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| Smithsquad.com

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 | Smithsquad.com

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. 

Wacom Tablet|Why, How, What?

At least once a day I see someone post on Facebook asking about using Wacom tablets for photo editing and digital art. My Wacom Intuos Pro is probably my most used digital art tool, so I always respond to these posts with long, enthusiastic, detailed replies. Just makes sense to put it all into a blog post don’t you think?

Why I love my Wacom

Imagine trying to paint a portrait using a rock instead of a paintbrush. Now that I’ve been using a Wacom for a while that’s exactly what it feels like when I try to work with a mouse or even worse a track pad. Even using my finger on an iPad feels super cumbersome now. The pressure sensitivity is AMAZING and something that just isn’t possible with a mouse. I also love the tilt sensitivity when using Corel Painter. The hot keys not he sides of the tablet also save me a ton of time. Instead of having to reach for the keyboard I can just program my favorite shortcuts for each program I use into the hot keys.

I bought my first Wacom, an Intuos 3, used in 2010. That thing was moved across the country 3 times and went on many cross-country plane rides with me as well. It has been dropped, stepped on, smashed, thrown (thanks kids), spilled on, and even had a triangular piece of the top surface about an inch long broken out of it. That thing still works perfectly! My main reasons for (finally) upgrading to the Intuos Pro a few months ago were wireless connection and I wanted a smaller size because I have an incredibly cramped workspace. I am now currently using the Intuos Pro size small on a 21.5″ iMac. My old Intuos 3 is still seeing love at a friend’s house as her homeschooled daughter is now learning to use it!

How to choose?

Well before you can make a choice on which tablet to buy you have to understand the differences. there are three basic categories of Wacom tablets. Intuos, Intuos Pro, Cintiq, and Cintiq Companion Hybrid. I’ll give you a quick rundown of each. The prices listed were current at the time of writing. You can click the hyperlinks (affiliate links) to get the most current price on Amazon.com.

Intuos– $97

The Intuos (formerly called the Bamboo) has 1024 levels of pressure sensitivity, no tilt sensitivity, and four express keys. There is only one size option, 8.25-by-6.7 inches, and it can be set up for left or right-handed use. The Intuos comes with a USB cable computer connection or you can purchase an additional wireless adaptor kit for ~$40. There are several variations of the Intuos such as art, photo, comic, etc. They are all exactly the same tablet with different software bundles. Just pick the one that has the software that is most appealing to you.

Intuos Pro– $248-499

The Intuos Pro (formerly the Intuos) has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, allows for pen tilt recognition, eight express keys, and a multifunction touch ring. This tablet also includes touch sensitivity that allows you to use your typical muti-finger touch functions that you would use on a track pad or other computer tablet. This option can be toggled on and off as you wish. The Intuos pro comes with the wireless capability built-in and charges via USB cable attached to the computer or a wall adaptor.

There are three size options. The most common recommendation is to pick your size based on approximately 1/3 of your main editing screen. Another thing to take into consideration is your personal drawing style. If you tend to use large, loose full arm movements you may want to go one size up. If you use a smaller more controlled wrist motion then you will be fine sizing down.

Cintiq– $799-1995

The Cintiq is a beauty! It has the same pressure sensitivity levels and tilt recognition as the pro, but your editing screen is show right there on the tablet. This make precise detailed works of art a breeze. You can choose between a standard or HD screen. The HD screen options also include the touch screen abilities. There are two sizes, 13″ and 22″. Which you choose is going to rely heavily on your personal editing style. Since the screen is projected right there on the tablet the ratio doesn’t really matter. It’s all about how big of a work surface you want to have.

Cintiq Companion Hybrid– $1649-2499

The Cintiq Companion is the Rolls Royce of Wacom tablets. When you plug it into your computer it functions exactly as the Cintiq does. When you disconnect it you have a fully functioning tablet running of Intel processors with a Windows operating system. You are able to run the full adobe product suite just as you would don a laptop computer. I am totally drooling over this like you can’t believe. Unfortunately it’s not in the budget…yet!

Great info, but what do I need?

If you are only doing basic photo editing and simple Illustrator graphics then you should be just fine with the Intuos. If you are doing more art pieces, such as sketching or painting then you are going to want the increased pressure sensitivity and tilt recognition of the Intuos Pro. Upgrading to a Cintiq or Cintiq Companion will all be based on your desires. If you are constantly on the go and can afford it I would definitely recommend the Companion.

I hope this helps you out and I would love to hear your reviews of each tablet if you have them. Why do you love them? Any tips on picking the right one? Anything I missed here? Please feel free to share in the comments!

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.