), the Brush presets for that paper are automatically loaded (this includes the brushes, erasers and blenders). To select a brush preset:

    1. Either do Window/Brush Presets, or click on the Brush Presets icon (two brushes), or press F4.
    2. Press B to select the Brush tool, E to select the Eraser tool, or S to select the Smudge tool (the blender). Alternatively you can click on the Brush, Eraser or Smudge icon on the toolbar at the left of the workspace.
    3. Pick a brush from the selected library, adjust its settings in the Options panel at the top (typically the Opacity for brushes and erasers and Strength for the smudge tools) and paint (erase or smudge).

    Notes:
    1. When you go from one preset to another (say Brush to Eraser, or Smudge tool to Brush), Photoshop remembers the last preset you used. So, for example, if you press B and select the DOD Fan brush and you then press S and select the Smudge Blender Soft, when you press B again the DOD Fan brush will automatically be selected. This makes it easy to go from one preset type to another.
    2. The brush, eraser and smudge options (Window/Options) are 'sticky'. So, for example, if you set the Brush Opacity to 65% then all brushes will have an opacity setting of 65% until you change the setting. The same thing applies to the eraser and smudge tool options. However they are only sticky within their category. So, for example, if you set the Brush Opacity to 65% and then set the Eraser Opacity to 80%, the Brush Opacity is not changed. All brushes will now have an opacity of 65% and all erasers an opacity of 80%, until you next change the settings.
    3. From the Brush Presets you can select any of the brushes as either a Brush, Eraser or Smudge tool. This means that you can select a tool that was designed to be a brush, say, and use it as an eraser or as a blender. This may be useful at times, but it is not the way in which the Watercolor Tools have been designed to be used. However the tools are given descriptive names (for example 'Eraser Texture', 'DOD Bristle Dry' and 'Smudge Water Run') so you just need to make sure that when you have a particular tool type selected that you pick a brush for that tool type (for example if you have the Smudge Tool selected then you could pick the 'Smudge Water Run' brush, but you should not pick the 'DOD Bristle Dry' brush).
    4. To make it easier to select the correct preset (Brush, Eraser or Smudge tool), the Brush Presets are organised with all of the brushes first, then all of the erasers, and finally all of the blenders. Each category is also separated by a label, as shown here.
    5. There are a large number of brushes, erasers and blenders (around 300). This doesn't mean that you need to be familiar with them all! For most paintings you should only need to use a handful of brushes, erasers and blenders: you will find after initially familiarizing yourselves with the tools that certain tools suit your way of painting, and these are the tools that you will use most of the time. The remaining tools will be very useful however: when you want a particular effect just go through the other tools until you find one that does what you want. This is the main reason for the large list of tools.

    Tool Presets

    When you create the paper (or replace the paper with a different one), the Tool presets for that paper are automatically loaded (this includes the brushes, erasers and blenders). To select a tool preset:

    1. Either do Window/Tool Presets or click on the Tool Presets icon (screw driver and spanner) or press F2. Make sure that Current Tool Only is checked at the bottom of the panel.
    2. Press B to select the Brush Presets, E to select the Eraser Presets, or S to select the Smudge Presets (the blenders). Alternatively you can click on the Brush, Eraser or Smudge icon on the toolbar at the left of the workspace.
    3. Pick a tool and paint. Note: the tool settings (Size, Mode, Opacity etc) are set at whatever they were when you created the tool, but you can change them if you wish. However if you pick a different tool and then go back to this one, the settings will revert to their created settings.

    Note: Turn on the 'Current Tool Only' checkbox at the bottom of the Tool Presets panel: this will make it easier to find the tool you want as only brushes will be listed when you click on B, only erasers when you click on E and only blenders when you click on S.

    In Version 8 of the tools and before, the main mechanism for picking a tool was from the Tool Presets panel. From Version 9 onwards it is from either the Brush Presets panel or the Tool Presets panel.

    These are the main advantages/disadvantages of using the Tools preset panel over the Brush presets panel:

  • The Tools panel distinguishes between Brushes, Erasers and Smudge tools, whereas the Brush panel sees all of these as Brushes. This means that when you use the Tools panel you cannot accidentally use a blender as a brush, for example, whereas you can when you use the Brushes panel.
  • The Tools panel has a Current Tool Only checkbox which means that only the current tools are shown when the checkbox is ticked (for example, if you press B to select a brush, only brushes are listed). This shortens the list of tools displayed and makes it easier to find the required tool.
  • The Tool Option settings are burnt in to each tool in the Tools panel. So, for example, if the tool is created with an opacity setting of 60%, whenever the tool is picked it will have an opacity setting of 60%. If you change the setting and then click on the tool the setting will go back to 60%. This can be an advantage, but it can also be quite a nuisance, especially if the tool has been created by someone who paints in a different way to the way that you paint. In the Brushes panel on the other hand, the tool option settings are set at whatever you choose and remain at the same setting when you choose a new tool of the same type. So you could set the opacity for brushes to 30% and the opacity for erasers at 80%; then whenever you pick a brush the opacity will be at 30%, and whenever you pick an eraser the opacity will be at 80%.
  • As it's very easy to create a tool preset from a brush preset (as shown in the video clip below), one way of working is for you to create your own tool presets from the brush presets. This gives you a convenient way of choosing which subset of the tools you want and what option settings you want the tool to be at. However you should give the tool you have made a distinctive name (for example by prefixing the tool name with a '*', say) otherwise the tools you have created will be overwritten when you make/change paper.

    My recommendation is to use the Tool presets rather than the Brush presets if you are an occasional user of the PaintingDigitally tools. For more advanced users I would recommend using the Brush presets panel: there is an advantage, when painting, to always be aware of your brush settings: so you should normally always pick a brush, test it's setting (typically the Opacity setting for a brush) and modify it as required before painting. This is the digital equivalent of diluting the paint to the thickness that you require before applying it to the paper. But there isn't a right or wrong choice: some prefer to use the Brush presets panel and others the Tools presets panel, and for that reason I have included both.


    How to create new tool presets:

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    Brushes

      Naming Conventions

      The brushes, erasers and blenders all have descriptive names, like 'Pencil Charcoal' and 'Eraser Hake Dry Brush'. In addition, the brushes all have a prefix to categorize them by type:

    • Charcoal
    • DOD: Meaning Dry brush on Dry paper. DOD brushes all have a texture so that paint tends to cover the ridges rather than the hollows of the paper.
    • Gouache
    • Ink: This covers pens and Chinese brushes.
    • MSC: These are Miscellaneous brushes, for example Splatter brushes, Texturisers and Water Marks.
    • Mask: These are mask brushes to be used on layer masks.
    • Pastel
    • Pencil
    • Wash: Wash brushes are wet brushes that are looser or more flowing than wet on dry brushes. Photoshop doesn't provide a facility to emulate wet on wet, except by using a blender (Smudge tool); however the Wash brushes have a wet-on-wet type of effect, to the extent that is possible in Photoshop.
    • WOD: Meaning Wet brush on Dry paper. These are the main watercolor painting brushes and give a wet effect typical of a loaded watercolor brush onto dry paper.
    • Organising Your Brushes

      When you make a paper (or replace the paper with a new one) the Brush Presets (that is,the brushes, erasers and blenders) for that paper are automatically loaded. As already mentioned, the Brush Presets are organised by function and category, with each category (for example 'DOD', 'Wash' or 'Smudge') headed by a separator label. However it can still be difficult to find the brush you want as there are so many of them. For this reason, it is usually best to make a selection of the presets that you want, as explained in this short video:

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      To summarise, the procedure is as follows:

      1. Open the Brush Presets panel.
      2. From here select the Presets Manager (icon at the bottom of the panel).
      3. Select all the presets that you do not want and delete them.
      4. Click on Done.
      5. From the Brushes panel (or from the Presets Manager if you prefer), rename the brush set header to something meaningful, for example 'My Landscape - The Langton', not forgetting to put in the paper name (as the brushes are tailored to the paper).
      6. If you think you may want to reuse this set at a later date, save it (Menu at the top of the Brush Presets panel) to the same name you used (in this example My Landscape - The Langton')
      7. If you need to add any brushes, erasers or blenders to your new set, load the corresponding brush set for this paper (Menu at the top of the Brush Presets Panel).
      8. From the Presets Manager move the brushes that you want from the newly loaded set to your set.
      9. Delete the remaining brushes from the newly loaded set, leaving your own set with the brushes you've added.
      10. Click Done ... and if you wish, from the Brushes Panel save your set again.

      Brush Settings

      Brush options are at the top of the workspace. If you pick your brushes, erasers or blenders from the Brush Presets panel, any changes you make to these settings will be persistent. So if you change the opacity to 30% from 100%, say, and you pick a new brush, the opacity for this brush will also be at 30%. If you pick your brushes from the Tool Presets panel then the changes are burnt in to each tool. So if you change a brush preset to 30% say and then pick a different brush, the setting for the new brush will be whatever it was saved with.

      • Brushes and Erasers
      • The options that can be changed are Size, Mode, Opacity, and Flow settings. In addition you can toggle on/off icons for Pressure, Airbrush and Size. The most useful options are:
        • Size: In general you can safely change the brush or eraser size. If the brush you've picked does not automatically change size with pen pressure, you can click the Size toggle on and the stroke size will then change with pen pressure. Note that not all brush types support size change (for example bristle brushes do not).
        • Opacity: This is the most useful setting for watercolor painting. For transparent painting the opacity should normally be set to 50% or lower. The Pressure toggle is very useful if the brush opacity is not already controlled by pen pressure: by clicking on the Pressure toggle, pen pressure will now control the brush opacity. Alternatively, a quick way to change the brush opacity (provided you have not clicked the Airbrush toggle on) is to type a number (1 will change the opacity to 10%, 2 to 20%, 0 to 100%, 12 to 12%, 23 to 23% etc). This is a good way to paint as it closely simulates loading the brush with thicker or thinner paint.
        • Flow: This will normally be set at 100%. However with some brushes the default setting (which you will get if you pick the brush from the Tool Presets panel) may be lower (some tools that have a spatter-type effect can benefit from having a lower flow setting). The Airbrush toggle only works if the brush Flow is set to less than 100%: in that case if you toggle on the Airbrush, the paint will build up as you hold the brush in place. This is not a very useful control in most cases.
        • Mode: This is an extremely important control. Usually the mode will be set to Normal. But simply by changing the mode from Normal to Clear, for example, you can change a brush to an eraser. The other mode that can be very useful is Multiply: if you change the brush mode to Multiply then the effect, for each brush stroke, will be as if each stroke was painted on a different layer (Multiply is the default blend mode for watercolor layers); but as the strokes will in fact be on the same layer they can subsequently be blended using a Smudge tool.
      • Smudge blenders
      • The tool options that can be changed are Size, Mode and Strength and a size toggle on/off icon. There are also two tick-boxes which you should not use: Sample All Layers and Finger Painting.
        • Size: In general you can safely change the smudge tool size. If the brush you've picked does not automatically change size with pen pressure, you can click the Size toggle on and the stroke size will then change with pen pressure. Note that not all brush types support size change (for example splatter brushes do not).
        • Mode: This will almost always be set to Normal. With a few Smudge tool brushes the Mode should be set to Darken ... the brush name will have '(Mode Darken)' to indicate that you should change the tool mode to Darken. Do not forget to change the mode back to Normal after using the brush.
        • Strenth: This is the setting that you will mostly use. In general the smudge tool should be set to a low Strength, typically around 30%. However some smudge brushes need a high strength setting, for example the Smudge Drag.

      Modifying a Brush

      The Brush settings panel (Window/Brush, or 3-brushes icon, or F3) may be used to make changes to the currently selected brush. Please note that, in Photoshop, all painting tools (brushes, erasers and blenders) are brushes: they just behave differently depending on which tool has been selected: the Brush tool, Eraser tool, or Smudge tool.

      Any changes you make to a brush will remain until you select a different brush: when you select the brush you modified again its settings will revert back to the saved settings. If you want the changes to be permanent you should save the brush as a new brush. If you wish, you can give the brush the same name and delete the old version. You can do this by clicking on the Create New Brush icon at the bottom right of the panel ... and then you can click on the Open Presets Manager icon (to the left of the Create New Brush icon) to move the new preset (and to delete the old preset if you have given the new brush the same name as the old brush).

      This shows the Brush panel with the same brush (the Pastel Conte Carre) with 4 different Texture settings. As you can see the settings completely change the brush.

      The main changes that you may wish to make to a brush are: Scattering, Texture, Color Dynamics and Wet Edges.

      I will only cover the most useful controls here. For further information have a look at this tutorial: Photoshop Brushes.

      Scattering

      This is a very simple setting to use. The top example shows a brush stroke with Scattering off (which is the setting for the Conte Carre brush). The stroke below that is with Scattering turned on with a Scatter setting of 300% and Both Axes setting turned off. The third stroke down has Scatter increased to 458%. The final stroke has Scatter at 458% and Both Axes turned on.

      When Both Axes is off, scattering is only horizontal; when it is turned on scattering is both horizontal and vertical. Photoshop paints or draws by repeatedly stamping the brush shape ... this gives the impression of a continuous stroke, although it is not: the effect can be observed easily by clicking on Brush Tip Shape and increasing the Spacing amount. This can also be seen clearly on the bottom stroke as some of the brush stamps are quite separated from the others.

      Texture

      This shows the Brush panel with the same brush (the Pastel Conte Carre) with 4 different Texture settings. As you can see the settings completely change the brush.

      • Pattern Icon (at top of panel): This specifies the pattern to be used for the brush texture. It will normally be set to the paper pattern so that the brush texture matches the paper texture. However for special effects you may wish to change the pattern to a different one.
      • Scale: in general you should not change this as the brush and paper textures will not match at any setting except for 100%. However you may of course change the setting if you want a particular effect.
      • Brightness: This is a very useful setting as it gives a quick and easy control to change the strength of the texture.
      • Contrast: This gives further control over the brush texture. It can be used in conjunction with Brightness to get the texture you want. Note that it's always better to try out a stroke, but the preview at the bottom of the panel gives a very good indication of what the brush stroke will look like.
      • Depth: This is the main control to adjust the amount of texture in the brush; it works with the Texture Each Tip and Mode control above it. The latter two controls are beyond the scope of this document, but if you interested in looking into this further you can check this tutorial out: Photoshop Brushes.
      • Control: If this is set to Pen Pressure then increasing the pen pressure will increase the texture. If the control is set to Fade (set the value to 100 and then 400 to see the effect) the texture will fade to nothing, simulating a dry brush running out of paint.

      Color Dynamics

      The stroke shows the effect of varying the pen pressure when the foreground is set to blue and the background to green: with low pressure the color is green and as pressure is increased it changes to blue, with an intermediate color in between. In general the settings should be left as shown as they are not particularly useful. However changing the Control to Fade (with a value of say 100) can be useful to give the effect of one color fading into the other (although the same effect can be achieved using the Pen Pressure setting).

      Wet Edges

      This is a simple On/Off control that attempts to simulate a wet watercolor look. It can be useful at times, although in general it is better to have the control off and to use the MakeEdges action to apply an edge to the paint on the current layer.

      Color Swatches

      Watercolor/Gouache

      There are two watercolor swatches available: the Winsor Newton sRGB swatch and the Winsor Newton Adobe RGB swatch. It is very important that the color swatch matches the document color space. So if your document is in sRGB then you should use the Winsor Newton sRGB swatch; if the document is in Adobe RGB you should use the Winsor Newton Adobe RGB swatch.

      Pastels

      There are two swatches available for pastels: the Unison Pastel sRGB swatch and the Unison Pastel Adobe RGB swatch. It is very important that the color swatch matches the document color space. So if your document is in sRGB then you should use the Unison Pastel sRGB swatch; if the document is in Adobe RGB you should use the Unison Pastel Adobe RGB swatch.

      Pastels come in a very large range of colors, typically in the hundreds, because it is difficult to blend two colors to make a third. However this is not a limitation in Photoshop as it is very easy to interpolate between two colors. For this reason not all the shades in the Unison range have been included. However it is easy to see which shades are missing as the colors are numbered. In this example we have Red Earth 15 and Red Earth 18 (Red Earth 16 and Red Earth 17 have been left out of the swatch). But one of the intermediate colors is shown as an interpolation between the two shades, and this particular color matches Red Earth 17 closely. If you decide that this is a color that you are likely to use again, you can add it to your swatch from the Swatches panel.

      Painting Palette (Photoshop CC only)

      The Libraries panel in Photoshop CC (Window/Libraries) makes an excellent palette and brush holder for your painting. You can create your own library for a painting and you can add the brushes, erasers and blenders that you want to use (as you are painting, if you wish) simply by dragging and dropping the brushes into the Libraries panel. You can also drag and drop the color swatches you want to use, so that you have a complete palette and brush set readily available to you while you are painting.

      If you give the library the same name as the filename of your painting, you can then at a later stage easily retrieve the library. So you now have a record of the brushes and colors you've used in the painting ... and which you can now use as a starting point for a similar painting if you wish.

      Here are two views of the Libraries panel as a palette. If you have a lot of items then the thumbnail view is more compact.

      The one thing you can't do is to mix the paints as you would do on a normal palette ... however it's easy to do this on the side of your paper, or by using the color wheel.

      Watercolor/Gouache Actions (wg)

      Make Watercolor/Gouache Paper

      This action creates the layers necessary for painting. It should be run immediately after you have created a new document. The document should be at the size that you intend to print or display it (say 12"x16") and it must be set to a resolution of 150ppi. You should select either sRGB or Adobe RGB as the color space - this has to correspond to the color swatch loaded (Winsor Newton sRGB or Winsor Newton Adobe RGB for watercolor and gouache). I recommend sRGB as it is normally adequate for painting and is the color space that must be used for the web.

      Change Paper To ... WG

      After running the Make Watercolor/Gouache action (or the Make Charcoal/Pastel action) you can run any of the actions shown here to change to a different gouache/watercolor paper.

      Note: even though you can run this action during or after your painting it will affect the look of the painting as the paper color and texture will be different; the texture, in particular, will no longer match the paper. This is less important in gouache/watercolor than in charcoal/pastel, but it may still be noticeable.

      New Watercolor Layer

      When the Make Watercolor/Gouache Paper action is run it will create a watercolor layer. You can use this action to create a new watercolor layer. Painting on different watercolor layers simulates allowing the paper to dry and then painting on it again.

      New Gouache Layer

      When the Make Watercolor/Gouache Paper action is run it will create a watercolor layer. If you wish to paint with a gouache brush you will need to run this action to create a gouache layer.

      You can also use the layer to add an additional gouche layer: painting on different gouache layers is essentially the same as painting on one layer ... however if you separate the layers it means that you can blend or erase the painting on the current layer without affecting the other layers. It may also be useful from an organisational point of view.

      Merge Watercolor Layers

      You can run this action to merge two watercolor layers into one. The layers should be one above the other and you should select the upper layer before running the action.

      Merge Gouache Layers

      You can run this action to merge two gouache layers into one. The layers should be one above the other and you should select the upper layer before running the action.

      New Watercolor Layer with Inverse Mask

      This action creates a new watercolor layer with a mask that is the inverse of the contents of the current layer. This means that the underlying layer will be protected when you paint on the new layer. This is a convenient and easy way to, for example, apply a background to a painting without having to worry about painting over the existing painting.

      New Gouache Layer with Inverse Mask

      This action creates a new gouache layer with a mask that is the inverse of the contents of the current layer. This means that the underlying layer will be protected when you paint on the new layer. This is a convenient and easy way to, for example, apply a background to a painting without having to worry about painting over the existing painting.

      Make Edges

      You should run this action with a watercolor layer selected. The action will add edges to the paint strokes: these are contained in a new layer. You can make the edges stronger or lighter by increasing or decreasing the layer Opacity; and you can erase unwanted edges, either directly or with a layer mask.

      Make Edges Strong

      You should run this action with a watercolor layer selected. The action will add strong edges to the paint strokes (stronger than the Make Edges action): these are contained in a new layer group. You can make the edges stronger or lighter by increasing or decreasing the layer group Opacity; you can erase unwanted edges by painting in black on the layer group mask; and by double-clicking on the Bevel and Emboss layer style icon you can make further tweaks to the edges.

      Make Edges Fat

      You should run this action with a watercolor layer selected. The action will add very wide edges to the paint strokes (it should be seen as a special-effect rather than a realistic effect): these are contained in a new layer group. You can make the edges stronger or lighter by increasing or decreasing the layer group Opacity; you can erase unwanted edges by painting in black on the layer group mask; and by double-clicking on the Bevel and Emboss layer style icon you can make further tweaks to the edges.

      Make Edges Rough

      You should run this action with a watercolor layer selected. The action will add roughened edges to the paint strokes (as you might get with a fibrous paper): these are contained in a new layer group. You can make the edges stronger or lighter by increasing or decreasing the layer Opacity; and you can erase unwanted edges, either directly or by painting in black on the layer mask.

      Make Pooling

      You should run this action with a watercolor layer selected. The action will add pooling to the edges of the paint strokes, to simulate water pooling at the edges of a stroke: this is contained in a new layer. You can make the pooling stronger or lighter by increasing or decreasing the layer Opacity; you can erase unwanted pooling by painting in black on the layer mask; and you can modify the pooling by double-clicking on the Inner Shadow layer style. The most useful change to the layer style is to alter the direction of the Global Light: this moves the pooling to edges in another direction (as you would get by allowing the paint to dry with the paper angled in that direction). You can also change the Distance setting to increase or decrease the size of the pooling, and change the Size setting to sharpen or soften the pooling.

      Make Water Mark

      You should run this action to add water marks to your painting. Select the top watercolor layer before running the action so that the layer created will be above all the other watercolor layers. The action makes an empty layer with layer styles and selects the MSC Watermarks brush. You can touch the brush to the layer to get a watermark. You can resize the watermarks, move them and erase them. You can also change the layer opacity to reduce the watermarks, or you can double-click on the Stroke layer style and adjust the Opacity slider to increase or reduce the watermarks. If necessary adjust the Underlying Layer sliders.

      Scratch Paint (Salt)

      You should run this action to 'add salt' to your painting (to simulate the effect of salt on partially dry paint, or scratching the dry paint with sandpaper). Select the top watercolor layer before running the action so that the layer created will be above all the other watercolor layers. The action makes an empty layer with layer styles and selects the MSC Salt Fine brush.

      Paint on the layer to 'add salt'. If you want coarser 'salt' then select the MSC Salt Coarse brush.

      You can reduce the layer opacity to reduce the salt effect, or you can duplicate the layer to increase the salt effect.

      If you want the effect to appear on darker paint, double-click on the layer style icon (orange arrow) and then move the Underlying Layer sliders to the left (red arrow).

      Scratch Paint (Line)

      You should run this action to add a scratch to your painting (to simulate scratching dry paint with a nail or sharp edge). Select the top watercolor layer before running the action so that the layer created will be above all the other watercolor layers. The action makes an empty layer with layer styles and selects the MSC Scratch Line brush.

      Paint on the layer to add a 'scratch'.

      You can reduce the layer opacity to reduce the scratch effect, or you can duplicate the layer to increase the scratch effect.

      If you want the effect to appear on darker paint, double-click on the layer style icon (orange arrow) and then move the Underlying Layer sliders to the left (red arrow).

      Apply Grain to Paint

      You should run this action to add a grain to your painting (to simulate paint separating or pooling in the wells of the paper). Select the top watercolor layer before running the action so that the layer created will be above all the other watercolor layers. The action makes an empty layer with layer styles and selects the MSC Grain Brush 2 (Mode Color Burn) brush.

      Set the brush mode to Color Burn and paint on the layer to add grain to the painting'.

      You can increase the layer opacity to increase the grain effect or reduce the layer opacity to reduce the grain effect.

      You can also adjust the grain effect by double-clicking on the layer style icon (orange arrow) and then moving the Underlying Layer sliders to the left (red arrow) in order to reduce the effect on lighter colors, or to the right to increase the effect on lighter colors.

      Set Texture for Print

      This action reduces the paper texture as too much texture will not look good on print (the paper you print on should have a suitable texture). If you need to reduce the texture more just run the action again. The action is only intended for watercolors (or dilute gouache) as one would normally want the paper texture to show through fully for charcoals and pastels.

      Charcoal Pastel Actions (cp)

      Make Charcoal/Pastel Paper

      This action creates the layers necessary for painting. It should be run immediately after you have created a new document. The document should be at the size that you intend to print or display it (say 12"x16") and it must be set to a resolution of 150ppi. You should select either sRGB or Adobe RGB as the color space - this has to correspond to the color swatch loaded (Unison sRGB or Unison Adobe RGB for pastels). I recommend sRGB as it is normally adequate for painting and is the color space that must be used for the web.

      Change Paper To ... CP

      After running the Make Charcoal/Pastel Paper action (or the Make Watercolor/Gouache Paper action) you can run any of the actions shown here to change to a different gouache/watercolor paper.

      Note: even though you can run this action during or after your painting it will affect the look of the painting as the paper color and texture will be different; the texture, in particular, will no longer match the paper. This is particularly important in charcoal/pastel although it may still be noticeable in watercolor/gouache.

      New Charcoal/Pastel Layer

      When the Make Pastel/Charcoal Paper action is run it will create a Charcoal/Pastel layer. You can use this action to create a new pastel/charcoal layer. It can be useful at times to paint on different layers as the painting on the new layer will not interact with the painting on the old layer (except to overlay it, of course).

      Merge Charcoal/Pastel Layers

      You can run this action to merge two charcoal/pastel layers into one. The layers should be one above the other and you should select the upper layer before running the action.

      New Charcoal/Pastel Layer with Inverse Mask

      This action creates a new charcoal/pastel layer with a mask that is the inverse of the contents of the current layer. This means that the underlying layer will be protected when you paint on the new layer. This is a convenient and easy way to, for example, apply a background to a painting without having to worry about painting over the existing painting.

      General Actions

      Change Paper To Pattern

      See Changing Paper to Custom Pattern.

      Make Mask From Layer Contents

      This action takes the contents of the selected layer and creates a mask from it. The effect is to protect everything except what is already on the layer, so it can be very useful if you wish, for example, to paint over (perhaps part of) the current contents without painting anywhere else.

      Apply Mask

      This applies the mask ... it's just a shortcut for deleting the mask and selecting Apply (it effectively gets rid of the mask ... or, more accurately, it gets rid of any paint that is outside of the mask).

      Make Group with Layer Mask

      This action takes the current layer contents, creates a mask from it, makes a layer group containing the current layer and applies the mask to the layer group. This is useful if you wish to modify the painting on the current layer by adding further layers of paint without affecting any areas outside of the current layer contents

      Make Pattern (Multiply)

      You can use this action to overlay a pattern onto your painting. This video explains the steps involved: Patterns & Textures. Note: you should paint on the layer mask to reveal the pattern, then double-click on the layer style icon to adjust the lightening and darkening effect.

      Make Pattern (Overlay)

      You can use this action to us a pattern to lighten and darken your painting, with the dark parts of the pattern darkening the painting and the light parts of the pattern making the painting lighter. This video explains the steps involved: Patterns & Textures

      Make Mask (Soft Brush)

      This action creates a white mask, selects the Mask Brush Soft brush, sets the foreground to black and puts the focus on the mask so that when you paint you will be non-destructively 'erasing' the layer contents. This is an alternative to using an eraser on the layer, and it has the advantage that just by swapping the background and background color (shortcut X) you can 'un-erase'.

      Make Mask (Hard Brush)

      This action creates a white mask, selects the Mask Brush Hard brush, sets the foreground to black and puts the focus on the mask so that when you paint you will be non-destructively 'erasing' the layer contents. This is an alternative to using an eraser on the layer, and it has the advantage that just by swapping the background and background color (shortcut X) you can 'un-erase'.

      Make Deckled Edge

      The Make Deckled Edge action may be used to apply a deckled edge to the paper.

      The effect is as shown (on The Langton paper).

      Scratch Paint (Line)

      See Scratch Paint (Line).

      Change Paper Color

      See Changing Paper Color.

      Reveal Paper

      The Reveal Paper action may be used to reveal the paper using the paper's texture.

      At the top left I show some strokes onto Daler Rowney Ingres Vertical Laid paper with a Pastel stick so that the hollows of the paper is still visible. The top right image is smudged so that the pigment has gone into the hollows of the paper and the paper no longer shows through (which is what would normally happen when smudging pastels on paper).

      Sometimes we wish to show more of the paper through and this can be accomplished using the Reveal Paper action. On the bottom right I have applied the effect in some areas. The effect is non-destructive; it can be controlled very precisely, or it can be applied loosely. The paper is revealed in the hollows, which is what would happen with pastels (and dry brush) on a textured paper if the blending was light in places.

      In this example I have hidden the paper by blending, but the same effect would occur if a lot of pigment was applied to the paper (or if a very soft pastel was used). The Reveal Paper action can of course be used in this case also.

      This effect will usually be used for Charcoal and Pastels, but it can of course also be used to good effect for Watercolors and Gouache (to give a dry brush effect retrospectively).

      If you wish to reveal the paper and then paint over this, move the Reveal Paper layer down, above the layers that you wish to reveal. Then make a new Watercolor/Gouache or Pastel/Charcoal layer and paint on this.



    Happy Painting!

    pic of Robert Ardill