Cover by Mark Dewey

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September 2006

September 2006; School



  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Can't spell 'Paint' without P-A-I-N
  • Myths and Symbols:
    The Tree of the Thunder Gods
  • Behind the Art:
    Caring for Your Pens and Nibs
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Painting Surfaces
  • EMG News:
    September: School


  • A Few Things to Consider When Publishing to Magazines
  • Moon Glow: A Watercolor Tutorial
  • Writing for Comics
  • Collecting References
  • Absolute Matte Walkthrough


  • Fiction: Countess


  • Movie: Snakes on a Plane

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  • Absolute Matte Walkthrough
    by Jenny Heidewald

    One of the newest types of paints out there is a sort of hybrid between gouache/watercolor and acrylic. You have the option of either laying it down in opaque layers, or using it in delicate transparent washes. This type of paint is workable as long as it is moist, and once dry it allows layering without the fear of the last layer picking up.

    The two brands I know of are Chroma Atelier Absolute Matte and Holbein Acryla-Gouache. Holbein Acryla-Gouache offers a bigger selection, boasting 102 colors, while Absolute Matte, with 30 colors, offers a less expensive option and bigger tubes. Having tried both brands, I have concluded that they are about the same, though I suspect Holbien might use a bit more pigment. They mix with each other, as well as acrylics and watercolors. A word of warning: In my experience, mixtures that are mostly acrylic will add shine to the paint, and once you lay the mix down there is a slight reluctance of the matte paint to stick.

    You can find more information here:
    Chroma Atelier Absolute Matte
    Holbein Acryla-Gouache

    I was thrilled to discover this type of paint, since one of my troubles with watercolor was keeping my layers from muddying up. They also didn’t scan well, which made for a lot of work in the "touchup in Photoshop" department. The following is a walk-through so you can see one way you can work with this new type of paint.

    Camilla Grow has given me permission to use her lovely characters, Niyati and Ashur, in this demonstration. Please note that none of the following illustrations may be used for character portraits or any other such thing.

    Step One

    Once I get my sketch inked, I scan it and fix up any places I’ve made a mistake. Did I end up with a hand too big? No problem, I just lasso and resize, then fix up any jagged lines. A note here; I like to use colored Micron pens because my Cannon i560 printer doesn't have waterproof ink, and I'd rather have a color blending with my paint than black. The other option is the change the hue of the picture in Photoshop. I use Fabriano 100% cotton paper cut to 8.5x11 for my print. Beware of watermarks along the edge when cutting it to size, and be sure to print on the front of the paper.

    Step Two

    The first thing I do is give everything a light wash of color, to be sure all the colors work together. There is almost nothing more distracting than a big spot of white somewhere. I used Pthalo green and Pthalo Blue on Niyati’s dress, Quinacridone Red to tint her skin, and Quinacridone Red Violet for her hair. Use a lot of water with these colors; remember, we want to leave light areas for the highlights. If you accidentally make a spot too dark you can mix white to regain the lightness, but white tends to make things chalky.

    For the background, I used Cadmium Yellow Light to put in one moon, and a Pthalo green/blue mixture for the other. The sky is a light wash of Quinacridone Red Violet. Fabriano paper tends to soak up water quickly so I usually lay down a wash before I go into it with color. The water along the bottom was done with Prussian Blue and a tad Quinacridone Red Violet.

    With Ashur I used a light wash of Cadmium Yellow Light, and Permanent Brown Madder for his cloak (also her fan). For his hair, I used Pthalo Blue, and the rest of his clothes were a mix of Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Blue and Quinacridone Red Violet.

    Step Three

    In this stage, I've applied another coat of color to all parts of the picture, starting to define shaded areas. With the moons I've made the brush strokes rather smooth, but I kept in mind that they usually have craters and things. Yellow Ochre darkened the yellow one and I added more Pthalo Green and Pthalo Blue to the other. Working quickly, I added Quiacridone Red Violet to the sky and ragged it off with a tissue to tone down the saturation. Since her skin is going to be black, I've applied Quinacridone Red Violet, and I tint her hair with Permanent Brown Madder, which will be dark purple in the end.

    On his hair, I've added more of the shadows; Burnt Sienna and Prussian Blue make a wonderful dark color I use instead of black. Ultramarine Blue and a bit of Quinacridone Red went towards darkening shadows on his clothes. I've added a little bit of Yellow Ochre to the side of his face that is facing the moon, and used Burnt Sienna to darken his skin a bit more.

    Step Four

    Now I am mainly building layers of the same colors, another mix of Prussian blue and Quinacridone Red Violet to his hair with a wash of Pthalo blue for the highlights. Paying attention to detail, I dry brush to get a textured “hair” look. More Burnt Sienna, Quinacridone Red (watercolor) and Quinacridone Red Violet go to darken his skin. I used a Prussian Blue and Permanent Brown Madder mix to strengthen the shadows on the cloak. Using a very light wash of Cadmium Yellow Light, since I am not sure how it will look, I go over the greens on her dress. I also touch on spots the moonlight would reflect off, though I don’t stick too closely to that. I added the yellow to the shells on her headdress, top of her face, from the eyes up, and the darker areas of her skin. Working more on all skin included a wash of Quinacridone Red for the middle cheek area and other select spots, for example, her chest.

    On Niyati’s blue dress, I touched Pthalo Green as well as Permanent Brown Madder. I darkened her fan with a light wash of Permanent Red Madder and Prussian Blue. I also paid attention to Ashur’s gauntlet, first using a mix Prussian Blue and Quinacridone Red Violet and then a wash of Permanent Brown Madder.

    Step Five:

    Concentrating mainly on Niyati this step, I first apply another Prussian Blue and Permanent Brown Madder mix to the darker parts of her hair and give the highlights a wash of Cadmium Yellow Light. I outlined their eyes with my black mix and used a touch of a Pthalo Green and Burnt Sienna mix to her pupils. I also added a slight tinge of Quinacridone Red Violet to the whites of their eyes.

    I worked more on the shell and fan, Cadmium Scarlet and Cadmium Yellow medium to make an orange for the middle ground. More skin work, Burnt Sienna for shadows, Prussian Blue and Quinacridone Red for shadows; I also gave her lips a coat of Quinacridone red. I liked the way the Cadmium Yellow Light turned out with the light wash of before and decided to go darker, to get a more vibrant contrast.

    I defined the gem on her dress. Working quickly, I put down a pure layer of Pthalo Green and then added two touches of white opposite of each other. The one on the top I only blend a little bit and leave mostly round. The one on the bottom I blend out more and make curved to make it seem like light is going through the gem.

    His cloak gets another wash of permanent brown madder.

    Step Six:

    Reaching the final stages, I tone down the yellow moon and the green of her dress with Yellow Ochre. Her skin was the trickiest part of this piece since I haven’t had much luck with black skin before. I went back to my trusty mix of Prussian Blue and Burnt Sienna, with a bit of Quinacridone Red and Pthalo Green. I used a heavier hand around the shadowy areas; working quickly, I added water and blended the color out onto her face. I used Pthalo Blue for the shadowy areas between her fingers, and a bit on his lower face where the beard would grow.

    Step Seven:

    For her lips I used Quinacridone Red and then Permanent Brown Madder, I added Titanium White for highlights. For her pearls, I dabbed pure Titanium White, and washed over it with Pthalo blue, paying attention to which way the shadows would fall on the dress. I darkened the fans shadow areas even more with permanent brown madder. I added a bit more Quinacridone red to his cheeks and lips, finished the metal pins on his cloak, and added the tattoos to their faces. The final touch before scanning is my signature.

    Step Eight:

    I did some minor touchups in Photoshop, cleaning up a few edges and de-saturating the yellow moon a bit, but for the most part, what you see here as the finished product is what the original looks like. Thanks to the vibrancy of this new kind of paint, the scanned colors are practically the same as what is on the paper.

    Jenny Heidewald is one of those self-taught artists that has been drawing since she was little; she remembers the exact moment she decided that she wanted to be an artist. Interestingly enough, it was while watching her mom draw the hand of God reaching from the clouds to His followers. Jenny was floored, it seemed to be magic, an image appearing out of nowhere. She thought, "I want
    to do THAT!" In addition to writing for EMG-zine, Jenny is a prolific artist who has worked in many mediums. Her current favorite technique is working with colored micron pens, and coloring either with watercolor or Photoshop. Jenny lives in Maryland with her husband. Please check out her Sketchfest, Portrait Adoption, Deviant Art, and Elfwood pages.

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