The eagle owl chick: digital painting

//The eagle owl chick: digital painting

The eagle owl chick: digital painting

Thought that I could explain a bit how I work when I paint digitally. To begin with, I confess that I am completely autodidact in digital painting, and I do not know so much about computers and programs on the whole. But I paint anyway, and slowly, little by little, I’m making some progress. I think. In order to understand the following, one must be at least somewhat familiar with the art of digital painting. For those who don’t, I will try to present the discipline in a more comprehensive way at some point in the future.

The software I’m using is ArtRage 4 (I’m waiting for the next, 4.5, coming soon) from Ambient Design. It’s the only program I have tried so far, so I can’t make any comparisons.

The process itself doesn’t differ so much from the way I paint traditionally (I don’t always work the same way in any technique, but in general, this is  how it goes), and so, I usually start with a pencil drawing.

Eagle owl juv 1a

For a naturalistic painting like this, a model is always required, life or a photo (in most cases, photos are more practical). Even when I don’t paint from life, I prefer using my own material. If it’s possible.

After I have made a quick drawing, I start filling in color. The drawing doesn’t have to be very precise, there are a lot of corrections to be made during the process anyway.

Eagle owl juv 1b

Now, I can start painting on the drawing (or on a layer underneath it, which I often do at first) just in a normal way, like in the image above. Or I can use the advantages digital painting offers (I think that the point in using any new media is that it should make work easier and faster, there is no reason to make it more difficult than it already is), so I can speed things up by only painting one half of the image,

Eagle owl juv 1c

then duplicating the layer, and flipping one of them. Actually there is a symmetry tool for ArtRage 4, which duplicates the brushstrokes automatically. I haven’t tested it yet though.

Eagle owl juv 1d

The effect I want to achieve, requires many thin layers of color overlapping each other, which is mostly sheer time consuming, mechanical work. Through using this option, I can save many valuable working hours for the more demanding work on the details. Not to forget that by saving thousands of brush strokes, I can also reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury on my hand.

This works best for somewhat symmetrical images, but the method of painting a small area, and the copying it repeatedly, can be used for many purposes.

If the result is supposed to look natural, it’s of course important to work over the whole painting after duplicating and flipping, so that the halves won’t be exactly the same.

Eagle owl juv 1e

A face, human or animal, is never symmetrical, but at this point I alter reality slightly, making the image little more balanced than it would be in real life. I think it looks better in a painting. The feeling of natural asymmetry comes from the details and direction of light etc.

Eagle owl juv 1f

And so, I continue to repeat this procedure,

Eagle owl juv 1g

until the painting is ready.

Eagle owl juv 1h

Adding background color, some more details,

Eagle owl juv 1i

and I’m almost there!





By | 2018-01-11T08:59:44+03:00 August 8th, 2014|Categories: Tutorial|Tags: , , , |9 Comments


  1. Dale Jackson 19.09.2014 at 19:41 - Reply

    I saw this posted by ArtRage on Facebook. It is absolutely awesome. I love that you also work digitally. Truly exceptional piece.

    • Tom 19.09.2014 at 20:14 - Reply

      Thank you very much, Dale. For the moment I’m painting a lot digitally, more than in traditional media. It has its advantages. I made this tutorial merely as a test, didn’t think anyone would find it anyway while I’m only starting to build up this site. Glad you stopped by.

  2. Victor Osaka 19.09.2014 at 20:42 - Reply

    Really awesome write up! It is always nice to see someone successfully transfer their skills from traditional mediums to digital media. Beautiful.

    • Tom 21.09.2014 at 13:16 - Reply

      It was actually surprisingly easy to start painting digitally (a couple of years ago). The feeling is quite close to traditional media, and the methods (sketching, underpainting etc.) too. Thank you very much, Victor.

  3. Dale Jackson 19.09.2014 at 20:48 - Reply

    Well keep at it for sure! You’re doing great work. I know what you mean about painting a lot digitally. Same here. I do paint and draw traditionally, but I can actually get things done faster digitally.

  4. Juan Antonio. 21.09.2014 at 17:27 - Reply

    Excelente trabajo y tutoríal, Gracias!i

  5. Denise Martin 29.03.2016 at 16:09 - Reply

    Absolutely stunning artwork. After painting and drawing and printmaking traditionally for years, the RSI problem with the hands, and the desire to avoid toxic chemicals during the creation of art, makes me think that digital is the way to go! it’s encouraging that you say you are not a computer nerd. I would be interested to see the more comprehensive explanation of digital painting – has it been posted yet?
    Do you print your work yourself Tom?

    • Tom 29.03.2016 at 18:01 - Reply

      Hi Denise, and thank you for your comment (this page has been a bit sleepy although I do have some plans for it, coming up some day). Yes, working with a computer can be a very good alternative or complement to one’s artistic endeavors, for many reasons. My problem is my eyesight, bad astigmatism combined with worsening longsightedness. It’s much easier to work when all the stuff is at the same level. I also like the ergonomics, using a pen tablet (rather than a touch screen) enables me to keep my shoulders relaxed and my neck straight, a great improvement compared with painting and drawing the traditional way. I don’t have much experience from other painting programs but according to what I have learned from others (mainly Photoshop users) and some reviews, I believe ArtRage isn’t a bad choice at all. Also, I use it professionally all the time and it has worked just fine. Although it’s simple I do understand that it can feel slightly inconvenient to reed the whole manual trying to find out what would be the most essential things to know to get started, so I think a clear and simple step by step explanation would be in order. It certainly is coming, but unfortunately I’ve been far too busy lately. But if you decide to give it a go, you’re by all means welcome to ask! You may also find something useful in the other comments. As I work professionally my pictures are mainly printed in books, magazines, museum exhibitions etc. but for private use I can have my work printed by my brother (his a graphic designer). I’m sure you can find professional printers near you. One nice alternative could also be to make a “photo book” of your pictures. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but it surely could be interesting.

      • Denise Martin 29.03.2016 at 18:27 - Reply

        Hi Tom thank you so much for your very prompt and comprehensive reply, and the advice. I will explore Artrage – i have an idea that my son has mentioned it some time ago.
        Re the photobook – i have actually made a couple as a record of my work – always a good idea, especially when work has been sold – i thought that my granddaughter might be interested in twenty years time, when i am no longer here!!
        Once again, thank you for your courtesy and advice.
        Kind regards

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