Thursday, September 29, 2011

Learning Corel Painter from the Painter Master

If you wanted to learn basketball, Michael Jordon would have been a great person to have on your team. If you wanted to learn to be an astronaut, Neil Armstrong could have helped launch your career. So, if you really want to learn Corel Painter, there’s no one better than Karen Sperling to give you the how’s and why’s of digital painting.

20+ years ago, when Corel Painter first came out, the original printed Painter manual (remember those?)  was written by Karen Sperling. Now, several editions and many books later, Sperling has gone the manual one step better, issuing a series of DVD’s to teach Painting for Photographers. 

Painting your digital photos offers so many advantages that all photographers should at least consider it. The prices of your work increase dramatically if you can create those one-of-a-kind pieces of art people so love. In addition, while painting, you control what shows and what doesn’t show in the final piece. 

Ugly wires going to your building? Gone. Lifeless skies that day?  Poof, beautiful clouds. Need to crop an image? No problem. When painting, you can redirect the point of interest, liven (or mute) the color palette, increase contrast and show only what actually enhances the scene.

Through voice and video, it’s the next best thing to attending one of her intensive Artistry Retreats. On the DVD, she first explains some of the basic reasons why some paintings succeed and others fail. Using examples from the masters, she shows you three basics that will immediately improve your efforts.  As she leads you through different example images later, you’ll realize how effective they can become.

I’ve watched dozens of training DVD’s and my general criticism is that the instructors always show you “how” to do something, but only the best educators fully explain “why” they did it that way. Without the “why,” I don’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. Sperling gives the “why” first, and then the “how.” 

The other dirty little secret with many instructors is that they have customized the software to make it do amazing things. Through presets, plugins, special settings and the like, they make their work stand-out. On her DVD, she includes the custom brushes that she uses while demonstrating the oil and watercolor techniques in the video. She even includes the original photos so you can follow along with each lesson.  Using time lapse video, you can watch her as she completes a multi-hour painting in under an hour’s time.

If you do cityscapes, there’s one little tip here about using textures to create those thousand windows you see in skyscrapers. That one tip alone will save you hours of painting time. With many more hints from the master, this DVD is a real investment for anyone wanting to make the jump into digital painting. 

You’ll find her books in many book stores or just order from her website. There’s a volume 1 as well that shows how to paint portraits, but volume 2 stands on its own if that’s the only type photography you do. “While there may be some who would like to paint both,” she said, “the majority have definite views about "I only paint landscapes" and "I only paint portraits."” It’s up to you. Pick one or both.

You might also want to consider her Bonus CD2, a compendium of other special brushes that among other things, paint multiple strands of grasses or leaves in one stroke. It makes an excellent addition to Vol.2: Landscapes.

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