A Note from Vance on the Notebook Below
If you are thinking about using Corel® Painter™ Essentials 4, the document below may significantly shorten your learning curve. With no previous painting experience, I used Corel® Painter™ Essentials 4 to create the cover for my book:
Vance’s Notebook for
Corel® Painter™ Essentials 4
Copyright © 2011 by Vance R. Avis
(This is a work-in-progress book)
This document offers some suggestions on how to use Corel® Painter™ Essentials 4 (herein referred to as Essentials 4). The projects are based on how I created the cover for my book The Legend of Mighty Mabel.
Remember to watch the Video Tutorials that you can access in the Help menu at the top of Essentials 4 or from the Welcome window that opens each time Essentials 4 starts.
For these projects, I’m going to use two pictures my sister, Karen, sent me, which I have renamed to:
cubicle.JPG [Karen’s cubicle at work, a contest winner, I am certain]
And snow.JPG [Karen’s backyard, and you thought her cubicle was cool]
Here is the sequence of steps to do the first project:
Start Corel® Painter™ Essentials 4, and close the Welcome window.
Essentials 4 is divided into two workspaces: the Drawing & Painting workspace and the Photo Painting workspace. Make sure the Drawing & Painting workspace tab at the top right is selected.
From the File menu select “Open…” Then browse to and “Open” the picture of Karen’s cubicle: cubicle.JPG. Note: For this project, this is how we will begin because it is the simplest way and the cubicle picture is the background picture for everything we will place upon it. For most other types of projects, you will want to leave the canvas blank. More details will be given below in Why layers are so cool.
You need to save your work as a RIFF file in order to keep all the layers in your document the way you have them. If you have not yet saved your work as a RIFF file, in the File menu select “Save As…”, not “Save”, which is used if you are already working with a RIFF file [Check the Title Bar for the file type].
After selecting “Save As…”, browse to the folder you created for this project. Then select “Save as type: RIFF Files”. Rename the file if you want (e.g. cubicle.RIF) and click “Save” in the “Save Image As” dialog box.
Start Essentials 4, go to File menu, and either find your project at the bottom of the list (e.g. cubicle.RIF) and click on it; or select “Open…” and find your project— just be careful to select cubicle.RIF and not the auto-created backup file: cubicle_bak.RIF.
Along the right side of Essentials 4 are the various palettes. For the Drawing & Painting workspace, they are the Colors palette, the Mixer palette, the Color Wheel palette, and the Layers palette at the bottom. They can each be opened and closed by clicking on the small triangle to the left of the palette name. Close one or both color palettes so there is more space, and open the Layers palette.
Notice that on the right side of Essentials 4, the Canvas is highlighted in the Layers palette and shows a small picture of Karen’s cubicle. Just to the left of that picture is a small eye icon, which tells you whether the Canvas layer is visible or hidden. Click on the eye to alternately hide and show the Canvas layer. Notice how the big picture of Karen’s cubicle in the document window appears and disappears. Leave the eye open (canvas layer visible).
From the File menu select “Place…” Then browse to and Open the snow picture: snow.JPG. Uncheck “Constrain Aspect Ratio” because we may want to distort the picture. Leave the 90% stuff as is because we can make it bigger or smaller later. Then click OK.
You now have two layers: snow.JPG and Canvas. You select a layer by clicking on it, which highlights that layer. Practice alternately selecting the snow.JPG and Canvas layers. While doing this, repeat to yourself five times, in rhythm with selecting a layer, “I select the layer; then I work on the layer.”
This is NOT trivial!! Vance has not gone brain-dead, and it is not Romper Room time at the Drawing & Painting workspace. I will practically guarantee you that forgetting to select the proper layer before beginning to work on the layer will be among everyone’s most frustrating boners when using Essentials 4. More details will be given below in:
Click on the eye icon to the left of the snow.JPG layer to alternately hide and show that layer. Notice how the big picture of Karen’s cubicle in the document window is alternately covered and uncovered by the snow.JPG layer.
Select the snow.JPG layer (which highlights it), right click on it, and select Duplicate. (This makes a backup copy of snow.JPG in case you exceed Undo’s ability to get all the way back when doing the exercises below.)
Select the top layer (a snow.JPG layer), if it is not already selected, right click on it, and select “Layer Attributes…” Rename the layer to “Dup of snow.JPG”. Then hide that layer by clicking on the eye icon.
With the top layer, “Dup of snow.JPG”, highlighted and hidden, right click on the snow.JPG layer and select “Layer Attributes…” as if you were trying to change the attributes of the snow.JPG layer but forgot to first select it. Notice that it is the selected layer, “Dup of snow.JPG”, not the layer you right clicked on, the snow.JPG layer, whose attributes are shown.
Now right click on the snow.JPG layer and select Duplicate. Notice which layer was duplicated. Then go to the Edit menu and select “Undo Duplicate” to remove the extra duplicate layer.
Select the “Dup of snow.JPG” layer and drag it down and up. Notice how the two layers change order. Notice that you can do the same thing with the snow.JPG layer but not with the Canvas. Leave the Dup layer on top.
Now you can begin to understand why Essentials 4’s use of layers is so powerful. Note these important things about layers:
1) The top layer covers the bottom layer. This is true no matter how many layers you have. A layer above covers all layers below, and it is covered by any layers above it.
2) You can hide any layers by closing their eyes. This effectively removes them from your project, which means, for example, you can have layers that are sketches of where you want to place things and then hide them whenever you don’t need them.
Or you can experimentally paint layers weirdly; then hide them if you decide that was not exactly what you wanted but you’re not quite ready to delete that layer.
When you have things the way you want them, all the hidden layers are out of your project, and you can drop the visible layers onto the canvas to create your JPG picture because what you see is what you get.
3) Images on layers can be created to cover only portions of the canvas. Because you shrank the snow picture to 90%, it does not completely cover the canvas. This is an important concept: Images/paintings/text can be placed on a layer in any location and moved around, and only the image/painting/text itself covers what is below it. The rest of the layer, or a layer with nothing on it, is like a clear piece of glass.
But note that the canvas layer is always on the bottom, cannot be moved around, and will always be in your JPG picture, even if it is hidden. So when viewing your project, make sure the canvas is not hidden, or what you see will not be what you get (unless the canvas is completely covered by the layers above it).
When you are working with a layer— for example, painting a ghost’s eyes using the Dropper or painting a snowgirl on a layer with a brush, or whatever— make sure the layer you think you are working with is highlighted in the Layers palette because if it is not, you are painting the layer that is highlighted and not the layer you think you are painting— and Undo only works up to a point! This same rule applies to everything you do with layers: Cutting, Duplicating, Dodging & Burning, Rubber Stamping, changing Layer Attributes…, etc. Your mantra is: “I select the layer; then I work on the layer.”
5) A noteworthy bug: Note that there is a lock icon on the right of the canvas layer in the Layers palette. Help says layers can be locked, a nice feature I wanted to use. I researched the subject, and as near as I can easily determine, Corel® Painter™ Essentials 4 has a bug in it that will not allow layers to be locked.
Both pictures (cubicle and snow) are the same size (Dimensions: 640 x 480 pixels) —you can determine that by right clicking the pictures in their Windows file folder and looking at Properties/Details.
When Essentials 4 first starts, the canvas size is not set. You have two options for setting the canvas size for a new project: From the File menu, select either New… or Open… If you select New… you will be required to enter the canvas size in a dialog box.
If you select open, the picture you open will determine the canvas size, as we did above. To verify that, go to the Canvas menu and select Resize… Note that the canvas size is now the same size as Karen’s cubicle picture you initially Opened to start this project.
You could have started this project by choosing File/New…, which prompts you to set the canvas size manually. Then you would select File/Place… to place the cubicle picture in a layer floating above the canvas, which leaves the canvas blank.
This is what I did to create the cover for The Legend of Mighty Mabel. My canvas remained blank the entire time I was working on the project, until I dropped all the finished layers onto the canvas to create the JPG picture for my eBook versions of The Legend of Mighty Mabel.
Leaving the canvas blank while working on your projects lets you keep everything in layers and rearrange and recut and repaint and re-everything because working with layers is flexible. The picture on the canvas is stuck there. You can’t easily duplicate it and try something new, as you can with layers. And the canvas cannot be separated back into layers if you decide little Shadow’s eyes need more sparkle. So keep little Shadow in a layer until you’re done.
In my cover picture for The Legend of Mighty Mabel, both the eye for the cloud and the eyes for the ghost in the doorway were in layers that were separate from the cloud layer and the layer the doorway was in. And I did experiment with different versions, especially for the cloud eye, which was easy to do using layers because I could fiddle with the cloud eye without touching the cloud itself.
The following technique is the one I used to create the cloud spewing lightning in the cover picture for The Legend of Mighty Mabel, as well as several other portions of the cover picture. This is not the technique explained in Help/Help Topics, but my technique works better for me than theirs, so that is what I will show you here.
For the purpose of this learning exercise, we are going to cut the picture out instead of copying it. Normally you would copy it, unless of course your goal is to put a hole in the big picture instead of extracting out a small picture from the big.
In the following steps, you will use the Lasso Selection tool found in the Toolbox on the left side of Essentials 4. The Lasso tool is the ninth one down in the flyout that also contains the Rectangular and Oval Selection tools and the Magic Wand.
By default, Essentials 4 starts with the Rectangular Selection tool shown. If you have trouble finding the Rectangular Selection tool, open Help Topics in the Help menu; then open the second topic from the top, A Workspace Tour; then open The Toolbox to see pictures of the various tools.
Click on the Rectangular Selection tool to open the flyout, and select the Lasso tool, which closes the flyout with the Lasso tool now shown. If you’re like me, you will sometimes find these flyouts a bit exasperating: If the flyout doesn’t open by clicking in the center of the tool icon, try clicking on the small triangle in the lower right corner, and vice versa. If it doesn’t close by clicking on the tool you’re selecting, try double clicking.
Practice the following steps several times until you feel comfortable with the technique. The Lasso tool is not easy to use, especially with a mouse, because it can be tricky to smoothly follow the curve you want. Don’t try overly hard to get it smooth because our goal is to put a snowgirl picture inside Karen’s cubicle, and snow doesn’t have smooth borders, and we are going to blur the border with painting techniques anyway.
1) Highlight the snow.JPG picture layer and hide all other layers, including the canvas.
2) Use the Lasso tool to select a portion of the snow picture to cut out: Click and hold the left mouse button down as you move the mouse to select an area. (Similar instructions apply if you are using a pen and tablet. I used both mouse and pen&tablet to create The Legend of Mighty Mabel book cover and found that both have their advantages, but generally I much preferred my Wacom tablet once I got used to it.)
Note that when you release the left mouse button, the starting and ending points of the mouse movement are connected with a straight line. So usually you will want to bring the starting and ending points as close together as you can.
3) Right click inside your selection and click “Layer via Cut” in the context menu. Look in the Layers palette, and you will now see a floating layer that contains your small picture indented underneath the snow.JPG parent layer.
4) Drag the floating layer to above the parent layer. This is my technique to change the floating layer under its parent to a separate layer that you can edit.
5) View your handiwork by closing the eye of the snow.JPG parent layer to hide it. Then view the hole in the snow.JPG parent layer by opening its eye and closing the eye of the cut layer above it. You can see the hole better if the canvas is hidden (eye closed), or make the Canvas visible so you can see it through the hole.
6) To repeat the steps for practice, open the Edit menu and select: “Undo Layer Reordering”; then “Undo Float”; then “Undo Lasso Selection”. (Or just do Ctrl+Z three times.)
7) Rename the small picture to “Snowgirl” when you are through practicing and satisfied with it.
The picture below is what I ended up with. You can easily paste a picture layer from your Essentials 4 document into another document, as I did here: Select the layer in Essentials 4. In the Edit menu, select Copy. In your other document, select Paste. This technique also works for copying a layer from one Essentials 4 document into another.
Hide all layers except Snowgirl and Canvas. Select the Layer Adjuster tool from the Toolbox on the left side of Essentials 4. (It’s directly below the Lasso tool and is the tenth tool down in the flyout that also contains the Selection Adjuster tool.)
Select Snowgirl in the Layers palette. In the document window, use the Layer Adjuster tool to drag Snowgirl to where you want her positioned in Karen’s cubicle. You can also use the Arrow keys to tweak her.
I decided Snowgirl’s feet needed more snow, so rather than paint them, since I have plenty of snow in the big snow picture, I did the same steps above (Cutting a picture out) that were used to cut a small picture out of a bigger one, except I selected “Layer via Copy”.
Order the layers so the Snowgirl’s Feet layer is above the Snowgirl layer.
Select the Snowgirl’s Feet layer and drag it with the Layer Adjuster tool to where you want it.
Next, because we need to have the two layers together to paint them together, select both layers. [Essentials 4 uses the Shift key + Mouse Click (Shift+Click) to select multiple layers, not the Microsoft Windows version, Ctrl+Click]
When both layers are selected simultaneously, click the Layer Commands button in the lower, left corner of the Layers palette and select Collapse.
Rename the collapsed layer to Snowgirl since it took on the name of the top layer in the collapse.
This is what I have so far:
NEXT EDITION of Vance’s Guide to Using Corel® Painter™ Essentials 4, we will:
“Paint” snow on Snowgirl to fill in the areas without snow;
Give her some doleful eyes and dialog (text layers) to go with her eyes;
Also to discuss next time:
When you get the “Commit all shapes and plugin layers to an image layer?” dialog box, click the “Commit All” button. This creates an image layer, and since the layer is no longer a picture layer, it cannot be used to easily copy and paste pictures into your other documents, except for another Essentials 4 document. Also, “Layer via Copy/Cut” works a little differently.
The projects described above explain how I created the cover for my book:
The Legend of Mighty Mabel
Available from Amazon as a Kindle eBook:
Available from Barnes and Noble as a NOOK eBook: