Me and Louie's Sister
Mouse Painting Tutorial


To begin this picture I needed a basic outline with the primary features in their correct place. Owing to my difficulties with proportion, the first thing I did was draw a grid over the reference photograph (an A4 sized picture in a glossy magazine) using a pencil and ruler. The grid consisted of 12 squares across and 9 down, each one measuring 1.5cm squared.

I then created a transparent layer on Photoshop and (after enabling the ruler view) created a relative sized grid - 12 squares across and 9 down. I renamed this to GRID. But as I wanted the resolution of this image to be 640x480, I cropped the full grid down to size.

Having done this, I opened another page with a white background. I added a layer over this and named it SKETCH, before pasting the GRID layer over the top.

On the SKETCH layer, I began to sketch the basic outline using the line tool on medium pressure, with the grid acting as a proportion guide. Behind this sketch, on the white background layer, I began to add some very loose shading with the airbrush:
This entire picture was painted using Photoshop 6.0 and a generic 3 button mouse.

Many of the examples have been RE-PAINTED for the purpose of this tutorial and may therefore differ from the final picture. This, however, shows that it is possible to reapply the same techniques to achieve a similar (but not identical) result.
• Airbrush
   Most used in normal mode for loose shading and in color mode for applying colour.

• Smudge
   Essential tool for mouse painting, used for smoothing brush strokes, shaping, fine details and hair.

• Dodge
   Used for adding highlights, lightening areas and for stippling.

• Burn
   Used for shadows, darkening areas and for stippling.

• Soft Brushes
   Most used for loose shading, smoothing and blurring.

• Hard Brushes
   Used for all details, textures and hair.

• Spatter Brushes
   Used rarely, only for textures and stippling.
Common tools

Getting Started

The womanís face occupies approx 15 squares, and there is 1 square between the tip of the manís nose and the womanís cheek.
Basic Shading

Still working on the background layer (with the SKETCH and GRID layers in the foreground), I started to shade the image in grey, using the airbrush and smudge tool with various soft brushes varying between 60-80% pressure.

Using the same tools, I then started to shade the male face, touch up a few areas and add basic definition to the womanís arm, until I finished with the following stage:
For the tighter areas, like the nose, I added small blobs and dashes,   which I then smeared into shape with the smudge tool.
Basic Colouring

With the light and dark areas in place, I started to consider the colour. This was done very simply by painting over the current image with the airbrush in color mode.

For the moment, I decided to use simple browns and pinks for the skin tones.
Smoothing

At this point, I decided to smooth out some of the irregular brush strokes. This was done first with the blur tool and then by blending the shades together with the smudge tool, as shown in the following example.
1.Uneven gradient with steps between each shade.





2.Blur tool used to soften these steps.





3.Smudge tool and soft brushes used to blend steps.
Definition

With the main outlines and features in place, I decided to remove the GRID layer and work on my own, using the original photo only for occasional reference. When adding definition and detail, I always find it too restrictive to work directly from reference. It's better to exercise some creativity at this stage and inject a personal touch.

With the dodge and burn tools, I started to strengthen the highlights and shadows. I also used the airbrush, burn and dodge tools and the smudge tool with hard brushes to add definition to the lips, eyes and nose, very lightly pushing and pulling the colours into place (see previous example of the nose).
With the burn and dodge tools, I began adding light and dark streaks to the womanís hair, using the smudge tool and hard brushes to divide the locks.
Over some other areas of the hair I applied a moderate Paint Daubs filter before smoothing and fining it out (as demonstrated in the above example).

Continuing with the aforementioned methods, I proceeded to smooth out the brush strokes, add stronger highlights and further detail to the hair. I also started adding creases to the eyes and fining out the eye lashes and eye brows using the smudge and burn tools with a single pixel brush on low pressure.
1.Basic undetailed eye.





2.Highlight added to tip of eye lid with dodge tool. Lashes defined with smudge tool. 





3 Brows and lashes fined down. Creases added to eye lid. Touch of purple added with airbrush on color mode.
More colouring

Turning my attention to the manís face, I began applying subtle colours, using the airbrush on color mode (between 2-5% pressure).

I decided to apply a faint blush of red to the most prominent areas, such as the nose, cheeks and chin, in order to give the manís face a little vibrancy and feeling. I then added traces of purple and green to add variation to the monochrome skin, and to help give the overall image a unique appearance. (Note: I often get ideas for colouring by studying fantasy art.)
Also using the airbrush in color mode, I applied a touch of make-up to the womanís eye lids.Once the colours were applied I frequently used the eye dropper tool to select and apply these to other areas of the picture - i.e. the purple on the man's face was also used to colour parts of his hair. This helped to maintain a consistent colour-scheme for the overall picture.

At this stage, I decided that the image as a whole needed to be darker, and so, using the Image/Adjust/Variations pull down, I quickly darkened the shadows. 
Details and Texturing

To create the texture and stubble around the manís chin, I zoomed into the image and 'pixelled' these details by hand.
1.Basic smooth area.

2.I applied small blobs with the dodge tool and a small soft brush.




3. Smoothed the blobs with the smudge and blur tools and a soft brush. Touches of shadow were added between the blobs with the burn tool.

4.Added faint highlights and shadows.



5.Began applying stubble, working over the dark areas using the burn tool and the smallest spatter brush on 20% exposure.

6.Added light pixels with the dodge tool, using the spatter brush and small hard brushes. Added shadows adjacent to these light dots and darkened the edges of chin with burn tool and soft brushes to give a rounded appearance
.
The burn tool and spatter brushes were used for the manís neck and strands of hair were pulled over the top using the smudge tool and small hard brushes. The finer strands were created with a 1 pixel brush on 5-10% pressure.  

I then decided that the shading of the face looked too smooth and plastic, so I decided to indulge in a little hands-on stippling - a technique familiar to most 8-16bit artists. This helped to give the skin a sweaty and porous appearance.
1.Basic airbrushed area.

2.Light and dark areas stippled using dodge and burn tools.

3.Additional pixels and blobs added.

4.Smaller light and dark pixels added with burn and dodge on higher exposure
The beads of sweat were also pixelled in zoom mode, using the following methods:
1.Basic smooth area.

2.Various sized blobs dotted over skin with the dodge tool on highlights setting.

3.Burn tool and 1pixel sized brush used to apply shadows around each dot and blob.

4.Smudge tool used to extend larger beads to look like drips. 1 pixel highlights added to the blobs.

5.Strengthened highlights and shadows and added random light and dark pixels with dodge and burn tools.
Some of the more subtle droplets were created using the following method:
1. Faint circles made with burn tool (1 pixel brush) on low exposure.

2. Dodge tool used to fill each circle.

3. 1 pixel highlight added to lower half of circle using dodge tool on highlights setting.
Additional Touches
At this point I will draw your attention to the left eye of the female, where I encountered a small difficulty. When trying to paint the hair directly over the eye, the eye and the hair ran together (as shown in the first example). Unable to 'undo' this, I decided to refer back to a previous stage as a background layer and use the eraser tool to restore the eye (example 2). I then added a new layer and began painting the hair over the eye.
1. First attempt - the hair and the eye blended together.

2. Eraser tool used to restore the eye.

3. New layer added, onto which I airbrushed rough strokes.

4. Started to fine out the hair, smudging the dark shades into the light with a 1 pixel brush.

5. Highlights added to hair. More fine strands.

6. Layer flattened and more flayed hairs added. Applied fine highlights using dodge tool
Turning back to the woman, I realized that the skin needed to be much softer and smoother than the manís, yet it still looked too plastic. I began by adding shades of red, purple and green (using the airbrush on color mode) and then decided to stipple the skin, keeping it lighter and less erratic than I did with the man.
1. Smooth (plastic looking) area.






2. Light stippling with dodge tool.






3. Random darker spots added.





4. Outline of chin area darkened with burn tool and soft brush to give a more rounded appearance.
When applying the darker spots, they reminded me of freckles and I noticed how they gave the skin a more natural appearance, so I decided to apply these freckles elsewhere - primarily over areas where freckles are most common, like the nose, chin, cheeks and arm (freckles are less common on the forehead, neck or the eye area).  
1. Loosely shaded mouth.

2. Spots of light and dark added with burn and dodge tools.

3. Smudge tool used to smear shadows and highlights into place.
Hair
Mouse painting hair is simply a matter of trial and error, and playing with the following tools: dodge, burn, airbrush in color mode, smudge and, most importantly, the undo tool. It was a long and intense process, but not overly difficult once I got started. 

Primarily, it was a case of weaving dark strands over light areas and light strands over dark areas with the smudge tool (the smaller the brush and the lower the pressure, the finer the hairs will be), constantly adding light and dark dots and pixels with burn and dodge, and stretching them out with the smudge tool.

To demonstrate, I have repainted some of the basic steps in the following examples:
1. Basic highlight added where hair is most prominent.

2. General direction of the hair created by smearing highlights into shadows with the smudge tool (hard 3 pixel brush on 80% pressure).

3. Streaks of hair fined out using smudge tool and small hard brushes.

4.  Highlights and shadow added with burn and dodge tool, to give hair a sense of depth.

5. Finer strands pulled out using smudge tool and 1 pixel hard brush. The pressure is varied constantly.

6. Highlights faded into black areas with burn tool. More fine strands pulled into place. Strands of hair coloured purple and grey with airbrush in color mode
To fine down the hair, I generally smudge darker lines through the centre of each streak with 3 pixel sized hard brush, gradually lowering the pressure before switching to a 1 pixel brush
1. Loose flow of hair painted with airbrush, line tool and smudge.

2. Dark blobs added in the middle of each lock of hair.



3. Blobs smeared along the lock with smudge tool, 3 pixel hard brush and 80% pressure.

4. Pressure lowered. More dark streaks smeared along the lock of hair.



5. Light blobs added between dark strands.

6. Light blobs smeared along the lock with smudge tool (80% pressure).



7. Pressure lowered. More strands pulled along locks.

8. 1 pixel brush used to smear light strands between dark streaks and dark strands between light streaks
Final Touches
After applying more details (sweat, freckles, stippling, strands of hair, additional colours) using the aforementioned tools and techniques, I darkened the background and added an unobtrusive pattern. I merged the layers and blended them together by darkening the edges of the woman's face using the burn tool and soft brushes, and by pulling strands of hair over background.
1. Strands of hair pulled over background using smudge tool.

2. Faint green and grey tones added to hair with airbrush on color mode.

3. Hair pulled over background with smudge tool on low pressure. Blended into darkness with burn tool and soft brushes.

4. Freckles added around nose. Touch of green added to the shadow.

5. Freckles and stippling over man's nose using burn tool on low exposure.

6. Highlights added to hair with dodge tool. Touches of red, grey and green added to hair with airbrush on color mode.
Addendum
At the time of producing this image, my PC had limited CPU power so I was restricted to using low screenmodes. However, in this day and age I recommend that you follow this tutorial in a higher screenmode than you want your final image. You can then scale down the image when you have finished. This allows you more freedom, will allow you to add more detail and will ultimately make painting a lot easier for you.  

Mouse painting is very rare in today's era of high end tablets and touch screen technology. If you are serious about digital painting, I highly recommend buying yourself a cheap Wacom tablet, even a Bamboo or an old Graphire 4 like mine.

Nonethless I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and have found it educational. Good luck!
Turning my attention to the manís face, I began applying subtle colours, using the airbrush on color mode (between 2-5% pressure).

I decided to apply a faint blush of red to the most prominent areas, such as the nose, cheeks and chin, in order to give the manís face a little vibrancy and feeling. I then added traces of purple and green to add variation to the monochrome skin, and to help give the overall image a unique appearance. (Note: I often get ideas for colouring by studying fantasy art.)
If you appreciate my tutorials
please

Donate

and help save Nina's life.