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Digital Washes

Adding wetness and tint to your canvas in Studio Artist

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

This week we're back to Synthetik Studio Artist to take a look at another one of those features that makes this program unique, namely the ability to use media that interact with one another like liquids. Those of you with natural media backgrounds, particularly life drawing, are familiar enough with washes and the great ways they can interact with dry media like charcoal or Conté. I can remember in my art school using everything from watered-down Dr. Martin inks applied with a rag to transmission fluid applied with a very expensive sable brush. (In retrospect, maybe I should have done things the other way around.)

Washes and crayons in Studio Artist.
Image by David Nagel.

Studio Artist has the ability to synthesize similar tools, except that, unlike those experimental art supplies you might have found in the automotive store, these ones aren't saturated with carcinogens, unless you count the phosphor from your screen, which I don't. If simply emulating natural media isn't your thing, take heart in the fact that your work in Studio Artist can be animated, which only happens in natural media when you work in a poorly ventilated studio.

You can achieve a variety of effects with washes in Studio Artist. These range from washes that will only apply themselves to white areas of the canvas (for a look that appears like watercolor on Wax) all the way down to chunky black stuff that will make your underlying strokes bleed. The program itself includes a few, and I've created 20 variations of my own washes that can be downloaded here for those of you who don't like to read tutorials or for those who want to use these as a staring point for your own washes.

For this particular tutorial, I'll show you how to create a light black wash that causes bleeding and distortion of the underlying stroke. The image above and to the right is an example I created using nothing but Studio Artist's built-in Crayon tool and some washes I put together in the Paint Synthesizer. And below you'll see an example of four strokes, three of which show the kinds of washes I used in that image.

The stroke on the left is a straight line that looks something like a Conté crayon (using the Crackle 1 preset under the Crayon category that comes standard with Studio Artist). The second stroke uses a wash that doesn't interact at all with the Conté stroke but that just applies a tint to the surrounding canvas. Next, you see the stroke with a wash applied (with hard pressure) to create bleeding. And on the right you see the wash applied with medium pressure to produce more of a blur than a bleed and also distortion of the Conté stroke. You can create all of these fairly easily using Studio Artist's Paint Synthesizer, and you can save the resulting Paint Patches for future use so that you don't have to recreate the wash every time you want to use it.

First, just pick a preset you want to modify to turn it into a wash. I'll start, as usual, with the first brush in the General category, Bristle Paint-Contoured. Now we'll do some tweaking to make it behave like a wash.

So switch into Paint Synthesizer mode and select the category Paint Fill. Use the following settings:

Fill From: Canvas Image
Modulate: Mult
Mod %: 2
Fill To: Canvas Image
Fill Option: Blend

Now try applying this setting over a regular Conté crayon stroke. You can already stop right there. You have a bristly wash. But you can also take it a little further without much trouble. In the same Paint Fill palette, change the Algorithm to Mix Apply/Displace Out. Right under that, switch Replace to Dif Darken. And change the Blend % to 12. Now try applying it again.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of the Creative Mac, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion and Synthetik Studio Artist WWUGs; and executive producer of Creative Mac, Digital Media Designer, Digital Pro Sound, Digital Webcast, Plug-in Central, Presentation Master, ProAudio.net and Video Systems sites. All are part of the Digital Media Net family of online industry hubs.