Hands-on design

Combining traditional media with digital techniques is a fail-safe way to add an interesting new dimension to your artwork, but you must be prepared to get your hands dirty, as Mark Mayers explains.

Slick, clean and technically perfect images are easily achieved with the software available to today's digital artist, but the computer can sometimes seem a sterile and impersonal tool. Instead of sitting in front of the easel spending time painting with brush and paint, artists can create images using computer software in a relatively short time.

Although it has revolutionised the way we work, software cannot duplicate the randomness of a paint drip or leave a bristle hair on your canvas, and neither does it have a 'happy accident' tool. Sometimes a less slick and more 'edgy' image is what's needed. The best way to achieve this is to roll up your sleeves, dust off your forgotten tools, such as paints, brushes and a canvas, and adopt a far more hands-on approach.

Throughout this tutorial you'll be encouraged to think outside the box and use often overlooked traditional techniques, combining them with digital methods of working. The source files are in the support download, but by creating them yourself you'll add a unique, personal touch to your artwork, and have more fun in the process!

Here you'll use a variety of blending modes in Photoshop, make some custom brushes from real-world source material, create some stencils for spray-paint effects and use Adjustment Layers. I'll also show you how to create natural-looking brushes in Illustrator and use them to trace a sketch.

Whether or not you're talented with a paintbrush, these techniques will teach you a 'best of both worlds' approach that can be applied to your own images, giving them a painterly look that can't be mimicked with digital media alone.

Click here to download the support files ( 62MB)

Click here to download the tutorial for free