Thanks for checking out my very first Instructable! I used to dabble a lot more with art, and how that there are digital tools available, I'm finding a refreshed interest in learning this new medium. As I try various software and tools digitally, I'm growing more and more fond of Procreate, however, you can utilize the digital or conventional medium of your choice, and I will walk you through my thought process and organizational technique for this digital painting of a tomato.
As you read through the following steps, you may notice a slight variation in the order of the steps here versus the order of steps I take in the video. I wrote this Instructable in the order I might paint this on a canvas, but with digital media, you have so many options at your disposal to accomplish your goals. Many of these steps are interchangeable and can be attempted in various orders in Procreate. Please keep in mind, techniques can vary, so I highly encourage you to do what feels comfortable to you!
(Again, if you have a drawing pad, a Mac or PC, and totally different software, you can completely ignore the first three items on my supplies list):
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Step 1: Find a Reference Image
When you're just starting out, and even when your skills advance, it's easier to paint something from a reference image. I tend to perform an internet search of images if I don't have a subject to look at right in front of me. In this case, I found a tomato with great lighting and contrast. You can do a print-screen and crop the image if you're like me, and want to solely focus on your subject.
If you want a large image to reference, you can utilize your screen shot on your laptop next to you while you paint, or if you're using Procreate, you can utilize the browser-in-picture feature, which places the image right in your procreate window. I prefer to have a reference image separate and enlarged, so I used my laptop in this case.
Step 2: Sketch a Rough Outline of Your Subject
With your comparison photo nearby, sketch a rough outline of your subject on a new layer. This doesn't have to be perfect! I use a 6b or Hb pencil brush in Procreate here. As a personal preference, I like to use moderate pressure with the Apple Pencil so the lines are nice and dark. You can adjust the layer opacity later on if you don't like how dark it turns out.
In addition, you can toggle this layer on and off throughout your painting process. It should merely serve as a guide as the final painting will not include this layer.
Step 3: Begin Painting Your Mid-Tone Reds
On the time lapse video I posted at the beginning of this Instructable, you'll notice I'm only utilizing a solid color here. The image on this step also utilizes some darker shades of red. If you're just starting out with digital painting, I would recommend creating a separate layer for each shade/color you plan to use... this will make it easier to hide that shade and/or edit/erase some shading if needed, rather than being required to paint over the top of a color as you would with traditional canvas painting. The more layers you utilize, the more forgiving the software capabilities are for mistakes.
Step 4: Add Darker Red-Tones and Shadowing
In the video, I add the basic green color from the stem prior to this step, but you can do this in any order. Just to show an alternative (by turning my green layer off), you can still utilize the pencil sketch layer as a guideline for shadow placement. Make sure you add an additional layer for the shadows and dark tones here. You'll need to also make sure the sketch layer is on the top of all other layers if you're going to continue using the sketch as an outline.
Step 5: Add Highlights With Pinks and Whites
Create another layer and place on top of the reds/shadows layer you just painted (but below your sketch layer). Here you can really start to develop some reflective-looking surfaces by slowly adding hues lighter than your base red. I leaned toward pinks all the way to absolute white in the really shiny areas.
As a side note, using a soft brush with 75% opacity will give you that gradual fading look at the periphery of the lightened areas. When you get to the extreme white portions that reflect the light, you should be at 100% opacity and 100% flow with a hard brush. You can use any brush you like, but if you're wondering what I used here, I switched between the soft, medium and hard airbrush.
Step 6: Add Your Mid-Tone Greens for the Stem
Again, in another new layer (above all the reds, but below the sketch layer), start painting in your mid-tone greens. This can be a quick, solid painting of the sketched area, but with the hard brush on full opacity and fill.
Step 7: Add Light Greens and White Highlights
Creating a new layer above your mid-tone greens, start gradually adding in lighter greens and whites. I ended up also adding some yellow and brown tints in certain areas, but continue to reference the image you clipped for your subject for these fine details. Placement of these shades will translate to that realistic-looking three-dimensional appearance. This is when things can really start to pop out with enough attention to detail. Don't be afraid to magnify your subject image and/or your painting!
Step 8: Add Dark-Greens and Shadows
You may have noticed I switched the order between adding dark/shadows and light/highlights compared to the reds for the tomato itself. In practice, I find myself often switching back and forth throughout the entire painting process. The longer you look at your subject and compare it to your painting, the more fine adjustments you may feel you need to make. This is absolutely okay! Some people prefer to add light values first, and others prefer to add the darks. Do what feels right to you! I like to do both... just make sure you're appropriately selecting each layer when you switch back and forth to save you some trouble down the road!
Step 9: Final Adjustments and 3D Shadow Effect
At this point, if you hide your sketch layer, you will most likely see some rough areas around the edges that don't alight with your sketch outline and need to be cleaned up. There are three methods you can use to make polish the image here (either should be done prior to adding your 3D shadow effect).
- You can literally go into each layer and paint hard edges, taking great care to match the color of the layer you're painting on. This can be difficult to accomplish. If you're not great at matching color and brush style with the layer, you could end up making it look like you have some pretty obvious post-painting edits. Use this method with great caution!
- You could create a new layer on top of all the other layers to attempt to paint the edges more defined. It's less work than option 1, and again, this is risky if you have difficulty matching brush types and colors.
- This is by far my preferred method and what I consider to be easiest for this type of painting with a solid background. Simply create a new layer on top and select a hard brush with 100% flow and opacity, matching your background color. Zoom in and paint clearly over the edges that may look uneven - this is the method used in the time-lapse video.
For the 3D shadow effect, create another new layer above the background layer, but below all the rest. Select a soft airbrush with a fairly large diameter and a dark shade (nearly black) on low opacity. With light pressure, paint in a circular shape under the bottom of the tomato until the desired shadow effect can be seen.
Step 10: Place Your Signature on the Painting
We all have our unique little ways to sign our work. For this, I used a base color that matched the tomato and painted a small swatch in the lower right-hand corner. Then I used white ink with the technical pen brush to sign my name.
The time-lapse video I uploaded is also a function in procreate. You can export any painting you do as an MP4. Super-cool, right?!
I hope this has helped provide you with some practical steps you can use today, whether you're painting with digital or traditional media!
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