I am so sad over the fires in Australia and how many poor animals (not to mention people) were lost during that horrible event. That inspired me to paint a new series of animal portraits because I do love a fuzzy critter! I started out with a koala bear because who doesn’t love a koala? Well – when I went to put him “in an environment” (meaning against something that wasn’t stark white) I wasn’t loving this little critter so much. My koala ended up looking “stuck” on top of the background – not at all what I envisioned. I also equalized the koala – leaving him with glaring white patches – I went back over him with softer tones of cream and he started to look more natural.
I use Corel Painter, and I have a whole slew of brushes that I filed under “furry” – my particle soft blender, my specked edge eraser, just add water, and the glazing acrylic brush which gives such nice brush strokes to the fur (like you can see in the heading image). I painted the koala last night and left the background white, until I decided I wanted to see him on a deeper rusty-red background. He looked stuck on there, so I blended him in with the particle soft blender which left me with a colored halo problem – basically my koala was outlined in that rusty red color (I blended AFTER I added the red on the bottom layer – rookie mistake and I know better than that, but sometimes it’s hard to remember all the steps) and I wasn’t at all happy with the color so I decided to try a different softer shade.
After picking a soft mauve, I set about blending my edges with one of my favorite blenders – but then I decided to change the background color again and YIKES – my koala still had another ring of the previous color all around him – courtesy of the blender…and my failure to turn off the background layer. This is just the way it goes somedays – no matter how much I think I’m paying attention to all of the steps, I still miss that one small critical one.
So I started removing the halo of color with a speckle edge eraser – that worked well, but I lost part of the fuzzy look I was trying so hard to achieve.
My next thought was to use the “Just add water” blender around the outside, but again, there was an odd halo effect that wasn’t at all what I wanted.
So my third choice was to select the layer content of the koala, and use the speckle edge eraser just around the very edge so I could soften the fur and make it more transparent. I did that by decreasing the opacity of the brush and going around the edge a few times – Eureka! That time it worked – my koala was blended but didn’t lose his fuzzy nature.
So what I learned from this is to always keep your furry animal on a transparent separate layer. That really enables you to play around with softening the edge to blend the fur into the background and not make your critter look like he’s floating in front of the background – like the little guy above does. Here’s what the next koala looked like: I’m still not 100% sure about the environment, but I like where it’s going so far. I’m going to add a little more color to the little fuzzy guy and let more of the edges fade into the background while keeping him super soft and fuzzy. I think he needs a friend though – maybe a kangaroo as a companion?