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Figure Examples of Digital Editing

Creating a concept or perfecting a rendering is an important segment of painting. The old masters were left to trial and error in this respect by drawing their vision over and over again until it became acceptable to paint. This did wonders for their drawing and painting skills but created a considerable hindrance in regards to productivity. Good image manipulation software presents the opportunity to bring a vision to realization in the same way.  The examples below are only to touch base on digital editing providing some insight as to how editing a reference photo can assist you in creating your own preliminary sketches digitally for a painting project.

Note: The image used on this page is used strictly as a study example only. In no way would I recommend or suggest obtaining protected images by either printed or electronic means for commercial use without expressed consent of the original artist.

You can click on any image to see an enlarged view.

This image starts from an excellent photo taken by  DOMAI associate photographer Anna Gordon of her lovely model Ariel.I have a personal preference in regards to my figure art. Unless there are unique composition characteristics,  I am generally not one to focus on any one area of the body.  I regard and admire the female nude as being best represented in respect of creation itself, in appreciation for all it’s beauty rendered entirely from head to toe.

This photo presents the perfect opportunity and inspiration to provide focus on the subject in exactly this way.

Modifying Composition

My  first objective was to remove the distractive background. This was accomplished by first using the ‘lasso’ tool to cut the subject from the background. Then with the subject image still in the clipboard, I erased the background. I then  pasted the subject back to it’s original location.At this point the model’s image already stands out against the bright white background exhibiting the admirable pose that the photographer was able to reveal.

Capturing  natural spontaneity or expression in a pose is not always an easy task to undertake and even more challenging for the figure painter.



After merging the layers I proceeded to ‘erase’ around the fine edges missed by  the ‘lasso’ tool. This is also a time to correct any areas of the image that were removed by the cut and paste to restore it to what it was originally. These areas can be either drawn in or you can  carefully use the ‘clone’ tool. 

Next I’m provided with the opportunity to add less distractive background changes  to the image by drawing a simple arched frame behind the subject. 

Manipulating light and shade

I also extended the drama in this photo by  rendering light and shadow intensity with the ‘lighting effect’ tool.

By using the lasso as a mask the lighting effects were confined to the area within the mask specifically the subject and inside the arched frame.

I then filled the remainder of the background with the ‘paint bucket’ tool with a light blue/green tint to compliment the subjects hair color and the warmer flesh tones of the figure.

Adding interest with texture and brush strokes 

Imitating the brush strokes that I would consider most using, the subject was masked and I applied the ‘crosshatch’ tool from the ‘brush stokes filter’. I then reduced the effect with the edit fade tool.

To eliminate the flat look of the tinted background I added a fine textured effect using the ‘add noise’ tool. I also re-cropped the image to remove excess background and to change the overall dimensions.

I now have a relative or close resemblance of what I might have planned to paint.

Adjusting color and tonal values

An important advantage used digitally is the ability to change the ‘image’ ‘mode’ to ‘grayscale’ where you can actually visualize the primary Chiaroscuro or Grisaille layer of the painting. 

This is extremely helpful in assisting to establishing tonal values. You can even go farther by tinting this image as the brown layer by returning the ‘mode’ to ‘RGB’ and then with ‘adjustments’ ‘color balance’ tool adding the required color to satisfaction. This can also be achieved by adjusting the ‘saturation’ and light with the ‘Hue/Saturation’ tool while the image is still in RGB mode.


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