Value Sketches

Value Sketches

We figure things out – shape, edges, distance, and more – using values (light and dark). Color is secondary to our understanding of the world. Values are therefore more important than colors in a painting. Here’s a slideshow that shows a value sketch, a painting with color added underneath the value sketch, and finally just the color. (Of course colors have their own values).

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I like to do quick value sketches on location before starting a painting. Its a tremendous help in planning the basic structure and exploring what’s important in the scene. Traditionally artists have used pencil, charcoal, or ink to draw value sketches. I thought I’d explore using the iPod Touch instead. It’s the right size – screen size is about 2 x 3 inches which is the size I usually make in a sketchbook. It’s also handy. It fits in my shirt pocket and I always have it with me and I already use it to take reference photos.

I experimented with several different painting apps. I first used Sketch Club which I like because I can make custom brushes and it has an eight step grayscale color palette. I also tried ArtRage and Sketchbook Mobile, but rejected them. ArtRage on the iPod creates files which are too small and Sketchbook has too clumsy an interface. I really like Procreate on the iPad, but the iPad is too big to carry around conveniently. The best was Brushes. It makes nice large files and you can playback a movie of your painting process. Here’s a sample.


3-D Man

3-D Man

3-D Man

Art requires experimentation. You mustn’t be afraid to try new tools, processes, workflows, or styles. This is how you move forward.

This image began in Wasabi ( a painting app on my iPad). I then made a second version with ToonPaint and experimented with combining the two images in ArtRage and modifying the combination with Pixlromatic and Glaze. Here’s a collage of the process.



When I look at this image, it’s like I’m wearing 3-D glasses. The reds float in front of the screen and the blues push back below the screen. It looks like the colors are painted on different sheets of glass stacked up on each other. It must have something to do with my astigmatism.

Back Yard Painting

Back Yard Painting

Back Yard Painting

I painted this on my iPod Touch in the back yard. It was late afternoon on a beautiful Spring day.

Here’s  a gallery showing the progress of the work starting with a photo taken on my iPod Touch then roughly sketched in with ArtRage (also on the Touch).

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I then sketched it again in Sketch Club on the Touch. Next I opened both versions on the iPad in ArtRage and combined pieces of each into a new version. I then used Pixlromatic to alter the color balance and to add texture and a frame. I saved two Pixlromatic versions (one more contrasty than the other). Finally I combined both of these versions in Blender to achieve the final version.

Red Poppy

Red Poppy

Red Poppy

Our one lone red poppy opened up last night.

We live in a universe dominated by chaos and entropy. I like to paint the anomalies. I did this on the iPad using a combination of the Artists Touch, ArtistaOil HD, and ArtRage apps.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

This morning at breakfast I got the urge to try the latest update of the Artists Touch app. I end up using a number of applications to complete this self portrait. First I opened the Artists Touch version in Pixlromatic and altered the color and contrast and added a border. I then opened that version in ArtRage to add the canvas texture and to do quite a bit of added brush work to add detail back into the painting. I added the signature in Procreate, and finally I cropped the image and sharpened it a bit in Photogene.

Late Afternoon Sun

Late Afternoon Sun

Late Afternoon Sun

 The sun came out after a morning of rain. I’m sitting on the back porch catching some rays and made this sketch on my iPod Touch with the Sketch Club app. I then transferred the image to my iPad and used the Pixlromatic app to add the texture and frame.


Front Yard

Front Yard Sketch

Front Yard Sketch

We had a bit of sun yesterday (and today). It felt good to sit on the front porch, read a book, and sketch on my iPod Touch. Just trying to capture some of the colors and shapes in front of me. Later, after I went inside, I transferred the sketch to my iPad and added some detail.

iPod Touch, Brushes, iPad, Procreate.

Apples Outside My Window


Woke up this morning to bright sunshine. I looked out the window and saw these apples and had to paint them.


The pencil sketch took more time than I anticipated (about an hour). I used a clear wax crayon to mask the highlights. Adding the colors took about another hour.


Pencil and watercolor on 6×8 paper. iPad, Photogene and ArtRage apps for photo correction (color and contrast) and erasing a few stray marks.e


Working in ArtRage again today trying different tools inspired by the work of Dan Harris (Gringovitch).

I started by squeezing out metallic tube paint and then I smudged it with the palette knife to draw it out into tendrils. I also used the Paint Roller and the Brush set to dry (no loading). Some of the textures were made by daubing the Brush with no thinner and lots of pressure and loading.

I worked in three layers. I used the roller in the background layer and had two layers for the animals and foreground.

Hut on the Pier


Today I’m experimenting with a new free art program for the iPad and iPhone called Ukiyoe – Woodcut. It mimics creating woodblock prints. The free program comes with one chisel which is pretty large. Swiping with your finger digs out a chunk of wood and like a real woodblock print you work in reverse (a mirror image). Here’s what the interface looks like.


You can rough in a sketch with a pencil and then start carving. The raised areas print black and the dug out areas remain white. You can save the image to your photo gallery, but unfortunately it isn’t very big. It’s only 512 x 758 pixels. Here’s the original saved image.


I tried a number of revisions using a variety of applications. I first used Photogene to flip the image.


I then tried Art Camera to make a negative using the Inverse filter. You could also use PhotoPad to do the same thing.


That didn’t appeal to me. So, next I brought the image into Brushes, sized it up a little bit, but left a white border, and did a bit of touch up in a separate layer. I added the door and repainted the window and fixed the two pilings and gave some definition to the roof and stovepipe.

I hope the developers continue to improve this application. I’d like to see a true HD version with higher resolution. I’d also like the ability to import reference images from the Photo Gallery.


Sent from my iPad

Backyard Sketch


Sitting on the back porch today trying out my new equipment before I take it on location. I’m using an iMount tripod adapter for the iPad and I’m painting with a Nomad Brush. Here’s what my setup looked like as I was painting.

Backyard Setup

Backyard Setup

I found I could sit comfortably with the tripod between my knees. The height and angle were just right so that I could use the lower part of my bifocal glasses to look at the iPad and the upper part to look at the scene. I like using the tripod because it frees up both hands to paint. I can use my left hand to choose tools and colors and my right to work with the brush.

After I was done, I took a reference photo with my digital camera.


And printed a 4×6 glossy photo with my new Epson PictureMate Charm portable printer. It works great. You get a borderless print in about a minute. I got the optional battery so I could take it on location, but I’m not sure I will. It’s a lot more to carry and usually I use a reference photo after I get home to refine a painting done on location.

I did the sketch in ArtRage. I made a template painting beforehand with 3 layers (background, middle, and foreground). To get started I duplicated the template. I used the roller to rough in some sky and tree in the background layer and then I switched to the middle layer and used the oil brush to paint in the rest. I used about 3 different brush sizes. I ended up not using the foreground layer at all. Total time was about 30 minutes.

I always have a hard time judging contrast outdoors. This time was no exception. The darks were not dark enough. After I came indoors, I used Snapseed to increase the contrast. Here’s what the original painting looked like so you can compare it to the one up top.



Copper Tiles Tutorial


Art is like magic. The audience never sees all the preparation and practice that goes into the making of the illusion and of course they never see all the steps necessary to do the trick. So, the effect can be both marvelous and mysterious.

And now for your amazement, here’s the finished painting.


The Trick Explained:

I painted this using six different apps on my iPad. It started as an experiment in InkPad. I wanted to see if it was possible to combine multiple shapes into a single mask over a texture. It turned out you could. So, I refined the test into this finished piece.

It’s basically a two step process. First, I created the textures outside of Inkpad and saved them to the Photo Gallery. Then I assembled the textures together in Inkpad using masks to create the tile shapes. In this case I used squares to keep it simple, but any shape would work including freehand shapes.

Step 1 – Creating the Textures:

I used an existing painting for the yellow background.


I imported it into the background layer in Inkpad, turned it 90 degrees counter clockwise, and increased the size to fill the frame. I just needed something to fill the edges of the painting.

I wanted the majority of the painting to have a blue textured background. I started in ArtRage to rough in the blue color on a canvas texture.


I started with a medium gray blue canvas. I used a large oil brush to rough in a variety of brush strokes of various values. I then used the palette knife to smear the colors a bit. Here’s the finished ArtRage painting that I saved the the Photo Gallery.


Next I opened the ArtRage image in Iris. I first applied the “Craquelure” FX filter. It’s located in the “Surface” collection. Here’s what that step looked like.


I then added the “Grunge Frame 2” FX filter. It’s located in “More…/Dust ‘n’ Scratches”. Here’s the finished blue background that I saved to the photo Gallery.


I wanted to try three different textures for the copper tiles. I needed a starting canvas like I did for the blue background but rather than painting a new one in ArtRage I decided to re-use the blue one and just change the color to reddish brown. I opened the blue ArtRage painting in Photogene and adjusted the Color Corrections until I got what I wanted. I then Exported it to the Photo Gallery.


This is the Photogene Exported image.


I opened the exported Photogene image in FX PhotoStudio and experimented with a number of different filters, but the first one I liked and saved used the “Dirty Picture 2” FX filter under the “Texturize” category.


Here’s what the saved image looked like.


I un-did that step in FX PhotoStudio and next applied the “Crumpled Paper” FX filter which is also in the “Texturize” category.


Here’s what the second texture
looked like.


For my third texture I used Snapseed’s “Grunge” tools.


Snapseed allows you adjust the Style, Brightness, Contrast, Texture Strength, and Saturation of the “Grunge” effect. Here’s what the finished Snapseed texture looked like:


Step 2 – Arranging the Textures in Inkpad:

Here’s what the finished painting looked like in Inkpad.


I used six layers.


As I mentioned above, I imported the seascape painting into the background layer. Next, I imported the blue background texture into the second layer. I then created a new layer and turned on the “Grid” and “Snap to Grid” and “Isolate Active Layer” in Inkpad’s Settings.


I then drew a square using a white fill and a one pixel wide, black stroke. I set a drop shadow using the ‘Shadow and Opacity” settings. The shadow opacity was 42%, the offset 13 pt., and the blur 37 pt. I made two duplicates of the square and placed them on the grid. I imported the first copper texture and moved it to the back. I then used the Multi-Select tool to select all three squares and united them in the Path Menu.


I added the texture to the selected objects using the Multi-Select tool. I then chose “Mask” from the Path Menu to mask the texture with the united square shapes. This is the “trick” that allows you to use multiple shapes to mask an underlying texture.


I used the same procedure to create the row 3 tiles in their own layer using the second copper texture image and to create rows 2 and 4 in another layer using the third copper texture.

Note: I didn’t use it here, but I also discovered that you can import more than one texture image in the same layer and apply a united shape mask over several texture images. Just select them all with the Multi-Select tool and then choose Mask in the Path menu.

Finally I added a signature in its own layer.


I discovered two things while adding the signature. First, the onscreen iPad keyboard does not have a copyright symbol. So, I copied and pasted one from Safari into the Inkpad text field. (Just do a Google search for “copyright symbol” to find a text sample).

I also discovered that the Eyedropper tool picks up colors from imported images as well as shapes created in Inkpad. I was able to click on a nice yellow in the border image to select a text color for my signature.


The process sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty straight forward once you understand how to unite multiple shapes and apply a mask to an underlying image. This technique opens up all kinds of possibilities for painting with patterns and textures. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if you use this technique in your own work.


Custom Grain Textures

Today I figured out how to install custom grain textures in ArtRage for iPad.

"Brew-Ha-Ha" (evil magician’s laugh inserted here).

Here’s how I did it. The trick was to use Phone Disk to mount my iPad as a hard disk on my Macbook. This nifty Mac app is available for free through December. You can right mouse click on the ArtRage app and Show Package Contents. From there you can open the App Resources folder and navigate down to the Grains folder. All the Grain textures are png files. I made a custom texture in Photoshop – 512 x 512 px – and saved it as a png. I then dragged the custom png file into the Grains folder on the iPad. The new grain texture showed up at the end of the Grains list after all the default ones. The name was the filename. This really opens up a lot of possibilities.

iPad, ArtRage app, finger.