The entire process of design is filled with refinement: make a variety of options (thumbnails, color palettes, etc.) - and choose the best one. What if you could automate some of that? This video shows a technique to multiply your color roughs when making a character design in order to dramatically increase the total output. It's a bit messy, but you'll save a ton of time. If you want to see a similar process with thumbnails, make sure to watch this older Ctrl+Paint video.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
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Are you using masks to their full potential?  Do you even know what masks are?  If you answered no to either of those questions, get ready to have your mind blown.   Masking is one of the most abstract concepts in Photoshop painting, but in my opinion it's the secret for truly efficient workflows.  Though it doesn't feel like a traditional painter's process, it's a skill no digital painter should live without.  This video focuses on painting textural overlays and the concept of 'nested masking' for maximum versatility.

If you're not familiar with masking, these are good videos to watch first: Masking 101 pt.1Masking 101 pt. 2Masking 101 pt. 3

If you want to experiment with the PSD file from the lesson, here is the robot for download.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
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To get the most out of digital painting you'll need to let the computer do some of the work for you. Repeated objects are a great opportunity for Photoshop to shine, and this video shows how you can do real-time design using the 'smart objects' command.  Unike traditional painting where you work from the beginning sketch to a finished painting, the digital process operates in a less linear way.  If you can wrap your head around the possibilities, you'll end up saving time and achieving fantastic results!
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AuthorMatt Kohr
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computers and software are really good at repetitive tasks. Why not let Photoshop do some of the hard work for you? This video tackles a specific storyboarding-related challenge with a photoshop "action". Even if you're not a storyboard artist, you'll see the way that I identify a challenge and figure out how to get Photoshop to solve it for me. Best of all, once you've created the action, you can assign a keyboard shortcut to it! And if you want the storyboarding action I mention in this video, download it here!

Drawing symmetrical objects in perspective can be a challenge. In situations like this, I generally use Google Sketchup to help me with my accuracy This video explores the powerful tools that Sketchup provides for working with repeated shapes and symmetrical forms. Even if you're saying "Yeah, yeah - symmetry is no big deal in perspective..." would you change your tune if I asked you to draw an object that 7-sided with rotational symmetry? Sometimes a little bit of 3D saves a lot of time.

Why are console video games played with a controller or a touch screen, and not a keyboard? Because those are the best-suited input devices for the way most users interact with their device. Guess what? Being a digital painter means you're no longer included in "most users". Now you've got a different set of needs, and will most likely be spending longer at your computer than the average user. With this in mind, a standard keyboard might not be the best input device for you. Just like using a stylus instead of a mouse, you might want to consider alternative keyboards or controllers for your other hand.

When it comes to ergonomics, re-mapping your keyboard shortcuts is a great start - but it doesn't need to be the end. Over the years I've radically changed my input scheme and the results have been very clear: expensive, but worth every penny.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
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Like the buttons and dials in your car, keyboard shortcuts are the "user interface" with which you control Photoshop. Have you customized these commands yet? The whole point of keyboard shortcuts is to save you time and avoid wasting energy. With this in mind, it's worth considering your personal needs when working with keyboard shortcuts. In general, shortcut keys are designed for easy recall: ctrl+s = save, etc. In this video I suggest that a better scheme for assigning keys is based on the position of your left hand. Re-mapping the keyboard shortcuts with this new prioritization will reduce your hand strain and speed up your painting technique.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
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Thumbnail sketches are small drawings which help plan your larger, finished, works. There's noting 'finished' about them, and they are generally thrown away once you begin the final piece. So why not use 3D software to help generate some ideas? As far as 3D software goes, Sketchup is very basic and straightforward. Even if you aren't interested in making complex models in 3D, doing a quick block-in of your scene and then moving around it in 3D space can help you select dramatic camera angles.

Want to make controlled, dependable, selections in Photoshop? The Marquee and Lasso tools each have their strengths, but the Pen Tool combines the best of both worlds. This is the first half of a two-part introduction to the amazingly useful Pen Tool. For whatever reason, this is often overlooked by digital painters - avoiding it for the more accessible selection tools. I encourage you to give it a chance, because you might not want to go back to the lasso tool.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
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Painting is generally done with basic, versatile, brushes. Sometimes however, you're better off using a custom brush to accomplish a specific end. In this video I showcase a brush pack designed to make the task of painting machine guns and muzzle flares easier. The brush pack is free, so feel free to download it!

And if you're intrigued by this concept of custom brushes, there's an entire Premium Series dedicated to it in the Ctrl+Paint store!  

The goal of thumbnail sketching is to generate a large variety of design possibilities in a short amount of time. With this goal inmind, it's not 'cheating' to take a non-traditional approach. This video shows how to "built" your thumbnail sketches instead of simply drawing them. Using robots as subject matter, we'll first build a set of modular components, and then mix and match them to create a large variety of robot designs.

Sometimes the digital workflow will behave completely counter to the way you learned to draw with a pencil and paper. Though it might seem foreign and strange, I encourage you to embrace these new opportunities! In this video I'll show how to iterate through a set of thumbnails by chopping them up into pieces, mixing, matching, and contorting them. Though it's not much like traditional 'drawing', it's a lot of fun and can be a huge time-saver.

One of the most important aspects of digital painting is edge control, and selections allow you to 'paint inside the lines' effortlessly. What happens when you want to use a few different recurring selections in your illustration? "Save Selection" is one option, though this video offers a quicker alternative.

If you're a traditional painter, something like a flock of birds means only one thing: lots of work. Photoshop offers some time-saving alternatives for digital painters. In this video we'll take a look at the use of duplication to quickly populate an entire flock of birds. Remember: this isn't cheating, you're simply using the tools Photoshop makes available to you.

The goal of making thumbnail sketches is speed. You're trying to get a lot of ideas onto the page as quickly as possible. This video explores the concept of symmetrical thumbnail designs. Specifically, it offers a single-button solution to create these horizontally mirrored drawings. Photoshop actions can be a huge time-saver if you know how to use them - and this 'mirror action' is no exception.

Creating an illustration which sits on a solid color background can be a challenge. If your goal is to have a nice, painterly, edge you might find yourself constantly re-working it. The method shown in this video strikes a balance between the time-savings of Photoshop layers and the painterly edge quality you're striving for.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
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