How do I begin painting in Krita? Creating a digital landscape painting might not be as difficult as you would expect. I would even say that being able to draw traditionally isn’t that important. Though it definitely helps. I personally know of many great artists that can draw one subject amazingly well but completely fail at other things. I personally find any anatomical stuff extremely challenging.

My point is this: if you worry your drawing skills aren’t up to scratch don’t worry about it. Digital painting uses a unique set of skills which can be practiced by anyone.

Some of the text in this article has been taken from my Photoshop article on digital painting. The technique is exactly the same the only difference is the software.

The Tutorial

If you haven’t got it already go download Krita, it’s free.

The idea for this tutorial and this technique came from my days at college studying animation. We used to practice a drawing exercise which was fantastic at improving our drawing skills in a short space of time. We would take turns drawing each other in various positions and postures. The catch was we only had thirty seconds to draw each student before moving on to the next drawing.

As you would expect this was very challenging at first because you really struggle to get the drawing right in only 30 seconds. But that is the point. The harsh time limit means you have to work really fast and capture the essence of the subject and not the fine details.

The purpose of the exercise was to simply practice the mechanical act of drawing without planning or thinking things through. This exercise was designed specifically for cell animation which requires the artist to draw the individual frames of an animation.

Working fast (in my opinion) also seems to override the part of the brain which makes you overthink and worry about getting it right. What you end up with is a tonne of rough drawings but you will be surprised how quickly they start getting better and more accurate.

This method is the inspiration behind my speed painting exercise.

What is the exercise?

Basically, you try your best to recreate a photograph via digital painting. You sample the colours from the original photograph as you go and working quickly you aim to “roughly” recreate the photo.

You don’t need to worry about colour theory or any complicated composition planning. All you have to do is paint.

How Fast? – I think 15 minutes is a good time limit but if you are not yet confident enough working with Krita to work that fast, then really you can try whatever you want. The speed limit is not there to be challenging, the purpose is to get you practising the fundamentals without obsessing over the fine details. (which can be added or refined at any time).

Also if things really go tits up then you have only wasted 15-20 minutes. Of course, the time isn’t wasted because you are practising but you don’t have to look at a painting you might not like for hours.

Let’s get to it.

If you fancy following along you can use the same canvas as me (right click and save as)

In Krita

Set Up

Firstly, I am extremely new to Krita myself so this is a learning experience for me too.

Open up Krita and create a new file with any dimensions. There is no real thought behind this I know my end painting won’t be amazing so it doesn’t need to be big and high resolution.

I am using the default workspace.

Next, open the photo you wish to paint from, Krita will open this up in a new tab. Copy the layer and then change back to the tab which contains our painting canvas.

Paste the copied layer into the canvas, this will likely be way too big so find the transform layer tool. Holding shift (scale in proportion) scale the layer down until it’s only a small image and then place it in a corner out of the way.

So that’s the canvas set up.

Useful Keyboard Shortcuts:

  • CTRL + Click – Sample colours without needing to change from the brush tool
  • [ – reduce the brush size
  • ] – increase the brush size

Pick a Brush

Use whatever brush you like I personally like the look of hard brushes so that is what I will be using, I make no modifications to the brush.

Before I begin painting I select the most dominant colour in the sky and then using the fill tool I fil the canvas with that colour. This is just a personal preference.

The Painting

So how do I do it?

With the brush tool selected I periodically sample colours from the photograph by pressing CTRL + clicking. I then paint these colours on the layer under the photograph, you can work on one layer it doesn’t really matter.

I begin with the background and work towards the foreground, I find this produces cleaner lines and the brush strokes lay over the old strokes.

Don’t be reserved, use big fast brush strokes if you like too.

Krita’s brush sensitivity is really good so I don’t need to change the brush size very often.

I begin with big rough shapes and then as time goes on I start using a smaller brush size to add more detail. The reason I keep the reference photo small is that I don’t really care if the composition is perfect. I am more concerned with getting a painting which looks believable and plausible. It doesn’t matter if I missed a mountain or one of the hills is the wrong size.

Eventually, you will reach a point where you no longer need to sample the colours from the photo. Your painted canvas will contain all the colours you need.

I delete the photo when I feel like I no longer need it.

You may be surprised by how few colours you actually need.

The way to tell if you are on the right track is to look at your painting from far away or minimize it. If it looks good small it means your composition and colours are correct.

Tips

Try alternating between different zooms. This can affect the smoothness of the brushstroke. If you are zoomed out the brush will move further over the canvas (with the same hand movement).

Observations:

  • There are far more colours in the foreground than the background
  • Colours in the foreground are darker and more vibrant
  • Atmospheric haze means things far away take on the colour of the atmosphere, in this example that would be blue.
  • Snow can be incredibly bright

My advice would be, see it through to the end even if you feel like you have made a mistake. The purpose of this exercise is not to produce an amazing painting but to gain experience. You can often correct a lot of mistakes with digital painting especially in the early stages of the painting.

Don’t worry about the fine details just try your best to capture the general look of the photograph. The purpose of this exercise is to get a feel for how colours blend together and how the graphics tablet behaves in Krita.

I hope this exercise serves you well, I find this exercise very enjoyable because the composition and palette are already established all I have to do is make some brush strokes.

This article was written as a modification of my Photoshop speed painting article you can view that here:  Digital Painting For Beginners: A Simple Exercise

Thanks for reading. Good Luck.


David

Works part-time as a Graphic Designer and Website Designer. Studied Animation and has been using and learning design software for over 15 years.