CreativeLive Mid-Year Sale: Save up to 50%!

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It’s no secret that I love CreativeLive. Since I first discovered them a few years ago I’ve watched hundreds of classes while they were streaming, purchased many, and even attended two as part of the studio audience. It has been such an amazing educational resource for me. Right now CreativeLive is having their mid-year sale where all classes are up to 50% off!! No coupon code needed, simply go to their catalog and choose the classes you want.

Shop Creative Live Classes

When CreativeLive first started they were really focused on photographers. No w they have five different channels; Photo & Video, Art & Design, Music & Audio, Craft & Maker, and Money & Life. They have classes on everything a creative entrepreneur needs. Whether you need help with business, marketing, or actual artistic techniques you are sure to find something useful. If you aren’t sure where to get started here are a few of my favorite classes:

Kickstarter for Photographers and Film Makers

This is one of the classes that I attended in the creativeLive studio. In this class Clay Hebert walked us through the steps to take before and during a Kickstarter campaign to ensure its success. He showed us some case studies on a few successful projects that he had worked with and showed us why they succeeded.

The Creative Newborn Photography Studio

This was the second class that I attended in studio and it was a life changer for me! Julia Kelleher is an amazing teacher and I absolutely loved her passion for teaching. Julia encouraged each of us to find a way to be creative and put our own hearts into our work. She encouraged us to try new things and find a personal project to work on. We got to watch her photograph a few different newborns as well as work on her own personal project exploring motherhood. She showed us the basics of creating a painting in Corel Painter as well as how she mounts her art prints. It was because of this class that I first tried digital painting which I LOVE and is now one of the staples of my business.

Photoshop Classes by Ben Willmore

There are TONS of classes a on Photoshop on CreativeLive and it can be hard to choose which one to purchase! I would highly recommend anything by Ben Willmore. I have watched several of his classes. He has an easy to follow teaching style. He explains things in a simple manner so that anyone can follow along. He doesn’t stop there though, he also goes into more advanced concepts and ideas. I have never failed to learn something new from every call of his that I have watched.

Brush Lettering Bundle

This bundle includes three excellent classes by Laura Worthington. Watching and participating in this class was probably the most fun I’ve had with a CreativeLive class outside of the studio. Laura started with the very basics of how to use the brush to create lines and shapes before moving on to letter forms. She then discussed how to think through and add flourishes and other ornamentation. From there the third class of this bundle discusses how to take a piece form idea through sketching to a finished piece.

These are just a few of my very favorite classes, but there are hundreds more that I have watched and enjoyed. Go check them out now while everything is on sale! You won’t regret it.

Have you watched any classes on CreativeLive? What were your favorites? What types of classes are you searching for? Please share and ask for recommendations in the comments. Let’s help everyone get their perfect class! 

Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World CreativeLive Class Review

Yesterday I watched the class “Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World” on CreativeLive by Karen Alsop. It was AMAZING!! I had to share today to make sure that anyone who was interested could catch the second day of broadcasting which will be happening starting at 9am PST. If you are reading this after June 3rd you’ve missed the live broadcast, thankfully all CreativeLive classes are available for purchase for unlimited download, streaming, watching, etc. also as a special bonus if you buy this class Karen has included her custom brush set that she created just for compositing (a $45 value) as a free download.

Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World - CreativeLive class review|

The class started with Karen telling us a bit about herself and her work. She then showed a few time lapse videos of her process. She then quickly got into the meat of the class, how to create a composite. She gave some great insight into how to plan a composite and shoot images that would work together. In this class she is creating an Alice in Wonderland scene to teach the process. Before the class began she went to a garden local to her and shot tons of images of trees, bushes, hedges, paths, etc. She showed a time lapse video, and talked us through it, of how she  put these images together to create a fantastic background.

Now it was time to start shooting. Karen brought in a live rabbit and an adorable little girl to play Alice. She talked to us about how to choose a background to shoot on and how to light the scene to match the lighting in your finished composite. We then got to watch her shoot both subjects. As she was shooting she was quickly placing shots roughly into the scene to make sure that the photographs would work well together. She had to ensure that they faced the right way, looked the right direction, were shot from the correct angle etc. This part was a lot of fun. Karen was shooting with her camera tethered to her Wacom Cintiq Companion 2. This allowed her to instantly pull any image into her composite and play with it. The companion has definitely inched it’s way to the top of my wants list after watching her use it. If you are interested in learning more about the Cintiq read my post about Wacom tablets.

After Karen chose her favorite images she began to discuss different tips and tricks for extracting a subject from their background. One of the things I had never thought of before was using a textured brush to create the masking, using a leaf brush for foliage or a hair brush for a furry animal. I have always struggled with getting clean extractions around hair, fur, or trees, so I am really excited to try this tip.

The day ended on that point. For the second day of Class Karen has told us we will be working on completing our extractions and putting together the different elements she will be using from the photos of Alice. After that she is going to discuss how to create light, shadows, and other editing techniques to ensure that the piece looks like it was shot all as one image as well as add a fun fantasy vibe to it. I am really excited to watch the live stream today and I hope you will be joining me. This is also a class I will be adding to my favorites in my digital library along with Watercolors 101 and Photoshop for Photographers. I’m also excited to combine composite creation in Photoshop with Corel Painter to create more images like this one of my daughter.

Digital composite created in Photoshop then painted in Corel Painter |

What have been your favorite CreativeLive classes or which ones are you looking forward to? Do you have any awesome compositing tips or tutorials to share? I love seeing new links to explore in the comments. 

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?

CreativeLive, One of My Favorite Educational Resources

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CreativeLive is an amazing resource for creatives who want to learn new skills as well as entrepreneurs wanting to learn to create and grow their businesses. Each day they run several streaming classes. Some are live classes and some are rebroadcasts. Any of these streams can be watched for free. When you watch a live class you have the opportunity to ask questions of the instructors and participate in the chat rooms with the other students.

After a class has aired they are archived and available for purchase. If you purchase a class you can download the videos or stream them any time you want. You also often get access to freebies that the instructor has provided as a bonus to those who buy the class. Classes  are very reasonably prices, starting as low as $29. Also if you follow CreativeLive on Facebook they will often announce sales and specials.

CreativeLive started out geared mostly towards photographers. As they have grown they have expanded into 5 different main channels which are photo & video, art & design, music & audio, craft & maker, and money & life. They have classes on everything from marketing and sales to calligraphy and scrapbooking. They will also often run events such as Photoshop Week, where they will bring several instructors in to give shorter classes on one specific topic for an extended period of time.

CreativeLive||online education|distance learning|live studio audience|live streaming classes
The entire studio audience and crew after the Julia Kelleher Creative Newborn Photography Studio course. I’m the pink bumble bee 😉

One of the best parts of CreativeLive is the live studio audience. CreativeLive has recording studios in Seattle and San Francisco. Each class has a studio audience that is invited to attend for FREE! The only cost to the students is travel and lodging if needed. This is an amazing opportunity, as taking in person classes from many of these well known instructors would run several hundred or even thousand dollars! I have been blessed to attend one class in each studio location. They were both awesome experiences. The one on one talks with the instructors as well as networking with other students was invaluable. If you want to attend a class simply scroll to the bottom of the homepage and click on “In the Audience”. This will take you to a page which shows upcoming classes and you can select which class you’d like to apply for and request an invitation to attend.

Overall CreativeLive is one of the best resources I’ve seen for creatives and entrepreneurs. If you haven’t checked it out yet do it now!

Have you watched a CreativeLive class or been in the audience? What was your favorite class? If you haven’t attended yet what is one class coming up that you are interested in?


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.

girl window pastel

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.

Beginning Photography Educational Resources

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I (Emily) am a photographer. I have always loved photography, but hadn’t felt confident in myself to actually do more than take pictures of my own children. Educating myself on both the art and technicalities of good photography is the #1 thing that allowed me to find the confidence to take the jump and go pro. Here are a few of my favorite resources for the aspiring photographer.

Adobe Photoshop|Photography|Smith Squad|HomeschoolAmazon is having a special right now on the Adobe one year subscriction to the photographer’s bundle ($9.99 a month billed monthly for Photoshop and Lightroom). If you purchase by April 11th they will give you a $25 Amazon credit.

I read many books on Photoshop while pursuing my BFA in Digital Design. Adobe Photoshop for Photographers is the most comprehensive nitty gritty how to book I read. It is my Photoshop bible! It is always on my shelf and I pull it out whenever I need a reminder on how to do something or inspiration to try something new.

For learning the basics of digital photography and editing anything by Scott Kelby is going to be good. I have read several of his books.

The Photographer’s Eye is the best book out there for learning the artistic side of photography. It discusses different artistic principles such as rule of thirds, leading lines, and utilizing triangles and circles that you can use to improve the composition of your shots. The author discusses different lenses and how they affect your image. He also gives several examples of one scene photographed in several different way and discusses the pros and cons of each shot.

If you only ever read one book about photography it has to be Understanding Exposure. This book will teach you how to get your camera off of auto and fully take control of your images. It discusses how different apertures and shutter speeds affect your images. It will enable you to see in your mind what you want your image to have (motion blur, depth of field, etc.) and actually achieve it! Also by getting your exposure correct in camera you avoid editing problems that degrade the quality of your photos such as overexposed highlights and excess noise from underexposure.

One of my favorite resources for continuing my education is Creative Live. Creative Live streams live classes by professionals on every topic from shooting to editing, posing to documentary, and more. If you watch the class live then it is free and you can jump in the chatrooms to interact with other students and ask questions. They also have a small live studio audience. I have been blessed to be in that audience twice now. Attendance is free, you just have to cover your own travel costs and hotel stay. There are two studios, Seattle and San Francisco, so if you live near one of those areas then you should definitely apply to attend some classes.

There are a million and one other resources out there. The most important thing is to just jump in and learn all you can then get your camera in your hands and shoot everything until you feel comfortable with what you are doing.

What other photography resources do you love? What photography questions would you like to have answered?

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.