Art Media in Paint Shop Pro

(originally from July 2007)

****Warning – contains artistically rendered nipples.****

Though this is officially the  “How To Do Art Media in Paint Shop Pro” tutorial, I’d like to insert a couple of disclaimers. 1- this is what I’d call an intermediate to expert tutorial, meaning you already know how to use the program with some proficiency. 2- this is how *I* use the art media. I don;’t think it’s what it was intended for, but I don’t care. Also, this may be a long and boring blog.

This will work for Paint Shop pro 9 through 13.

Step one – the most important step of all – you need a sketch. Any sketch at any quality will do.  I won’t put up my first version because  it’s so bad, it’s humiliating, but I will put up sketch number two – which is bad as well.

This is a bad sketch, but it’s good enough.

Your sketch doesn’t need to be perfect – in fact it doesn’t even need to all be together. See how I have disembodied heads and arms all over? We’re going to rearrange things once we get it into PSP so it’s all good. We just need something basic for this step. If you want, you could use a photograph instead of a sketch.

Whatever you use – scan it – grayscale works best – and save it. You want to scan it BIG. I mean 2000 or more pixels big. The bigger the better – but to a point.  Don’t scan it bigger than what your computer can handle having open.

Now, open it in your PSP program. First thing is SAVE IT AS A .PSP file!!!!! Now, go to the layer pallet and right click on the layer which should say “Background” and DUPLICATE. Make background invisible to save yourself time and ignore it from now on. You can change the name of your new layer (which should be “Copy of Background”) if you want.

Once that’s done we’re ready to fix our sketch (if you’re using a photograph skip ahead). Use paint brushes, use premade shapes, use the point to point line tools. Select things, move them, copy, paste, mirror, do whatever you need to do. On this one I drew an entirely new cross by drawing a circle with the premade shape tool and the lobbing most of it off. I then copied and pasted it below itself, flipping it, and then used the point to point line (this is the pen tool btw) to make the straight lines. After that I copied that section of the cross and pasted, mirroring it for the other side, then pasted it twice more, rotating 90 degrees, as the top and bottom pieces as well.

All fixed up. well, sort of…. Oh. Ignore the penguin looking thing.

I also gave her a new head (the one in the corner) by selecting around it and pasting it on a new layer.  I did this with her arm and her foot, too. Once they’re pasted you can  use the magic wand to select the white bits you no longer want – aka the big chunks you’ll have around it. You can also use the lasso selector tool (I call it that because it looks like a lasso – it’s the free hand selection tool) and cut around the edges if you’re a patient person.

You may want to add some more lines in – I redid a piece of her leg and her hair using the point to point pen tool, but a paintbrush works just as well if you have a steady mouse hand or a tablet.

Now, go to your layer pallet, right click on your layer and DUPLICATE. Turn off  all layers but your newest duplicated one. Use the magic wand at a setting of around 22 for Tolerance and select a chunk of white. We now want to “select Similar”.  The locations of menus and tools change from one version to the next, but in 9 it is under Selections/Modify/Select Similar. Make sure you still have some lines in there (you’ll probably need to zoom in) and then hit the delete button on your keyboard. Yes, this will leave you with some fuzzy, odd, grayish lines. This is what you want.

If you’re using a photograph make a new layer rather than duplicating your photograph and use the pen tool to trace the contours of your subject – it doesn’t need to be perfect! It does, though, need to be close.  What you are essentially doing here is making it into a cartoon or line drawing. When it’s finished this layer for you will be the equivalent of the duplicated sketch layer.

This layer will stay ABOVE all your other layers from now on! Turn it’s opacity down because we want it see through-ish and leave it at the top of the layer pallet.

note the opacity is turned down on the top visible layer

At this point, I considered breaking this into pieces. But, since I’m not really leaning too heavy on detailed instructions, I think one post will be okay.

Now, we’re ready to plunge right into our art media. Go to your layer pallet and make a new ART MEDIA layer between your lowered opacity layer and your initial layers. Now choose your art media tool – I prefer oil brush.

These are the settings I prefer to start with

Of course, you will need to change the brush size depending on what you’re doing, in fact that brush size slider will be your best friend and you will see it often. Try running the “brush” across the canvas. As you can see it starts out thin, widens out and then slowly peters out in imitation of a loaded paintbrush. Play with the settings some, try running different colors together. Get it out of your system 😉

Now, choose a feature in your picture – I did the cross first – as you can see. The way I do it is to choose something that’s all one on one “level”. Lost you, huh? What I mean is imagine your picture as 3-D. Now, lay it on its side, as though it were a topographical map – every feature in it sticks out to different heights. I make lots and lots of layers, each layer being a different topographical height. If this confuses you don’t worry, it isn’t particularly important. You’ll develop your own methods as you go. After all, my very first one had only one layer for the entire girl.

And look! It’s a stone cross!

As you can see I only really used three colors here – a base color, a light color and a dark color. You can make your light and dark colors in the materials pallet by dragging the Luminance slider left and right. –

But wait, how did I do this? Use the brush and fill in the entire shape with the base or middle color. If you go outside the lines don’t worry, when you’re done you can clean it up using the selection tools or else the art eraser tool (also in the art media menu).  Once that’s done I usually do my highlights next – if you don’t know where to put highlights then I suggest finding a picture of what you’re drawing, or at least something similar. Look at the way the light shines on it. Everywhere that has  alight swath of color is where you’ll want to block in highlight. Do the same for the shadow. If you can’t find a picture try to use your imagination. Imagine the shape of the object and where the light would hit it and where it would not be shining.

Textured and “mossed” – what fun.

This is one layer I chose not to smear. To get the “texture” I just used the magic wand to select the empty space and then used the “Invert selection” option to make the cross selected. I then created a new RASTER layer and flood filled it with a dark gray texture. The moss is a plug in. I use Eye Candy –Textures- Rust in green with the attributes turns down to make it patchy on another new raster layer and then I clicked back to the cross layer, selected the empty space, clicked back to the moss layer and hit delete. Pretty simple, eh? I find naming your layers when you create them really does help.

I’m going to do the girl next. To start with we have the subject again of layers. I use my “topographical” method for people, too. For instance her head is one layer, her neck another. Her breasts and shoulders is a layer, etc and so forth.

Holy Schmoly! That’s a lot of layers…

Pick what you want to start with. I did her neck and shoulders for no real reason. It doesn’t matter where you start because, as you work, you will have to flip back and forth and tweak individual pieces over and over again. If you watch the pictures I have in this you’ll see her right leg changes several times.

I’ve never actually used colors in the art media before this one and so to get my flesh tones I found a nice picture of a person and used the eyedropper tool to grab some of the colors up as well as mixed some of my own accidentally:

some nice skin colors

Don’t let the number of colors confuse you. This is the same basics as the cross – there’s a “base” color (far left) and then the others are “highlight” or “shadow” colors and that’s it.  We’re going to block it in the same exact way we block colored the cross, first color in the area in the base color and then ad highlights and shadows:

You can see the arm is blocked in, while the torso is already done

Once you have it blocked in we’re now going to use the smudge tool under the art media menu. (Before you smudge turn OFF that top layer which we’re using as guidelines – though turn it back on once you’ve finished and are ready to move to the next part.) I use the basic default settings most of the time.

Ready to do some smudging!

Smear in the same direction as you would if you were painting. Try smearing in different directions (hit undo for unfavorable results) and see the difference it makes. As you smear you may discover you need more of one color or another, go right ahead and add it in. Smearing is THE most time consuming of all of this.

The cross is turned off right now….

Keep doing this over and over per each “piece”. As you finish a layer, zoom out to make sure it looks all right and then zoom back in. After all, 100% or more is what you’re working at, but the end product is going to appear much smaller and the most important thing here is the end result.

It’s coming along, now.

As you finish different pieces you may see that there is a seam between them. Fix this by using the smudge tool to smear the edges of the seam on the upper object. For instance where the front leg hooks on, I make sure I am on the front leg layer and use the smear tool on it. You may even find you have to add a bit of color to your layer to make them blend, and that’s okay. Some of my layers have pieces of the body part they connect to on them where I had to seam the shading together.

Wow, that right leg sucks….

I’ve got the girl basically done (though her right leg needs a lot of work) so it’s now time for the raster details. I use raster because they are easier to control for very fine details. For instance, her face is on a raster layer:

looks feminine here, but turns sort of masculine when the art media is visible… oh well….

I used the paint brush tool and drew it in by hand and then used the soften tool set at a low opacity to take down the harsh edges and blend it in.

There will be some parts, however, you may not want to soften. For instance her fingernails.

Now that’s a hand to be proud of.

If I soften those they will disappear completely. Instead you want them to have a stark line of contrast.

The nipples are also a raster layer.

Nipple colors. How often do you get to say that?

At this point I had moved the leg around and could see that the cross wouldn’t work where it was so I had to move it. You can do this with any pieces by making all layers except those you want merged invisible (This is IMPORTANT) and then right clicking and choosing merge/visible. I then will copy, hit undo and make a new layer with this merged version, thus preserving my layers just in case. Then I repositioned the cross to it’s new location.

The hair is done in the same way everything else is – a base color, highlight color and shadow color.

Instant red head.

Hair is HARD – as you can see below, mine looks a bit stiff here, but it will do. I suggest you get pictures of people and look at them, study the way the light reflects on it. Other than that there’s not a lot of advice or how to I can give here. I did the upper portion of the hair – anything that overlaps the head – on one layer and did anything that goes behind the body on another layer and then blended the two together.

There’s one angry black wing… like Sephiroth. heh-heh.

The wings were an experiment as well. As you can see I blocked it in using black and took a light gray and drew lines over it in imitation of very badly drawn cartoon feathers. Yeah, I thought for sure it was gonna be a disaster. I then used the smear or smudge art media tool and just smeared it. I had to add more gray in and smear again and then a third time I added gray lines in randomly and smeared again. I then cut bits out of the edges to make the feathers look ratty and clumped – nothing in life is smooth or perfect. It is the imperfections that lend a sense of reality to any work. (I have also redone that right leg again and I still don’t like it).

Two wings for the price of one. Man, that right leg still needs help!

Nifty wings, eh? Screw doing that twice. When you finish one, duplicate the layer,  then mirror it and rotate it slightly – 6 to 10 – just to make it look a little different and you’re done.  That is useful for flower petals as well as many other things. I see no need to redo the same thing again and again when I can do it faster and have it look better 😉

duplicate, mirror, rotate. yeahhhhh

Now is the final fix-er-upper stage. I fiddled with the leg and foot again. I redid her face. I added a new piece to the top of the cross so she’s no longer holding herself up in mid-air. In short tweak, tweak and tweak. It is best to break this up. Go to bed, go to your mother’s, watch TV and do this part tomorrow. A fresh set of eyes will see flaws a tired pair didn’t notice. If you rush through you’ll just hate it. Even now I hate that leg and wish I had taken an extra day and redone it one more time.

Once you’ve tweaked, you’re technically  done – but, we might as well finish this off, eh? So, make a new image 1024 x 768 (or whatever size you need for wallpaper) and color it in not black but the color one notch below black in the materials palette.

Now make a new layer and flip back to our art media picture. Make sure you’ve turned off that upper layer and any lower layers – in other words your subject should have a checkered background. Now merge visible (this takes a bit) then crop it down if necessary and resize to the height of 700 or the width of 999 – whichever is biggest.

Copy and paste this on your second image on that blank layer you made. You can close your art media picture now but DO NOT SAVE CHANGES!!!!! If you accidentally saved the changes then take a moment to cry before we continue on.

Making some wallpaper – I still hate that right leg!

That rough texture in the background is another plug in – Eye Candy-nature-Smoke. If you only get one plug in pack get eye candy Nature. A good second one is Textures and then xenofex. These are pricey (or were when I bought them) but they’re worth it – I swear!

To use the smoke make a new layer. Use the box selection tool to select a line the entire length of the picture but only a few pixels high and then use your plugins menu to choose the eye candy effect. Adjust your setting in there, as you’ll see the smoke goes UP from where ever you select.

After that I added a moon from a brush and some flying birds which were also brushes (as is that crow btw )  (NOTE: since this is three years old, I don’t remember who the brushes were made by any more. if anyone knows, then please let me know.) as well as a couple more smoke layers and what not. Basically just decorate it up however you want.

All done!

And that’s it. Seems simple, but I warn you in advance it can be time consuming. Working off and on I spent well over a month on this project. If you’re not getting the results you want don’t despair, do it differently. I made this up  – and you can make up your own method too. This is just to kind of give you and idea and to share some of the tricks I’ve come up with in the last year of messing with this stuff. It isn’t a bible of art media use, so don’t look at it that way.  Also, chances are you will NOT like your results. I can point out at least ten flaws with this one just at a glance. That’s normal, it doesn’t mean you suck.

Fav Song of the Moment – “twisted” – Entwine


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About Joleene Naylor

An independent author, freelance artist, and photographer for fun who loves anime, music, and writing. Check out my vampire series Amaranthine at or drop me a line at

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