Today’s Fringe 365 entry are some background paintings that have been made using the “expanding thumbnail” method. Although I usually work on the iPad, these were done (mostly) using Photoshop. Just a quick note here about how this method works, and why they are black and white.
These all started off as tiny thumbnails of 150 pixels wide. I looked at a reference image and then drew (in just 3 shades – near white, gray and dark gray) the very general pattern of lights and darks. Then I blew them up to 300 pixels and put in more detail, then 450 pixels, then 600 and finally, 1024 pixels.
First question: Why are they blurry? This is not totally due to the blowing up of tiny thumbnails. I was using a Photoshop brush set from Matt Kohr of CtrlPaint.com which are set to have soft edges by default. They make everything look “buttery.” One of the things that is easy to forget about when painting is that it is not supposed to be just like a photograph, and that everything is not supposed to sharp and clear. You should be selective in when you use hard and soft edges. Most of us (me included) tend to start off with everything hard-edged and then we try to add softness in later as an “effect.” If you start off soft, maybe you can better realize the importance of hard edges and how they should be used intelligently to add to your picture’s subject area of focus.
These background paintings aren’t intended to be a focal point of anything (I am thinking of using them in animations, so they are just backdrops), so I stopped working on them before I added too many hard edges. If I had continued on with them, I would have put in more areas of detail and sharpened up more of the lines.
The second question is, why are they in black and white? Black and white is boring, but weirdly you stand a better chance of making better color pictures if you do them in black and white first. This is so you can be more aware of your light source (always the most important thing, next to perspective). The light to dark values are important in making a picture look quasi-realistic (or actually realistic, if that’s what you’re going for). And it is so much easier to make corrections and changes when you are using a black/gray/white palette of 16 shades, than it is with full color. You can just use the black and white pictures as a test version or study, or you can actually add color to them later. Matt Kohr has an excellent series of videos on how to turn black and white into color (worth the $10 if you ask me). In either case, starting in B&W is very helpful.