Experimenting with Layers in Corel Painter

Creating Atmosphere in your Photos

Creating Atmosphere in your Photos
The finished painting from this tutorial. © Karen Bonaker

Painter has many tools that can serve to enhance your creative process. One of the most interesting ways to add a dramatic effect to a portrait is to experiment with layers. Layers are a powerful way of communicating just the right message you want to convey. Reflecting a mood or atmosphere in a painting serves to hold the viewers interest and creates that emotional response that we so admire in fine works of art.

When you decide on the appropriate image to use, there are elements to consider; for example, composition, color palette, the intensity of the hues and the values, and cast light. By ensuring that the elements of the photo, and the resulting painting, are consistent with its mood, you are sure to generate a wonderful image.

Create a Duplicate Layer and Set Composite Method

Layers Palette
© Karen Bonaker

Download Reference Image

Open the reference image I have provided in Painter. Save this version with a new name. Retain the original image just in case you need to work on it further. If you have an image of your own, please feel free to use it for this exercise. The reference image already has a painterly quality, which will be fun to work with.

Begin by creating a duplicate layer. To create a duplicate layer follow these steps Select > All > Copy > Paste in Place. Make sure to remove the marching ants--Ctrl-D will do the trick!

On the new duplicated layer or Layer 1, click on "Pick Up Underlying Color". Change the layer Composite method to Gel;. You will need to see the image below where you are erasing on and the Gel Composite method eables you to do so.

Choose Paper and Begin Painting

Papers palette
© Karen Bonaker

From the Papers Palette choose the Artist Canvas Paper. This is the part of the lesson that serves to create the atmosphere. When you apply the Gel Composite method on the duplicated layer, you will notice that it is rather dark. To correct this move the Opacity slider on the Layers Palette to about 25% or less. Using the Grainy Water 30 brush from the Blender Brush category blend softly over the background and reveal some of the paper texture.

Refine the Painting, Flatten, and Duplicate the Layer Again

paste in place command
© Karen Bonaker

Select the Eraser from the Tools palette and set the Opacity setting to about 10 to 15%. Erase over the forehead, cheekbones and perhaps some soft areas on the hair. When you are finished, drop all the layers and save once again with a name that is meaningful to you. Choose file > Save As, and in the TIFF file format. Close the file and open it again. One layer is all you should see, the image would be on the Canvas Layer.

Next step duplicate the layer once again. Select All > Edit > Copy > Paste in Place. Again, make sure that the "Pick Up Underlying Color" is checked on the layers palette.

Creating Lighting Effects

Creating Lighting Effects
© Karen Bonaker

I wanted to evoke a certain tone while giving some strong indication of light. To accomplish this, I choose a warm shade of brown with some pink tones and then filled the new layer with the color.

Choose Ctrl-A. This will select the layer. Then from the Toolbox choose the Paint Bucket or use the shortcut key Ctrl-F and fill the new layer. Lower the Opacity slider on the Layers Palette to reveal the image beneath, more or less depending upon the effect you are trying to achieve.

In consideration upon how strong you want this effect to appear, choose the Eraser once again. Use a very low opacity around 10% to achieve this effect. Set the Composite Method on Layer 1 to "Multiply" and the Opacity on the layer to about 70 to 80%. Begin to remove the brown pixels from the face revealing areas of highlight. This time you will remove pixels from Layer 1.

Remember that if you do not like the color after you have filled the layer, you can just delete the layer, repeat the process, and fill it with a different color to begin again. The joy of working with Layers!

Consider now where you want your light source to radiate from. In my example, notice how the effect appears to be just a beam of light casting light on her face.

Experimentation and Finishing Touches

Experimentation and Finishing Touches
© Karen Bonaker

When you are satisfied with the effect, drop all layers to the Canvas Layer. Choose, Window Menu > Layers > Drop All. Save once again with a different name... yep, just in case you want to go back again to adjust.

You may want to experiment with a few settings. First Brightness/Contrast from the Effects menu. Don't overdo it though… you will lose the atmosphere you are trying to create. Brightness/Contrast is found on the Window Menu, Effects > Tonal Control > Brightness/Contrast.

To finish the image, apply Sharpen. Apply it to the whole image or create a selection and apply it only to the eyes perhaps.

Use the Grainy Water 30 blender and do some additional blending. From the Photo Brush category experiment with the Dodge Brush to bring a few additional highlights. Apply it on the lips and softly on the eyelids.

The Finished Photo Painting

The Finished Photo Painting
The Finished Photo Painting. © Karen Bonaker

If you enjoy working with layers, you can continue to experiment by adding additional layers and filling them with colors, textures or images. I used the Chalk > Square Chalk 35 to add some additional texture to the background.

I had a bit more fun with the image and placed the painted flowers into the composition.

This is just another way to discover the joy of Corel Painter! The options are limitless!