Start with simple shapes
With today's graphic software you can create a masterpiece in a minute. But many of us are so overwhelmed by all the fancy filters and exotic sounding tools that we never move beyond simple squares and circles or typing in words and adding drop shadows.Actually, there is a lot that you can do without really knowing what you are doing. Sound crazy? Then open up your favorite drawing and paint programs and let's paint some Easter eggs.This tutorial is non-software specific. Although I used CorelDRAW and Photo-Paint 7 to make these eggs, you can use Adobe Photoshop, or PaintShop Pro, or something else. You may have to work around some steps, but basically we're just exploring and experimenting and becoming more familiar with our graphics toolbox.
Draw an egg
First, we need an egg to paint. One way to do that is to draw an ellipse in a drawing (vector) program then make one end fatter and the other pointier.I used the ellipse (or circle) tool to start.
Or, you could draw a shape on paper and scan it or find a piece of clip art of an egg and make it solid black. We want a plain, unadorned egg to start with.
After reshaping your ellipse into an egg (or scanning an egg, etc.) make it a solid color (black works fine) and save the image. If you don't want to make Easter eggs, draw a circle and make beach balls.
Basic technique in a vector drawing program such as CorelDRAW or Illustrator: Draw the ellipse, convert to curves, use the node editing tools to reshape the ellipse.
Next we move to our paint program where we'll create a mask or a stencil to paint. I'll show you how to paint your eggs (or your beach balls, or any other shape) without worrying about staying inside the lines.
A mask hides and conceals
If you've never used a mask in your paint program you may not understand how something "invisible" can be such a time saver and help make your work go more smoothly.
It may help to think of a mask as a stencil. You've probably used a stencil before. Shapes or words are cut in a piece of paper or plastic. Slap on some paint from a brush or a spray can. Remove the stencil and your picture or words are perfectly painted -- no unintentional crooked lines or bits of paint in places it doesn't belong. (OK, in reality it seldom works so well unless you are very, very careful.)
In your graphics program a mask works exactly the same. It covers parts you don't want to change and leaves holes where you do want to make changes (change colors, apply filters, etc.).
In the image here, you'll see the difference a mask can make. In the example on top painting across the egg puts a streak across the egg and background. In the example on the bottom, with the background masked (covered) the paint only sticks to the uncovered egg.
You'll need to look at the tools and menu choices in your own software, but chances are it has several different ways to create masks. You may see a collection of selection tools that look like a square, a circle, a paintbrush, a lasso, and a magic wand. These tools let you mark parts of your image (select them) but also act as a mask. Only the parts of the image selected with the mask tool can be changed.
Another option is to use another image as a mask. For example, you may use a black and white checkerboard image as a mask. Place it (using the appropriate options in your software) on top of another picture. The black squares of the checkerboard protect the underlying image. The white squares of the checkerboard are like the cut-outs on your stencil.
When you load an image to use as a mask you may not see the actual image on top of your existing graphic. A dotted marquee line may appear outlining the masked/unmasked portions. If you don't see the marquee, look for a menu option or command that makes the mask visible (you may even be able to select the color of your mask, depending on your software).
Mask your egg
Use the egg we drew in part 1 as a mask. One way is to open the file (open a copy of it and keep your original so you will always have a plain egg shape to work with) in your paint program and mask (cover up) all but the egg shape.
Basic Graphics Software Technique: Assuming a 2-color image (egg all black on a white background, or vice versa), use the magic wand selection tool to select the egg. A dotted line around just the shape of the egg creates a mask that covers up the background.
If your software allows you to load images as masks, create a new, plain white image that is the same size as your egg image. Load the egg image as a mask on top of your blank image. You'll probably only see a dotted line in the shape of your egg, or the masked (covered) portion may show up as red or some other color. If the wrong portion is masked, look for an option to reverse or invert the mask -- otherwise you may be painting the background and not the egg. You want your egg to show through.
Try out brushes and spray cans
Chances are that your paint program has a variety of tools with traditional names: charcoal, crayon, spray can, air brush. These are simply graphics pens or brushes that mimic the way their read counterparts work.
Now's your chance to bring out your own creative tendencies. Dump the paint can. It usually just fills a shape with a solid color. Instead, try one of the many variations of brushes in your graphics software. Pick a pretty color and draw a haphazard streak across your egg.
Remember, if you used a mask then you can swipe that brush across the image and paint will only show up on your egg, not the surrounding masked area. You don't have to fill in the whole egg. Let the patterns created by the brush create texture and interest. Use one color or two or three.
Don't worry about all the different settings for different brushes. The point right now is to simply get a swatch of color across your egg. Do several eggs at once.
The top egg, right, is done with one color, one brush. The middle egg uses two colors and two brushes. The bottom egg uses two colors and a splatter brush.
Paint with pictures
One of the cool tools in Corel Photo-Paint (and possibly other graphics software) is painting with image lists. Using a special brush, the program paints by layering on an ordered or random series of images. One of the advantages in our egg-painting is that it allows me to add more detail and more color to my eggs with just one or two mouse clicks.
You can also achieve the same effect by pasting different pictures onto your egg image. When masked, only the parts on the egg will show through.
The point in filling the egg with an image is not to have the picture of the rose or whatever on the egg. The pictures simply provide shapes and colors that give the egg pretty colors after we apply the filters in the next step.
The top egg, left, has portions of a leaf. The image on the middle egg is from photos of butterflies. The flowers on the bottom egg are actually on a picture of a postage stamp. While we could stop here and have some pretty eggs, let's go a bit further. In Part 4 we'll add some of those filters, the ones that turn perfectly pretty pictures into something totally unrecognizable. It'll be fun!
Your graphics software may come with dozens of different artistic effects and special filters. With so many choices it is easy to become overwhelmed. Yet, in most cases, a single effect can yield wildly different results.
I took the six plain painted eggs we've done so far (three painted with paint, three painted with photographs) and used a variety of settings in just one Photo-Paint filter. I chose the Paint Alchemy filters but you can pick anything -- embossing, swirling, blur, pointillism, whatever your software offers -- just pick one and try it out several different ways.
You may have tried out some of these special effects on photographs or clip art and been puzzled about why anyone would want to take a perfectly good image and distort it beyond recognition. Well here's one useful application of those funny filters.
Our blue, pink, and yellow painted eggs -- all with the same effect (Alchemy: Crowd in Photo-Paint) take on different looks because we started with slightly different painted patterns.
And look what happens to our leaf, butterfly, and flower stamp. Unrecognizable? Sure, but beautiful patterns and textures emerge. (Alchemy: Cottonball, Cubist, Diagonal Brick in Photo-Paint).
Put some curves on your eggs
Our six painted and filtered eggs look great but we can improve them just a little bit more. Your paint program probably has a variety of ways to give objects a rounded or 3D look.
For the three painted eggs I used The Boss filter (a special embossing filter in Photo-Paint) to round the edges.
For the picture painted eggs I applied lighting effects.
In both cases, the effects simulate light striking the egg. There's a lighter area and a darker, shaded area. It creates the illusion of roundness. Experiment with your eggs.
Want to see all the eggs (12 of them) and perhaps grab a few for your own Web page? Go ahead, they're free from me to you. The page also links to a few dozen other eggs. Some were created using techniques similar to those described in this feature.