How to mix photorealism with a loose painting style

How to mix photo realism with a loose painting style

Experimenting with new drawing and painting techniques is a great way to bring new flavours to a piece that's almost finished. Try to approach it in an organic, playful way, discovering new things you hadn't even thought of when embarking on an image – these experimental pieces may end up making a great addition to your design portfolio. For more excellent examples, see our roundup of the best photorealism around.

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'm excited to see what digital techniques can do to the piece and how they can give it a different perspective to what I've previously envisioned.

I'll show you how I go about experimenting with this in the written steps below and the video further down the page. 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

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

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 to 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

Play with colour 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.

Watch the full video

This article originally appeared in issue 116 of ImagineFX , the world's best-selling magazine for digital artists – packed with workshops and interviews with fantasy and sci-fi artists, plus must-have kit reviews. Subscribe to ImagineFX here.

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California-based Ross is an artist who works on films, games and entertainment properties. He's currently busy developing his own franchises and also presents a popular YouTube show.