How to mix photorealism with a loose painting style

Ross Tran explains how to create a portrait that blends photorealism with a loose painting style.

How to mix photo realism with a loose painting style

Ross reveals how to use Photoshop layers and textures to experiment with painting effects

Experimenting with new drawing and painting techniques is a great way to bring new flavours to a piece that's almost finished. I always try to approach it in an organic, playful and experimental way. I never know how a piece is going to turn out, but that's the joy in discovering new things you haven't even thought of when embarking on an image – and they may end up making a great addition to your design portfolio.

Here's a portrait I've been working on: it's at a stage where I feel I can play with textures and experiment, using a range of techniques to drive the piece forward to a different place.

mix photo realism with a loose painting style - original image

Start experimenting with textures to add new flavours to your work

I have no idea where it'll go, but I'm excited to see what digital techniques can do to the piece and give it a different perspective to what I've previously envisioned. The hard part is to be able to open your mind to enable the piece you've been working on to be altered and played with.

01. Add texture

How to mix photorealism with a loose painting style: add texture

Finding stock images can add interesting texture to your piece

I now look for photos and textures that are stock-free and have something special in them that I find inspiring. It could be a small pattern, or the silkiness of a fabric, or even the way the light's being cast on a surface.

02. Experiment!

How to mix photorealism with a loose painting style: experiment

Crop, invert and rotate stock images to use them as a background texture

Once I have some images, I insert them on top and play with the settings and blending modes and see what happens. This is a structured way to achieve happy accidents. I then rearrange them and eliminate parts to fit my piece.

03. Use "Color Range"

How to mix photorealism with a loose painting style: use colour range

Play with color and levels to create interesting painterly effects

This is a quick tool that grabs a similar grouping of colours and values and selects them. You can then copy the selection to a new layer and experiment with it however you wish.

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Words: Ross 'Flynn' Tran

A designer and creator, Ross Tran has created the character Echo for the film Earth to Echo. He's now pursuing other endeavours in the entertainment industry. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 116.

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