Behind the Scenes- Digital Painting in Corel

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I absolutely love digital painting with Corel Painter. When paired with my Wacom Tablet it is about as close to traditional painting methods as you can possibly get on a computer. I’ve found that with all the apps and filters out there available for turning a photo into a painting most people don’t understand what it is I do to create my custom digitally painted portraits. Here is a little behind the scenes rundown of how I prepare an image in Photoshop and paint it in Corel Painter.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| | Behind the Scenes
The original photo I started with

The first step is to take the image into Photoshop and tweak the colors. One big key to making a painting look realistic is adding contrast to the image by making the brights brighter and the darks darker. I also will sometimes change the color tone depending on what look I am going for. For many of my oil portraits I like to add a warm golden brown tone to the image. I will sometimes add a light canvas texture as well. If I need to composite the subject onto a different background I also do this in Photoshop first before taking the image into Corel.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| | Behind the Scenes
After Photoshop edits

I then open up my image in Corel Painter and make sure the paper I want to paint on is selected. I usually choose “Artists Canvas”. If I am going for a lighter look or planning to print on fine art paper instead of canvas then I will choose the “Soft Press Watercolor”. The paper only interacts with certain bushes. when you paint with those brushes they will pick up the texture of the paper that you choose adding texture and dimension to the finished painting.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| | Behind the ScenesCustom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| | Behind the Scenes

Once I have my paper set I then quick clone my image. What this does is place an additional blank canvas layer over my image. It allows me to pick up the colors from my photo and pull them through to the canvas rather than having to mix my own colors in the color picker. When you quick clone the top layer is automatically set to 50% opacity so that you can see your image underneath. At this point I select the smeary round oil brush in a largish diameter and start painting in rough strokes to set the boundaries of my image. Once I’ve got some broad strokes of color laid in I turn the top layer to 100% opacity. I then make my brush smaller and start painting in details.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| | Behind the Scenes

I always zoom in and start with the eyes. These are the soul of any portrait and I want them to speak to the viewer. Of course they never are from the get go and I always go back to them at the end as well to make the absolutely perfect. When painting in the details it is important to follow the lines of the face and the way the light moves. You don’t want to paint in lines that are perpendicular to the shape of the jaw or move across an eye smearing your paint. It is just like working with real oils on real canvas, minus the drying time and adding in a LOVELY undo button!

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Once I have the face details pretty well laid in I will zoom out and begin on the clothing and hair. For these I use the smeary flat brush as it adds a bit more texture to my strokes. This is where the tilt and pressure sensitivity of the Wacom tablet really comes into play. As I tip and rotate my pen, just like I would a traditional oil brush, I can change the direction and thickness of my strokes. The pressure I apply to the pen affects the width of the stroke just as pressing a paint brush flatter on your canvas affects the stroke. It really is impossible to get the variation needed for a quality digital painting with a regular mouse or inexpensive artist tablet that does not have tilt sensitivity.

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Just as with the face it is important to follow the curves of the hair and the way the light moves on the clothing. You also want to make sure to vary the width of your brush to accommodate for smaller and larger areas and add variety to the strokes. I also vary the feature of my brush (a setting that determines how close together the bristles are) to add definition to the hair.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| | Behind the Scenes

Once I have completed painting in all my oils the final step is to add some definition to the colors and add texture. I use the square chalk to do this. The chalks are one of the sets of brushes that will pick up the texture from the paper. I will zoom in on areas where there are contrasting swathes of color (for example the lips or the whites of the eyes) and use my eyedropper to select a color. I will then enhance that color a smidge in the color picker; making it more saturated or lighter/darker. I then will carefully apply the color with a light hand around the edges of that color zone. This adds texture to the color as well as more clearly defining the line between two different sections of color. I will also use the chalk at large sizes to pick up colors from the background and dab them around for extra texture as well as to more smoothly blend the background colors together.

For the very final touch on some images I will add a texture overlay in Corel or in Photoshop. I don’t do this to every image and the choice on whether to do it and what texture to use is highly influenced by how the image will be displayed. If I am going to share on the web I will add the canvas texture to show how it will look when printed, but when actually printing to the canvas it does not require the texture to be added. Sometimes for a more rustic look I will add a paint strokes or scratches texture in Corel. There are so many options I usually experiment with several before settling on a final look.

Custom oil portrait painted in Corel Painter| | Behind the Scenes

And there you have it. All told these paintings take several hour and usually are completed over a period of many days. I like to walk away from an image and come back a day later to see if I still love it or if it needs more tweaking. Sometimes I get frustrated with a certain painting not coming together the way I want and have to walk away for a few hours or even a few days to reset my brain and get back to work.

As you can see these custom works of art go far beyond adding a simple Photoshop texture or running through a computer program. I spend time and effort perfecting the details and painting each image by hand, just as I would with real oil paints on a real canvas. And just for fun, here are a few examples of running this photo through some of those programs/filters so you can see the difference.

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I would love to create a custom digital painting for you. You can contact me using the link in the menu for a custom quote or simply jump on over to my Etsy shop to place an order. If you’d like to take a look at my completed paintings to order a print of your favorite you can see them all on Fine Art America.

Do you do any digital painting? What are some of your favorite methods, brushes, papers, etc.? Would you like to learn more about digital painting? What kind of tutorials would you like to see me do in the future?

Mother’s Day Giveaway

Mother’s Day is only 6 weeks away on May 8th! Have you thought about what you are going to do to celebrate? Well let me help you out a little bit. I would like to give a few lucky winners my custom digitally painted portraits away as a beautiful Mother’s Day gift.

Each painting that I do is a custom work of art. You send me your favorite photo with up to two subjects in it and I will turn it into a painting using Corel Painter. I actually paint each stroke by hand with my Wacom Tablet, so this is just like getting a professional oil or watercolor portrait painted, without the added time of letting paint dry! There is also the added benefit of being given a digital file to print in the size and on the surface that you want as many times as you want. If you don’t want to take care of printing I am happy to do that as well, prices vary depending on size and surface printed on.

This is a photo I took of my daughter. Those beautiful eyes were just begging for a traditional oil painting style. The Prizes!

Grand Prize- (2) custom digital paintings, one for you and one for another mother in your life, delivered via digital download. You will have full rights to print or share/display as you see fit. Value- $325

Runner-up- 1 custom digital painting delivered via digital download. You will have full rights to print or share/display as you see fit. Value- $175

innocence||spiritual refugees|child of god|digital painting

There will be 1 grand prize winner and two runners up. I reserve the right to add additional winners at any time.

Don’t want to wait 3 weeks for the contest to end? Use code “ILOVEMOM” in my Etsy shop to save 15% on all orders! I have two listings; one for an oil style and one for a watercolor style . If the winner has already purchased a custom portrait they can choose to have their payment refunded or have an additional painting done.

cutom painted portrait giveaway||Mother's Day giveaway|Digital Painting

Please note that in order to guarantee delivery orders need to be submitted 2 weeks prior to the date needed. Most orders can be turned around in just a few days, but I require up to two weeks during peak demand.

Mother's Day Giveaway- win a custom digitally painted portrait||digital painting |Corel Painter


Enter Now!

Enter your email in the widget below for your required first entry. After that a few different optional choices for additional entries will pop up.

The contest will end on April 25th, so share share share and get your entries in!

[contestfriend contest=”855″]

Custom Painted Portraits

I believe that photographs are the art that preserves our memories for generations to come. As such I put all of my creative efforts into creating the finest art I can for my clients. Usually this means capturing the raw reality of the day in a truly documentary style. These are your memories. These images represent you. I don’t direct. I creatively capture the intimate reality of your special moments.

custom painted portrait|digital painting|canvas portrait

Every now and then, however an image just screams at me that it wants more. I don’t just see your hum drum every day life. I see an amazing beauty in the moments. When the soul of the subject speaks to me I owe it to them to create something amazing.

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This drive to create one of a kind art from every day moments is what led me into learning to use Corel Painter and Photoshop to create custom portraits from my photographs. I create so you can feel the amazing intimate beauty that I see in your relationships. I create so that your future generations will know how amazing that moment in time truly was. I create because I can’t silence the voice in me that cries out for you to understand just how awe inspiring your life is.Aly and Eli

Commissioned Portraits

One beautiful way to take your family photos to the next level is to commission a painted portrait. Throughout the ages people have commissioned portraits of important people in their lives. Painted portraits are a beautiful piece of art that can elegantly grace your walls for generations. Image the pride your child will feel every time they walk past this beautiful image on your wall. They will have no doubt how important they are in your life.

Custom digitally painted portrait comission||corel Painter|Oil Painting

I create portrait commissions in two different styles. First is a traditional oil painting. These are best displayed printed on a museum quality canvas. They can be gallery wrapped, but look especially stunning when paired with a high quality frame.

cusotm painted watercolor portrait||digital painting|watercolor|mother and baby|newborn

I also love to create beautiful watercolor images. The softness of a newborn baby is so perfectly captured with this airy and light style. These are lovely as a traditional print with linen texture. They are amazing when printed on fine art paper with a deckle edge and float mounted in a matching frame.

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People aren’t the only things that I paint. You can commission a portrait of a pet or important object like a bouquet.  rooster custom digital painting||corel painter|Photoshop|digital painting

Commissioning a digital painting is simple! Just email me at with the image you would like to have painted as well as what display methods and sizes you are interested in. From there I can work up a custom quote. Prices start at $250 for an 8×10 canvas or print.

Painted Portraits

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One of the digital art services that I offer is custom painted portraits. I believe that these portraits are a beautiful way to liven up your traditional family photos. I can take a simple snapshot and transform it into a wall worthy work of art. Every photo session I do I paint at least one of the images for my client’s gallery and can paint more on commission.

This is an image I photographed during a lifestyle newborn session and then painted in a watercolor style.
This is an image I photographed during a lifestyle newborn session and then painted in a watercolor style.

Each portrait is painted by me using both Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. I take a reference photo, either one I’ve taken or one sent to me by a client, and turn it into a beautiful painting. Each image is color corrected and styled in Photoshop to prepare for painting. They are then taken into Corel Painter and painted by hand utilizing my Wacom tablet as my paintbrush. Each image is a completely unique custom work of art. I then have your painting printed on fine art canvas and gallery wrapped or custom framed. I believe these portraits are the perfect mother’s day gift and I would love to paint one for you!

This was a photograph I took during a breastfeeding session and painted in an oil/pastels style.
This was a photograph I took during a breastfeeding session and painted in an oil/pastels style.

I am able to do many a few different styles of paintings. My specialties are watercolor and oil/pastel. Corel painter has an amazing selection of brushes that allow me to mimic pretty much any medium I choose! I do most of my paintings with the oil and pastel brushes.

This is a photo I took of my daughter. Those beautiful eyes were just begging for a traditional oil painting style.
This is a photo I took of my daughter. Those beautiful eyes were just begging for a traditional oil painting style.

As you can see each image is a one of a kind custom work of art.  If you purchase the printed product you will also receive the digital file.

These painted portraits make the perfect gift for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas and any other event you can think of. Mother’s day is only 6 weeks away, why not get your mother a custom work of art she will treasure forever! You can order your image in my etsy shop.