Simplicity Rules

November 25, 2019

Why do I keep my settings simple and not leverage the full power of digital painting software?

There are quite a few stark differences in the work process between different artists in digital painting. Some work with a few simple brushes and one layer or a few layers, others work with many complex brushes on one layer, while others go “all-out” and leverage the full power of digital painting software. These brave souls would use hundreds of brushes on hundreds of layers…. okay that last bit might be an exaggeration. The point is that there are many variations in the work process. These processes can be categorized into two camps; a process that is simple and is typically destructive, and a process that is non-destructive editing.

Let me take a few moments to explain the concept of destructive v non-destructive editing. Traditional painting is a destructive process. Once a person paints over his or her initial sketch, that sketch is gone forever. That is not like digital painting at all. In digital painting, one can keep their sketch up until the final product is complete. One can then decide in the end if they want to include the sketch in the final product or not. This is an example of non-destructive editing. Practically all the steps of the painting process are preserved so one can jump back and forth between the steps and “go back in time” if one needs to.

For an outsider who doesn’t know much about the painting process, it seems to them that the non-destructive process is the best process. It makes sense from a logical point of view. If one can keep all the steps of a painting process intact so one can go back and forth between all the steps, then every digital artist should have this process. The camp of “keeping it simple” shouldn’t even exist. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are quite a lot of artists like me who find themselves more at home with the destructive process.

An illustration of my digital painting software settings.
I keep everything simple; a few brushes and one layer.

What can I say, it feels more natural to do everything in one layer. Even though using multiple layers offer the most flexibility, when it comes to blending the colors it works best if everything is in one layer. Trying to blend with multiple layers just doesn’t work well.

Now I’m not saying I don’t do multiple layers. In fact, during the initial editing process, I actually do have tons of layers. But at some point in time during the creation process, after I am happy with my layer tweaks, I would save a different file version and merge all the layers for me to work on. Saving a different file version is immensely important. Since I’m going to destroy all the layers I need to have a file copy with all the layers intact, so if ever I need to “go back in time” I can.

As for brush settings… well, I keep everything simple with that also. If one looks at the image above one can see I only have about five to seven brushes in my brushes docker. Out of these seven I rotate between two to three of these the majority of the time. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy using other brushes… I actually have settings for other brushes in case I need them for something specific. But as for the majority of the time, I’m painting, I’m only ever using those seven.

If you’re a beginner in digital painting you might not find yourself in a camp yet. You might find yourself experimenting between one layer or multiple layers or a few brushes v many brushes. But as time goes on you will definitely find yourself in one camp for sure. There is really no right or wrong as to which camp you end up with. There are pros and cons to working with either style. So long as you feel comfortable with one then that is all the really matters.

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