Monday, September 23, 2013

Tutorial: Test Your Paint Schemes with Photoshop instead of by Brush

Since I do more painting for clients than I do for myself, and probably will continue to until the day comes when rent is free, pizza grows on trees and airlines let you fly out of the kindness of their hearts, I have found testing out paint schemes by use of Photoshop to be a handy resource.  Often I can see the color scheme I have in mind, but describing it in words to a client is never as clear as a picture.

This can be an issue for anyone painting for themselves as well.  Have you ever thought a paint scheme, a color combination, would be great.. until you paint a test piece (or worse a unit) and then decide you hate it?

That's where programs like Photoshop can be very handy.

So I thought I'd share a few simple pointers to push you in some directions to experiment with, if you're not familiar with them.   Now, if your computer doesn't have Photoshop.. I've had it on every computer I've owned since the early/mid 90's, then there is a freeware program called Gimp that is supposed to be pretty similar.  I have it on my travel computer but haven't used it for anything except simple photo adjustments when traveling, so you'll have to try that out for yourself and see if that's your only option.

Painting & repainting a miniature can be very time consuming, and could gunk up your mini.

So if you have a scheme in mind and can find a picture of the mini, or a similar one, painted then have at it in Photoshop to see what your possibilities are!

Mona Lisa: Italian, or Alien? 

I'll give you an example from a client's project I'm working on now. 
He wanted a Khemri team: Blood Bowl Egyptian Mummies, but rather than the traditional Dark Lapis Blue & Gold, wanted something different, but wasn't sure what. I described a few options, but decided showing was easier than describing. 

First, I found some pictures of the minis painted, eliminated any background and opened in Photoshop. 
I've already lightened & desaturated the blue in this picture, but I'll explain how to do it. 

Here's the first image after I adjusted to lighten the blue. 
Photoshop assumes you are treating the entire picture unless you tell it otherwise.  Sometimes that is fine, if not, I'll explain how to single things out in a moment. 

Click on 'Image' at the top, scroll to Adjust and find "Hue/Saturation".  This is really easy. 
You can also use "Color Balance" but you do have less control with that, but it can be handy too. 

"Hue" will change the color. See the rainbow band at the bottom? That's how Hue will change things, slide that indicator on the Hue line and it will 'scroll' through the rainbow, altering each color in proportion to what it starts with and where you drag it to. 

"Saturation" will make the color more or less intense.  At the most it will make it blindingly solid, at least it will bleed all the color out of it. 

"Lightness" like it sounds, will lighten or darker the tone of the color. 

Here I just wanted to see what they'd look like if the team was called the "egypt easter bunnies": a nice baby lavender color. Notice since I'm adjusting the entire picture's color even the metal has changed from gold to a baby blue.  Luckily in this example, the bones have almost no color, so they don't change much... but if having started with green skin orcs, they would have.   In this example I changed the Hue a lot, and increased the saturation for the more bold 'easter egg color' look. 

By the way, don't click 'colorize': all that does it treat the picture like a black & white photo that you then tint the entire picture with the color you select.  A fun effect, but not much use for testing paint schemes. 

OK, let's say you master this real quick but you want to target color changes. 
On the tool box column at the left side is a lot of handy little tools.  For this, the most useful is the 'Magic wand' and the 'Lasso': they're both next to each other, second row from the top: I circled them in Red. 

The magic wand will select everything near where you click within a parameter set by you. 
Easier to just take a look:

I decided to add some alien color to the vegetation. I used the Magic Wand, and you can see the 'Tolerance" is set at 40 right now (look under the top bar where it says 'select'). The larger the number, the less fussy it will be about how much like what nearby stuff is to what you clicked on. 

I wanted more vegetation. So I clicked the darker trees above this spot, but more was close in tone to that and it selected too much, so I lowered the Tolerance, and went around clicking more. 

Now, important, to add to what you already selected, hold down the 'shift' key while you click, and it will add. to subtract, hold down the 'alt' key.  Easy.  You can also use the Lasso in the same way, just draw around whatever you want.

OK, got a healthy grab of dark trees now. Notice I had to lower the Tolerance, because at 40 it wanted to grab her dress, and I think she'd have gotten mad.  Now lets change the colors. 

This time, since I have just part of the picture selected, any adjustments will only alter the adjusted area.  
This can be very useful when changing colors on minis pictures when testing out a paint scheme idea. 

I decided purple trees would be fun, and brought the Hue to change them to purple.  It made them too bold to my eye, so I also lowered the saturation. Now she's a proper alien lady from another planet. 

Best advice: poke around, experiment, and you'll see what you find useful. 

You'll find a ton of Photoshop tutorials online, but I thought it might be handy to see an application for minis and how easy it is to do. 

Here are some other paint schemes I created this way for the Egyptian Skeletons, to see what the schemes would look like: 

Give it a try, you might find it useful a relief of some wear & tear on brushes. 


Paul´s Bods said...

Great idea. I tend to go with Trial and error though..the "burning my fingers" Approach leaves a more durable and Lasting lesson :-D

Not to say i won´t give the colour test a go :-D

Anne O'Leary said...

People on Reaper talk about doing this all the time and I've always wondered how they did it. Thanks for posting this Ferret. I will use this in future projects.

M R Lee said...

Great article here.. very useful. Now to find my photoshop program :)

Francis Lee said...

This is a damn good idea, not to say you don't or wouldn't have good ideas but this is good and a good explanation too!

fireymonkeyboy said...

Nice little "how to", thanks!


Gary Amos said...

What a good idea! Even I can follow the instructions, which is a definite plus ;O)

Scott said...

Very clever computer skill, though I fear if I tried to do this myself I'd bugger about so long trying to get the software to do what I wanted it too... I'd just end up feeling that I had wasted a heap of painting time... as I often do when trying make computers work in general, or do 'clever things', or get the kids Ipods to work or interact correctly with Itunes (horrible counter intuitive program!), something I confess to know bugger all about...

technophobes-r-us ! ;-)

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