It is popular these days to imbue images—both painted and photographic—with rough edges and distressed surface detail. This visual antiquing technique instills a sense of age and nostalgia to an image. The use of analog-style texture additionally serves to break an image free of its digital origins. Painter contains useful secret weapons to aid the artist in distressing an image. With just a few textures and brushes, you can create a virtual antiquing factory in Painter that can be endlessly adjusted to develop varying effects. This technique employs what I call Poor Man's Masking. Rather than utilizing layer masks, which can require a bit of blind faith to master, Poor Man's masking takes advantage of Painter's Layer Compositing Methods (Blending Modes in Photoshop) to additively build up a composite mask through which an image is filtered. With a few concepts explained, you can be on your way to adding unique non-destructive edges and textures to your art work. Let's get started!
A Distressing Situation
Antique specialists and home builders often employ a technique known as distressing. A simple example is the use of a chain to add nicks, dings, and dents to an otherwise pristine wood surface. The chain is forcefully applied to the wood, roughing up the surface with random imperfections. Why wait 100 years for an item of furniture to naturally gain the experienced patina of age when it can be added in a few minutes with the proper technique? A similar type of distressing occurs with old photographs, paintings, drawings, prints, etc. All of these mediums can pick up scratches and blemishes as they age. For digital artwork, Painter can be employed to add distressing.
The secret weapon in Painter's arsenal is its broad-ranging Paper Grain libraries. Before describing the Poor Man's masking technique, we need to know how to access Painter's various Paper Grain libraries. Painter must always have a Paper Grain library active. By default, it is the Paper Textures library. However, you have 23 additional Paper Grain libraries available to you on the Painter IX CD's Extras folder (earlier versions of the Painter CD's Paper Grain content will vary). You may want to copy the Paper Textures folder from the CD to your Corel Painter IX folder for future access.
To work with Paper Grains, you'll want the Paper palette visible. Go to Windows: Library Palettes: Show Papers to launch the Paper palette. The Papers palette provides a preview of the current Paper, plus Scale, Contrast, and Brightness controls to adjust the visual character of the current Paper. The Invert Paper button (far right button above the sliders) is used to invert the grayscale of the Paper as necessary.
To change Paper Grain libraries, click on the palette menu arrow to open the flyout menu. Choose the Open Library... command at the bottom of the menu. This will display the Loading a new Paper Texture dialog. If you have added new textures to the current library, click the Append button to permanently add them the library. Otherwise, click on the Load... button to open the file dialog. Locate the Paper Textures folder and click it to access the Paper libraries. As you click on Paper libraries, Painter conveniently displays thumbnails of the various papers found in the library. Load a library by double-clicking on it. The current Paper library will be replaced with the selected library.
Once you understand this process, you can easily load various libraries to gain access to an amazing array of textural content.
Poor Man's Masks
The basic idea behind Poor Man's masks is the Layer palette's Screen Composite Method. A layer set to the Screen method treats Black as Transparent and White as Opaque. The grayscale values found in-between the extremes of black and white are appropriately partially transparent or opaque, as well. Painter's Paper Grains are stored in a grayscale format. By placing a Paper Grain on a layer and changing the layer's Compositing Method to Screen, any image below it will be interposed with the screened grayscale content on the layer above it.
A Paper Grain is easily added to a layer and composited with an underlying image in a few easy steps. First, select a paper grain from the Paper palette's Paper Selector. Create a new layer, fill it with White, and change the layer's Composite Method to Screen. Change the Current Color to Black. Launch the Color Overlay dialog (Effects: Surface Control). Set the Using pop-up menu to Paper and select the Hiding Power Model option. The Color Overlay preview will display the composite of the Paper with the underlying image. Use the Paper palette's controls to adjust the visual appearance of the interaction of the Paper with the underlying image. Click OK to complete the operation. You'll now have a screened texture composited with your underlying image.
The tonality of the underlying image will affect the appearance of the screened texture layer. In some cases, you may want to experiment with other Composite Methods to get the desired result. Multiply and Overlay are generally good candidates for altering the overall grayscale character of a texture layer. Adjust the layer's Opacity (Layer palette: Opacity slider) to control the strength of the texture's interaction with the underlying image.
Stacking Layers to Build Up Texture
Once you've mastered the above-described Poor Man's masking technique, you can take textural buildup even further by stacking multiple layers of different texture sources. Note that, to get the best visual stacking results, you'll need to use the same chosen Composite Method for all of the layers. The Paper Grains are a great repository of a wide variety of texture, but you can add even more variety by incorporating photographic texture sources. Textures from nature make a good source. Clouds, rock surfaces, wood bark, and water are examples. Photographic sources from traditional art media work well. Images of watercolor washes, diluted ink, or transparent paint can all add unique effects.
You may find that the stacking of several composited layers begins to diminish the visibility of the underlying image. You can once again utilize layer Composite Methods to pump up the underlying image's visibility. Select and copy the base image. Select the topmost layer and use the Paste In Place command (Edit menu). This action positions an in-register copy of the base image above all of the existing stacked layers. Change the new layer's Composite Method to Overlay. This will essentially double the visual weight of the image while retaining any existing composited texture. If the image is too overpowering in relation to the textural elements, use the layer's Opacity slider to season to taste.
Framing An Image
As I mentioned earlier, imagery with roughed-up edges is popular these days. You can even purchase applications that add faux hand-wrought edging to an image. With Poor Man's masking, you can easily add your own edges with Painter's brushes. This can be done in concert with layered texturing addition or by itself.
To add a framed edge to an image, create a new layer, fill it with White, and change the Composite Method to Screen. If you are adding a border to an image with stacked layer textures, be sure that the border layer is topmost in the layer stack. At this point, all you'll see is an apparent blank white canvas.
Change your Current Color to Black and choose a favorite brush. Begin painting in the middle of the image and you'll start to see the underlying layers and image appear within the brushstrokes. Continue to paint out your image until you've revealed it in a frame that you like.
Now that you know the secret of Poor Man's masking, you can use this technique to revive some of your photographs and imagery, as well as apply it to new projects. Keep in mind that you can also use the additive texturing technique on selective areas of an image to add local texture.
Once you've created and discovered a result to your liking, save it in a layered format (RIF or PSD). You can use this existing texture/border layer stack to paste various images under it. By turning different layers on and off (or adjusting their Opacity), you can dramatically alter the visual character of the texturing to tune it to the new image. Don't rule out resizing these layer stacks to accommodate various sized images. You'll be surprised how well this type of visual element will withstand significant up or down resizing.
Viva la Painter!