detail of painting

MAT-210 :: P3 Painterly Compositing and Basic Animation

Project3 : Painterly Compositing and Basic Animation

20% of Semester Grade

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In this assignment, students will create a “painterly” composited artwork as well as a short video clip that animates the transformation of the original resource files into the final Photoshop “painting.”

Not sure what “painterly” means? Here’s a simple definition:


The term “painterly” is used to describe a painting done in a style that embraces, shows, and celebrates the medium in which it is created (be it oil paint, acrylics, pastels, watercolor, etc.), rather than trying to hide the act of creation.  (resource: About – Art Glossary Definition)

Not sure what “representational art” is? Here is a basic explanation:


In painting and sculpture, the term “representational art” usually refers to images that are clearly recognizable for what they purport to be, such as a human figure, a banana, a tree, and so on. Such images need not be true to life. So a tree does not have to be green, or even upright, but it must clearly represent or be recognizable as a tree. By contrast, non-representational or abstract art consists of images that have no clear identity, and must be interpreted by the viewer. (read more at the source: Representational Art)

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Concepts, Tools, Techniques Covered

Tools and Techniques

  • Camera Raw color processing
  • Smart objects
  • Layers
  • Color correction
  • Advanced selections
  • Masks
  • Adjustment layers
  • Reparation
  • Painting methods
  • Advanced brushes and fills
  • Video


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Part One:

Where to start? Some suggestions….

First, think about what you want to depict. If it doesn’t jump right out to you, look through a lot of image resources to get ideas. Some options for free, quality, high resolution images can be located on the following page:

It is VERY IMPORTANT that when compositing multiple images that you significantly change important parts of the original images’ compositions to make the final product your own. Do not rely too much on a single background image to communicate your message because it is unlikely that you will transform it enough to claim originality. Also very important: remember to consider the independent resolutions of different images you find and how they will work together. Images with low resolution for your desired scale might not work well in the final output, depending on how much it is modified.

Consider the following:
  • how color can illustrate characteristics of objects, spaces, or figures (hot, cold, warm, cool, anxious, calm, stable, etc.). Also consider how changing expected colors of familiar things can unsettle viewers.
  • how color schemes can also communicate mood (analogous can be subtle, complimentary can “pop” for conflict or excitement, etc.)
  • how varying the scale of elements in the composition can affect the audience’s perception of space, hierarchy, and reality
  • about line placement and line quality, especially when painting with brushes. People have fairly predictable reactions to certain line styles. You can communicate feelings via line manipulation in images. Some standard associations are as follows:
    •  diagonal : dynamic, movement
    • spiral : depression, confusion, anxiety, off-balance
    • crossed lines : fear, anger, frustration, impact
    • vertical : hope, uplifting, peaceful motion
    • horizontal : calmness, stability
    • zig-zag, squiggles : erratic, energy, commotion
  • making the composition more dynamic by moving design components partially off the picture plane/frame to keep the viewers’ eyes moving in and out of the composition.
  • compositing images to give a sense of dramatic spacial perspective. Common ways to communicate space in 2-D art is through employing overlapping shapes, using positive/negative shapes, and value difference, and varying objects’ scales.

Questions about any of the terminology above? Find it on the art vocabulary list.

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Part Two:

Idea Generation and Sketches

Based on your collection of imagery, sketch out at least three different compositions with pencil and paper. These can be very rough sketches and are intended to provide noncommittal ideas of how to reorganize visual information from your multiple images into one cohesive piece. Do not forget that you should change aspects of the images as you draw (such as scale, perspective, color, value, elimination/masking of image sections).

This project outline gives you several instructor-provided examples to illustrate different process and technique approaches to beginning, constructing, and completing the a painterly Photoshop composite. Immediately below is a three-part example that covers 1) ideation, 2) construction, and 3) exploring HDR toning and painting tools. It is a total of ~45 minutes, although you can speed up the playback to shorten the time, slowing it down where necessary for clarity.

Finished example:
MAT-210 Painterly Example


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Part Three:

Start Compositing in Photoshop

Based on your drawing explorations, choose a direction and start compositing in Photoshop using Photoshop tools and techniques required in this assignment (see below). Be very deliberate throughout this process to clearly organize and label your layers because you will later need to do more with them in the final video stage of the assignment.

To get an idea of some techniques that you can employ that are different from the previous example’s approach, you can watch the following 15-minute succinct demo that walks you through a basic review of putting together an artistic PSD composition. This is an abridged version of the process but will give you an overview of some ideas and processes you will use in the assignment. While artistic paint brush techniques were used to create layers in the following video, it does not walk you through using specific brushes. You need to explore and practice those techniques through other lessons to see which ones are right for your compositional needs.

Building the PSD Painterly Composition (15min)
Here’s a small version of the final file above. Click for larger web version:
painterly interpretation of dark, decayed city
Decay : MAT-210 P3 Example

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Part Four:

Animating the PSD with Photoshop Video Tools

After completing your composition, you will duplicate the file to create a separate animation file. This will preserve the original when you need to make changes for the sake of the video animation. Change the “Image Size” of the video file to a width matching ONE of the following:

width X height
640px X 360px
854px X 480px
1280px X 720px

If your dimensions do not exactly match these, choose one of the width dimensions above if your composition is horizontal view  (height automatic). If it is a vertical composition, ONLY use the height option of 720px, because it will fit properly that way in standard 1280×720 video players.

Shrinking the file size will create a much more manageable file for rendering video. Animate the process via video tools based on the video tutorials provided. This animation will not only “document” your layering/effect process of building the file, but it will create a short video art clip that shows a journey from basic realism to a whimsical, brooding, or contemplative final image.

The following playlist’s video demos walk students through animating their compositions in a 5-10 second video clip.There are three videos in the series and a fourth animated mp4 example.
Basic PSD Video Animation

You can also view another completed example of this project’s work based on the word “whimsical.”

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Concept and Content Requirements


Create a composite image from multiple source image files so that the final result meets all of the following criteria:

  1. Final work is expressively one of the following moods:  whimsical, brooding, or contemplative.
  2. Final work falls within the range of “representational art” yet is still “painterly.”
  3. Final work is original in ideation.
  4. Original source images are significantly changed enough to create a unique and new final artwork.


  1. Use a minimum of two separate source images as the basis of your composition. Be sure that you change the originals enough through Photoshop techniques (see Technical Requirements below) to create an original artwork.
  2. *Be sure to “place” your resource files as “Smart Objects” into the target composition file so that you can dynamically adjust scale without changing the files’ native resolutions.*
  3. For the final video phase, you will use the same content layers that you produced to create the still composite, but you will need to modify some layers to create simple animation.

Technical Requirements

Technical Setup:Mode: RGB, …Minimum size: 1200 x 800 pixels or 1200 x 800 pixels, …Image resolution: 72 ppi, …Resulting image files:

• 2 PSDs (lastname_p3_still.psd + lastname_p3_video.psd [reduce image document size of video file according to options in the Process section instructions.]) • 1 JPGs (lastname_p3_still.jpg) • 1 rendered video file (lastname_p3_video.mp4)

Color Corrections: Use Bridge/Camera Raw on original source images to non-destructively correct color and tonal ranges.
Smart Objects:  “Place” your resource files as “Smart Objects” into the target composition file so that you can dynamically adjust scale without changing the files’ native resolutions. Convert non-smart layers int Smart Objects if you need to apply transformations on them in the video key-framing.
Layers and Layer Groups: Clearly organize, group, and label your layers for the file.
Selections: Use combinations of appropriate selection tools to create and save complex selections for reuse and masking.
Masks and channels: Use masks and channels to non-destructively “eliminate” portions of the original resource files. Try to avoid using the eraser tool or deleting original content.
Adjustment Layers: Use at least 2 non-destructive layer adjustments to adjust color or tonal range.
Reparation: Use reparation tools (healing brushes, clone stamp, content-aware tool, etc.) as necessary to correct blemishes or undesirable visual content in areas you need to keep in the composition.
Painting Methods: Explore a variety of brushes and paint brush styles to create a “painterly” effect on the work. This includes blending methods of using Dry brushes to Very Wet brushes, adjusting flow and opacities for brushes, cleaning and loading paint brushes, and exploring different brush tips and dynamics. Advanced brushes and fills: Explore using different brush types, sizes, and dynamics in composition.
Video: Create a duplicate of your completed composition file. Use keyframes in conduction with layer changes (opacity, position, transformation) to create an animated timeline. Save the video PSD as well as a rendered mp4 video clip.

Due at the Critique

  1. Upload the following to the server in your student directory (see Canvas for server connecting info):
    • lastname_p3_still.psd
    • lastname_p3_video.psd
    • lastname_p3_still.jpg
    • lastname_p3_video.mp4
  2. Post your jpg and mp4 to to the assignment’s discussion forum in Canvas, along with your artist statement.

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Example Work

This is an example of a completed work to give you an idea of concept execution and stylistic options. This was based on the choice of “whimsical” and is a depiction of a daydream. An example of “brooding” is above. Contemplate on “contemplative.”

Final Composite (flat file)

painting of sneakers overhanging cliff
Final Composite

Original resource images used:

Final Video Animation

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Sample Student Work


Student Case Study:

Inspiration: “contemplative”
Final composite:

Image research, color palette exploration, and sketches:

Animated Process Documentation:

Animated Process Documentation Example 2

This student was focused on creating commercial looking work for his portfolio, so he we given a special exception for the use of text in this case. ANY use of text required special permission with a specific proposal.

Other Compiled Video Clip Examples:

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Digital Art, Design, and Communication Education