Derek Lea is an award-winning digital illustrator and author, with clients that include high-profile North American advertising agencies and corporations. He is also a professor in Graphic Design – Media at Centennial College in Toronto, Canada.

Painting on top of a photo is a brilliant way to produce artworks that include the texture of brushwork with the realism of accurate proportions – with the end result being delightfully surreal. And Corel Painter is the ideal tool to create these.

Corel Painter has a huge number of features. The temptation for overenthusiastic artists is to employ as many as possible, but this can lead to cluttered, chaotic work. You can get stunning results with just a limited toolset, avoiding the daunting task of mastering a large number of tools.

Here Derek Lea focuses on a single tool, the Oil Palette Knife. It uses the colours and imagery from existing layers and spreads them around on a new layer, taking you far along the path from photo to painted portrait, with only fine detail to be added.

Derek began by assembling several elements in Photoshop, including a model shot and some hair extensions. The starting point for this tutorial, with a few predefined layers, can be found within the project files.

This is an adapted version of a tutorial in Derek Lea’s book, Beyond Photoshop. Published by Focal Press, Beyond Photoshop shows you how can transfer your Photoshop skills into applications such as Illustrator, Painter, Cinema 4D, Poser and ZBrush – developing your style in new directions.

Project Files

Click here to download this tutorial's project files

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