Grey Arab Horse Portrait | Digital Painting Step by Step

A few people have asked recently how I create my digital paintings so I thought I would write a post with some step by step work in progress images to show how I painted this beautiful grey arab horse portrait.

There are a number of ways to create art in a digital format, there really is no right or wrong way – it is all up to the individual artist.  My background is a lifetime spent working with traditional art materials – graphite, charcoal, colour pencils, pastels, acrylics and oils – and I utilize all this experience and knowledge I have gained working with traditional art mediums to paint digitally.  I use a Wacom Intuos 4 digital graphics tablet and electronic art pen and the powerful real media emulation program Corel Painter XI to literally paint just like I do with traditional mediums, just electronically.

grey horse painting

Finished digital painting

The Painter program allows me to choose the type of medium (charcoal, pastels, watercolours, oils etc), the size and type of brush and blenders I wish to use, as well as the support I want to paint on such as canvas, sanded pastel papers, watercolour papers etc.

All of these variables respond just as they do with real life mediums in regards to the application, mixing and blending of colour.  The pressure sensitive tablet and pen records not only the movement of the pen (digital paintbrush) as I move my hand, but also the angle I hold the pen at, as well as the pressure that I apply to make each mark – essentially all of the variables that make a particular mark with traditional art materials are duplicated by the amazing technology that I have available to use.

The biggest difference for me between painting digitally and painting traditionally are all positive – the lack of mess, no wasted time setting up, lack of fumes & toxic ingredients (an important factor when you have auto-immune issues), no paintbrushes to clean, no wasted paint, no running out of the perfect colour mix, being able to paint for five minutes at a time if that is all I have available or if I unexpectedly get interrupted.  Probably more important to me personally as an artist though, is that painting digitally has allowed my creativity to flourish in a way that has never happened with traditional art mediums – I put this down to working photo realistically which is very time consuming and mentally draining.

With digital painting I am free to follow the slightest hint of inspiration for trying something new, knowing that I can always go back to the last saved copy if that particular path of inspiration comes to a dead end.  This is certainly not something I ever tried with traditional mediums for fear of completely destroying dozens of hours of work on a painting.  LOL so I should probably add ‘liberating’ to the list of reasons that I love digital painting so much!

There is so much more that I could write about digital painting, but I will leave that for another post!

This painting I finished recently is a lovely grey arab photographed by fellow artist, Cathy Sheeter.  I havn’t given this one a title yet, so if you have any good ideas, I would love to hear them!

Digital painting step by step

Digital painting step by step

The following image shows the stages of creating the finished painting. I paint digitally exactly like I do when I paint with traditional pastels, acrylics or oil paints. I paint on the digital canvas in one layer, just like I would in real life, using transparent glazes of colour to build up the painting. I don’t use filters, photoshop actions or effects (with the exception of minor sharpening or adding a slight texture for web viewing size images after the painting is complete).

Step 1: I started with a black background paper, sketched the subject with white pencil, then start blocking in the under-painting in soft pastels with the shadow colours (or complementary colours depending on the finished look that I want to achieve). I’m only paying attention to the colour shapes, not any detail at this stage.

Step 2 & 3: I add some highlights and start blending the paint.  If you look back at previous work in progress blogs I have posted, you will see the ‘ugly’ under painting stage is quite normal;)

Step 4: Add additional shadow and highlight colours to develop the form of the subject (I’m constantly looking at and assessing that the values and contrast is what I want).

Step 5: Add colour and detail to the eye and refine the shadow and highlight areas, adding more brushstrokes and colour in the mane then blend again.

Step 6: Add final details and individual hairs of varying colours in the mane, blend slightly where needed until satisfied with the final portrait painting.

grey horse painting

Finished digital painting

Please click the small image below to purchase Museum Quality prints of this painting.  Gifts, coffee mugs, cups, smartphone cases, tshirts and many other gifts and prints can be purchased from my Zazzle store.

buy arabian horse painting art Prints

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