Painting the Rocky Cliffs

How to Get Your Home in Order Almost Immediately

Get Instant Access

The last major element to paint is stone. Now, stone should be easy to paint. It does not move or change shape in the time it takes to paint an image. On the other hand, because stones do not change, they are often hard to paint well because artists tend to assume they already know what rock looks like and they don't study it. The stones in this painting are not real but show one method of painting them.

We'll handle the rocks in this scene very simply and directly paint them on a new layer. No reference or preliminary sketches are being used. The sequence is similar to the way you would paint this subject matter in traditional media. Here are the basic steps:

1. Sketching the basic shapes of the rocks

2. Painting the colors of the rocks starting with dark colors and working toward light ones

3. Adding details and textures to the rocky surfaces

4. Cleaning up and finishing the painted rocks

We'll do the majority of the painting with Dons Brush, and we'll use a few additional default Painter brushes to add details. This part of the scene calls for multiple layers. From this point forward, check Pick Up Underlying Color for each new layer unless instructed differently.

To make sure that the perspective of the rocks is correct, turn on the perspective grid for the first sketches.

1. Turn the perspective grid on. You can find the command under the Canvas menu. Using the horizon line as the reference point, align the grid. The actual placing of the perspective grid is not critical. We'll use the grid as a guide to quickly draw a reference box. We'll sketch the rocks using the grid and box as guides. Figure 2.23 shows the perspective grid displayed over the painting. The horizon line is indicated by the black guideline, and the vanishing points are located where the horizontal and vertical guidelines cross.

Horizon Line Painting

Figure 2.23 The perspective grid shown over the painting

Irl bm

Figure 2.23 The perspective grid shown over the painting

Create a new layer and, using the grid and horizon line as guides, draw in a box that will be the basis for the future rocks. It's not important which brush you use. In this case, I used Dons Brush. Figure 2.24 shows the box shape sketched on the new layer.

Use Dons Brush to sketch some rocky shapes on a new layer inside the box. Fortunately, the rocks are randomly shaped, so their perspective does not have to be extremely accurate. Figure 2.25 shows the first of several rocks sketched within the box.


Figure 2.24 A box is sketched on a new layer as a guide for sketching in the cliffs and outcroppings.

Figure 2.25 A rock is sketched on a new layer inside the box.

Figure 2.25 A rock is sketched on a new layer inside the box.

This first rock is the most critical to set correctly in the painting, so that is why we used the perspective box. We will sketch the other rocks in relation to this first rock.

The first and most important of the rocks is drawn about one-third of the way across the horizontal space of the painting. This is good compositional practice because it keeps the image interesting to look at. We could have been placed it on either side of the image. Avoiding the central area for the focal point of a painting is always a good idea.

4. Hide the perspective box and then paint dark colors into the shadow side of the rocks using Dons Brush. I have decided to add some house shapes on top of the rocks. I did this for two reasons: it adds interest to the painting, and it immediately gives a sense of scale to the rocky cliffs. Figure 2.26 shows the cliffs with darker shadows indicated and a roughly sketched series of buildings on the top faces.

Figure 2.26 Shadows are painted and buildings are sketched on the tops of the cliffs.

5. Using the same brush, paint additional rocks. Draw a long, thin bridge to span one set of rocks to the island buildings. Keep everything simple and subject to change. Add some lighter colors to the light sides of the rocks. Figure 2.27 shows the work at this point.

By this time, I pretty much have determined the direction of the painting. Quite a bit of work has been accomplished, but I am still using only one brush. I painted the rocks with lighter colors up high where the setting sun is lighting them, and I painted the lower areas in shadow using colors that relate to the darkest cloud colors.

6. Using the same brush in a smaller size, draw some cracks and features over the large painted rocky areas. Most of the basic shapes and colors are finished and ready to have details added (see Figure 2.28).

7. Add some bright red color to the areas where the shadows transition to the sunlit surfaces. These bright colors add interest and help separate the rocks from the clouds.

Figure 2.27 More rocks and a bridge are added to the scene.

Figure 2.28 Main colors are added along with some small defining details in the rocks. Everything is ready for the details and fi nishing touches.

Adding Texture to the Rocks

You can quickly and easily add more detail in the rocks and bridge with a few simple steps.

1. Create a new layer.

2. Switch to the default Painter brush Chalk > Variable Chalk.

3. Pick the Cobblestone Paper texture from the book's paper library.

4. On the darker side of the rocks, using a color that is quite dark, paint in some rocky textures.

5. Change the paper to the small stone wall texture, and paint some texture on the bridge.

Because we added the texture on a new layer, we can simply erase all brushstrokes that spilled over into the sky or water areas.

We will add more textures as we continue painting the image. Follow the preceding steps when you paint the textures so clean-up is easy or so you can delete changes that do not look the way you hoped.

Figure 2.29 shows the painting with some brighter colors added to the rocky surfaces and some nice cobblestone textures painted into the shadow areas of the cliffs. We have done lots of work since the last image, and the painting is starting to look finished.

Figure 2.29 Brighter colors have been added to the rocky surfaces, along with some nice textures in the shadow areas of the cliffs.

Collapse the Texture and Rock layers together and, using a combination of Dons Brush and the Variable Chalk brush, refine and integrate the textures into the rocky surface. Generally, I work from the dark colors to the light ones. Paint additional texture in both the light and dark rock surfaces. Use only a few different paper textures, but vary the scale of each texture frequently to make sure there is no monotony in the surface. Clean up the edges of the cliffs and buildings using the Eraser brush. Figure 2.30 shows the current state of the painting.

Figure 2.30 The painting after clean-up with Eraser

Creating Pits and Holes

I want to add a few pits and holes to the rocky surface. Painting the effect with traditional media could be tedious. Fortunately, it is easy with Painter.

1. Create a new layer.

2. Choose the Variable Splatter brush variant in the Airbrushes Category, set it to a large size, and paint a number of dark spots over the surfaces of the rocks. Lots of small spots will end up in the background on top of the sky and water. Erase these stragglers.

3. Duplicate the layer.

4. Select the bottom layer, and check the Preserve Transparency box.

5. Switch brushes to Dons Brush or another of your choice. Pretty much any other brush will work.

Select a light color from the sunny side of the rocks, make it a bit lighter in the Colors palette, and paint over the spots on the bottom layer that are in the sunlit areas.

Select a color from the lighter area of the rocks in shadow, make it slightly lighter in the Colors palette, and paint over the spots in the lower shadow areas of the cliffs. Because the Preserve Transparency box is checked, nothing but the spots are affected.

Click the Layer Adjuster and, using the left and down keyboard arrows, slightly offset the lighter Spot layer under the darker spots. Collapse the layers and erase any spots that are in the background.

It is quite amazing that something as simple as offsetting the layers gives the spots the appearance of pits and holes. Figure 2.31 shows the Spot layers painted over the cliffs and rocks.

10. To enhance the realism of the Spot layer, reduce its Opacity setting to around 50% or whatever value looks good. Collapse the Spot and Rock layers. The entire image is shown in Figure 2.32 after the Spot layer's opacity is reduced.

Figure 2.31 The Spot layer painted over the cliffs and rocks
Figure 2.32 The Spot layer is reduced to an Opacity setting of 50%.

Adding More Textural Effects

Let's add more textural effects to the rocks and cliffs.

1. Create another new layer.

2. Pick the Pixel Spray airbrush, use the Dropper tool to pick colors from around the image, and paint color specks onto the new layer.

Figure 2.33 shows the results of using the Pixel Spray airbrush on a new layer.

Figure 2.33 shows the results of using the Pixel Spray airbrush on a new layer.

Figure 2.33 The Pixel Spray airbrush is used to add more texture to the rocks.

3. Erase any stray pixels in the clouds or water.

4. Reduce the opacity of the layer to some value that looks good.

5. Collapse the Rock and Pixel Spray layers together.

6. Switch back to Dons Brush and repaint any cracks in the rocks that were covered by the Pixel Spray or spots. Select lighter colors from either the shadow rocks or the sunlit rocks, and paint edges along the cracks to give them a three-dimensional (3D) feel. Figure 2.34 shows the rocks and cliffs after repainting the cracks.

Figure 2.34 The cracks are repainted and the cliffs are almost finished.

^ The rocks and cliffs are about 90 percent finished at this point, but something

" looks a bit off. The cliffs are not reflecting in the water yet, and we need to fix this. In e the next section, we will revisit the water and create the reflections.

Was this article helpful?

+1 0
Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Learn to sketch by working through these quick, simple lessons. This Learn to Sketch course will help you learn to draw what you see and develop your skills.

Get My Free Ebook


  • Joshua Duncan
    How to paint rocky cliffs?
    4 years ago
  • temesgen
    How to paint rock cliffs?
    2 years ago
  • waylon
    How to watercolor paint rocky cliffs?
    2 years ago
  • Asmait
    How to oil paint a rock cliff?
    11 months ago
  • margarito
    How to higjlight rocky cliffs?
    5 months ago

Post a comment