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Getting started with Krita (1/3)

28 august 2013

The result of this blog post tutorial exercise

 "Getting started with Krita" is a tutorial series of three blog post. The tutorials are designed for Krita 2.7  ( or later version ) + my brushkit V3 . So, be sure to have them installed before start. I hope you'll learn something with this series. My goal here is to share the passion I have for digital painting and help new talents to get faster rid of the technical aspect to do the essential : telling stories, sharing beautifull pictures, expressing an artistic soul, etc... 

 My first tutorial will be a simple but rewarding one. 'Simple' because I'll write it as a step by step with all details to paint a symmetrical portrait, but without explaining the complex stuff underneath about theory ; and 'rewarding' because we will get a result quite fastly you will be able , hopefuly, to replicate. It can be an ideal time investment if you have a first free afternoon to paint and want to learn while having fun. Stay tuned for the next parts, I'll annuciate them on G+, Twitter ( link on my website header ).  

Contents :
Part 1. : black and white : setup and modeling ( you are here )
Part 2. : colorize : layer stack of blending mode 
Part 3. :  finalising : render, post effect  (link soon, to be published )

Let's paint !

Note : I let you the care to save your document often during the process. I advice the 'Krita document' ( *.kra ) files. 
Note 2: Click on the pictures to enlarge them. 

1. On Krita first windows for the document creation, go to "Custom Document"(1)  and create a new canvas with Width and Height to 4000 (2)  and set resolution to 300ppi (3) , as on the screenshot. Skip other field as Name or Image description , and press 'Create' (4).

2. Maximize Krita Windows. Zoom your empty canvas to the 50% view (1) ( using '+' on keyboard or the mouse wheel ) . Take the crop tool (2) , and crop the visible canvas on your screen letting a border all around.

3. Click the little color square on the toolbar (1) ( the one under for the background color) step the value down to 216 (2) ( Hex: #D8D8D8 ) , then accept with the OK button (3) . Now press 'Backspace' over your canvas (4) , to fill this one with the grey background color.

4. Lock your layer (1) and rename it ( double click on it ) to 'Bg' (2). Create a new empty "Paint layer" above (3) . Let the default name 'Layer 2'

5. Select the Freehand tool (1) and the brush preset 'hairy brush' (2). On the 'advanced color selector' docker, select a dark mid-grey value (3) , and adjust the size with pressing shift+dragging the brush on the canvas to got a mid brush (4)  ( check around 40px , on top 'size' slider )

6. Activate the shortcut on the top tool bar to the horizontal mirror mode.

7. Start to draw on canvas large axes, with direct and simple line strokes. Shape the head, simple lines for the eyes , mouth, and nose, same for ears. 'E' key on the keyboard will switch your brush to erase instead of paint. Pressing it again will restore the behavior to paint. You can correct your stroke to get proportion you like. To delete all , in case you are not happy , press 'Delete' on the keyboard.

8. Block the shadows zone of your face , if you are not familiar with drawing or painting, this skill is relative to your capacity to abstract the 3D model of a face in your head , and know the volumes of it and guess the shadows cast by an abstract light source. If you begin, just try to paint the area under the eyebrows, and under the nose, volume for the hair, and for the neck. Again, use the eraser to enhance your modeling. Keep it simple : zone of light and zone of shadows.

9. Create a new paint layer, and bring it between your blocked shadows, and the background. Select the 'Fill brush' and fill the part inside the silhouette.

10. Select your layer with shadows, and 'merge it' with layer bellow with Ctrl+E , turn the opacity of the layer to 50%. Create a new 'paint layer'

11. Select the hairy brush again. Select a mid grey color in the Advanced color selector and start to draw more shadows by glazing successive strokes. Try to be subtle, play with the pressure of your stylus and erase when necessary.

12. Create a new paint layer. Increase your grey color a bit , to reach the same grey value than your background ( or hold 'Control' to pick the color on the canvas ) and keep working on your modeling as you would do on a three dimensional plaster object.

13. Merge layer with the layer bellow, use Layer > Merge with Bellow layer ( or Ctrl+E ). Create a new paint layer. Draw the facial features ( eyes / mouth / nose ) on the top of our volumes. Use only tones already present on the canvas with your brush opacity diminished to 0.70 , picking value holding Control + click on the canvas. Create hard edges where you can , clean silhouette contour, increase the spike aspect of some shapes. This part is ideal to fix things. Take your time and keep the bigger brush size you can, reduce only if it's necessary .

14. Create a new paint layer. With white and same brush but now 0.50 opacity paint now only the glossy parts of the face, and the hair : or the more smooth or greasy part ( or the area receiving naturally more light in this lighting setup ). Be also subtle here too.

15. Create a new paint layer. Add some definition and details with a hard thin brush as the 'speedpainting brush' and start to bring harder details to your drawing. Especially for glossy point or materials. You can add glossy reflective points of light with very bright values, almost or white.  Shadows can be also creased a bit ; but I advice you to keep in a restricted range of values and avoid usage of darker tones. Also add some low opacity white around the silhouette to boost the contrast a bit.

At the end , the young fictive person I drew from imagination look a bit mystic in her attitude and simplistic in the design. I'll not add more accessories or design to keep the tutorial method clean , but feel free to keep painting and follow your imagination... I advice you to keep doodling with a standard viewport , 50% and without zooming ; and train your painting skill within a "compressed value space" ( from white to grey ). It's easier than dealing with blacks to get started. 

This first part of this tutorial end here. Next part we will colorize it ! Go to the next part now

Repeat it again till you'll feel more confident with the steps to replicate without this page. Create monsters, girls, men or robot head this way with focusing on giving the illusion of volumes and the modeling/shading. The fun is really here : creation. Feel free to have a watch to my other mirrored portrait black and white speedpaintings .

A question ?
 Want to share the link of your results ? 
 discuss ? use the comments, I'll be around and participate too  :-) 

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1. Vespertinus

wednesday 28 august 2013, 22:32

thank you,
really helpfull

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thursday 29 august 2013, 09:06

Every time amazing. Thanks david.

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3. jai

saturday 31 august 2013, 19:45

Wow! Thank you very much, love your posts about krita and paiting!
sunday 01 september 2013, 15:41

@All : Hey , thanks for the encouragements, it really helps for me to continue on the part 2 ( already written , I must do screen captures now and publishing work , should be posted by Wednesday ) .

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5. Nathaniel Schultz

tuesday 03 september 2013, 23:22

I am going to use this as an excuse to return to art again. My still "unknown" neurological condition has stolen just about everything from me, including all my past efforts but hell David, you helped me get into it a few years ago but damn I want to try again. I have nothing but time now even if my muscles don't always do what they are told to.

You remain an inspiration to the FLOSS community as a whole and to me.
wednesday 04 september 2013, 08:57

@Nathaniel Schultz : Awww.... Thanks ! All my encouragements for both your art practice and also your health. I should post the second part today after I finish my painting hours for clients. I written it already on Sunday afternoon , then did the screenshot yesterday. Things will probably start to be more interesting when I'll finish the part 3 ; I prepare a new serie already focused more on the art. This 'getting started' focus on the software.

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7. Nathaniel Schultz

wednesday 04 september 2013, 18:44

I felt I should appolgize to both you and the community since when this really started to hit home I was working with you and others on the Argosian Mint project and some Wacom Tools, all of which ended when my cognitive skills took the nose dive. I really like the getting started with the program part for part one because I need that kind of basic thing. I have trouble learning still and it takes quite the effort to figure out things that came so easily before. So while I cannot contribute I can, I suppose, enjoy and try.
By the way is there a means by which we can donate to support your efforts? I look forward to the next part, though i am still trying to get things setup.
thursday 05 september 2013, 11:02

@Nathaniel Schultz : No need of apology ; the Argosian Mint and documentation you let was brilliant and the Mate solution was a real breath when the Gnome2 get deprecated to Gnome Shell / Unity hard transition happen to the Linux desktop ; I also learned a lot from it about bash. Without this skill I could never did the :-) Thanks ! This tutorial series just propose a path ; but as you can see , I work with layers by workflow 'step' and not by depth of the picture. It's a sort of security to can erase also the layer if I start to be destructive, or turn off/on layer visibility and ask to myself the question if the actual pass really enhance the picture... I also try to keep a single tool/preset as long as possible to just darken and shade . Then take one and enlight the overall ... etc... I feel more productive this way than working area after area.

About donation ; I prefer to not ask for ( you can't see *yet* any Paypal button on my website ) . I do this tutorials and effort on my free-time , after daily painting for money to my client. Maybe it can change one day ; but then I 'll ask it directly to the user under a kickstarter form or something to invest into a long open tutorial series, or for a documented project comic or wathever ( not planned, just random ideas based on what I already did with Sintel / Tears of Steel / Chaos and Evolutions / Blend&Paint ).
Real heros are Krita developers ; they work hard and if you have a donation to make, I encourage to give them a bit ; they have team member working almost full time on it thanks to the donations and that's why they can keep a wonderful amount of features and bug fixes each 6 months. I would love them to have more funding to assure the sit of talents. Just a idea :)

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9. regis

sunday 08 september 2013, 21:09

Ce que tu fais est magnifique je voudrais atteindre au moins 1% de ce que tu as!!!
mais Krita me deteste ou detste mon vieux pc ppa, Compilscripts, stable, rien ne fonctionne (ou fonctionne correctement)... alors aller sur irc parler anglais, avec mon niveau scolaire ;) ont a pas fini.
5 jour que je teste dans tous les sens, dommage j'avait vraiment envie de tester...

PS: Je sais bien que tu es pas une sav ;) mais si tu a une idéé je suis deja pret à formater, compiller (avec tuto) et plus si il le faut pour tester ce que tu viens de montrer sur ton blog
monday 09 september 2013, 10:55

@regis : Merci pour le retour ! pour ton soucis d'installation, je te conseille de rester sur la version 'stable' de 2.7 ou 2.7.1 de Krita ; la version developpement est en cours de nombreux changements ; opengl2, Qt5 etc... qui la rende réellement difficille à suivre. Surtout sur les bases 'buntu de systême qui ont beaucoups de bricolage dans les paquets pour rafistoler les besoins d' Unity.
Si tu veux rester sur la base 'buntu ; le plus simple est Kubuntu 13.04 ; qui propose 2.7 dans les paquets et l'optimisation avec VC 0.7 pour etre plus rapide. En solution plus rapide et légère pour un vieux PC , je conseille Manjaro 8.7 ; Xfce , basé sur Ach Linux ; le gestionnaire de paquet est à jour et a Krita 2.7 installable facilement. Seul bémol avec Xfce : pas de panneaux de configuration pour Wacom ; mais si tu connais Xsetwacom et les script ; pas de soucis. Bon courage !

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11. regis

monday 09 september 2013, 17:51

Bonjour et merci!!!!! Après plusieurs galere j'ai reussi!!! maintenant il faut que je me mette au travaille ;)
Kubuntu 13.04 => apres mise a jour et instalation krita 2.6.3
Manjaro 8.7 => apres mise a jour 2.7.2
en plus chez manjaro il y a une version openbox ;) mega leger!! et moi qui avais peur de passer sur Arch grand merci a toi!!!
je partage mon album screenshot!
Bon parcontre il me reste Xsetwacom :(

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12. kot-barbos

monday 09 september 2013, 19:34

I have a question about first two steps. What for need to create 4k*4k res canvas and then crop it? It is better than create, for example, 2000*1500 px canvas from beginning?
tuesday 10 september 2013, 14:42

@regis :
je suis aussi en train de passer a Manjaro. et openbox , awesome et xfce sans compositing sont les 3 DE avec les meilleures perf 2D. pour xsetwacom, j ai un mini guide sur un guide pour installer Linux Mint 11 sur ce blog. Chapitre Wacom .:)
tuesday 10 september 2013, 14:49

@kot-barbos :
hi Kot, yes you can create also a canvas from scratch. My tip can do 2 things : 1) it produce a sort of infinite canvas where you can decide later to crop a sketch as a landscape or a portrait. sometime its hard to anticipate this at canvas creation. My second tip was to adapt a canvas to 50% any screen size. to be sure everyone would get same brush behavior, even on a small screen.

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15. Kevin Caravaca

wednesday 18 september 2013, 21:39

Hi! I got a question, I was fallowing the tutorial, and when I was doing the sketch of the face I used "E" to eraser and I continue the sketch, then I started to do the shadows after I finish, I made a new layer to use the fill brush and It didn´t work and I was like What Happened , so I realise that if I leave the cursor over the layer thumbnail I shows some marks, and those were the places were I used The eraser and I tried to paint again with the fill brush and I discover that I can only paint with the fill brush on the sections were I erased, I seems like a clipping mask, I can only paint if I make a layer on the top, but If I put the new layer between the layer 2 and Bg still apper to be like a clipping mask. I don´t really know how to fix this, can you help me?
wednesday 18 september 2013, 21:49

@Kevin Caravaca : Hi Kevin. I think you accidentally presed this icon on the way ( the one next to the eraser ).

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17. Kevin Caravaca

wednesday 18 september 2013, 22:19

Thanks for the quick response, I think I dodn´t really know if I presed that button, In fact I used the "E" on the keboard, and I dont see that Icon besides to the eraser on my version, is 2.8 pre-alpha. I took a screen capture , the yellow marks in the face are places were I erased, tha cap shows the layer config and an example of what happened if paint with the fill brush, the question Is do I have to make the sketch again or There´s something else that I can do? here is the screen cap
thursday 19 september 2013, 02:45

@Kevin Caravaca : Hey, now I get it. It 's not about the icon I mentionned before. From what I saw of your screenshot , everything is normal ; you just filled all the background of the layer with a solid color ( a grey ) ; E erased some opaque part of it ( the tooltip over the Krita layer, show in bright yellow the part transparent , erased ) , so it's normal if you paint under ( here crimson strokes ) that you can see only threw those 'holes' created on the top layer. That's how work the layer stack.

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19. Kevin Caravaca

thursday 19 september 2013, 14:02

Now I get it, Thank you! so much. Have a nice day!

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20. Matt Michalka

monday 28 october 2013, 06:15

I've always wanted to draw, but I've never had someone to teach me and I've never set aside enough time to teach myself (though I have tried a few times unsuccessfully). However, I recently got a surface pro and came across the program Krita while in search of good drawing program. That led me to your artwork and tutorials. Last night I watched the entirety of Chaos and Evolutions and tonight I did part one of this tutorial. It took me two hours (pretty sure it took you like 15 minutes or less), which is less than I was expecting, and it turned out better than I had hoped. I have no prior skills in drawing, but because of you're tutorial I actually feel like I'm competent with drawing in krita. I'm so glad I found Krita and you and your tutorials. I can't wait to do part two tomorrow night!

I think what makes this tutorial especially helpful is the combination of instructions on how to use the software with the information about the brushes you use at each step and reference pictures for each step. I really loved this format.

Also, I love going through the layers and seeing how each layer adds a level of detail and seeing the rough sketch it started out as and how it got to the finished product.

I couldn't figure out how to put a link or image in this message, but I'd love to show how my first attempt at art turned out, whether it's on here or in an email.
monday 28 october 2013, 11:22

@Matt Michalka : Hi Matt ; thanks for the cool feedback. I'm totally happy to know my ressources are helpful ; and Chaos&Evolutions can still help even if I recorded it in a depreciated Gimp-painter fork. That's cool to know.
Yep; my blog content management system got quite poor comments options : but you can still copy paste a link to the picture ( hosted on picture hosting website ) ; the link wont be active or clickable but I can manage to open it :-) I'll watch or request to the developpers of my blog system a way to detect URL finishing by *.jpg or *.png to display them after a resize . Shouldn't be really hard to do ; but I'm bad with parsing XML.
Also good to know Krita behave well on the Surfaces. Krita really is doing better and better.

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22. Matt Michalka

tuesday 29 october 2013, 01:30

Here's my first attempt:

And a second attempt I managed to squeeze in today:

They're nowhere near as good as yours, but for my first and second attempt I'm pretty proud of them. I notice that my lines aren't nearly as crisp as yours. I think it's because I didn't create hard enough edges in step 13.

As for Krita on the Surface, experimental build now has wintab support and it works well enough to draw with. I think it still has some bugs, but I'm not familiar enough with Krita to feel confident that they're actually bugs =P
tuesday 29 october 2013, 08:19

@Matt Michalka : Oh yes, there is still a lot of bug ; but not major or critical : the team focus on solving almost immediately all the bug who does crash or freeze. A lot of remaining bug are linked to usability ; or result expected with different output.
Thanks for sharing the result of the exercice. It also can help you to practise fundamental of drawing to have better volume underneath and know where to place hard edges. the book "Andrew Loomis - Successful Drawing" is a really good one with fundamentals, same about 'drawing the head and hand' . You can find them here :
Have a good study time ! and thx for the feedback.

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24. Googiga

thursday 07 november 2013, 04:47

Hello David ! Have you plan make some live stream video at, i really want to see your live work, it would be fantastic.

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25. Cestarian

friday 14 february 2014, 06:37

Hey a little something I'm wondering is how you made that GIF image at the bottom; What software did you use?
friday 14 february 2014, 11:03

@Cestarian : Hey, I used Gimp for this one. Just make all the frame as layers in the layer stack ; convert the picture mode to use 256 colors ; then export to Gif file. Their is a dialog when you export as gif with option ( frame/second , loop , etc... ).

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27. Cestarian

friday 14 february 2014, 15:58

:O didn't know it could do that. Thanks!

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28. Yaffa

thursday 03 july 2014, 19:01

Hello great and powerful Revoy! I have a question but I kind of figured it out. I had heck of a problem with step 9. I guess I ran into the same problem as Kevin. I read your response to him and understood it but I was just wondering if there was any easier way I'm just not seeing to do the filling step. Currently I'm just erasing all my white/grey area so i can fill that area in. When I look at your pictures it looks like you didn't do that at all. I feel like I just completely over looked a step. Anything you can over would be greatly appreciated.

My picture so far so you can take a look at it:

Also I love your page, I think you're going to start getting me back into digital art. I just recently got a tablet and was using gimp having a heck of a time drawing in there. I was on the edge of just giving up because I always get so frustrated drawing with that program. Then I got referred to your page and I just love how you actually want to help other artist just starting out and people that have been doing this for a while.
thursday 03 july 2014, 19:20

@Yaffa : Thanks for the sweet feedback :-) Thx for the screenshot, it feels like your top layer ( thx for the preview ) has a background flat color. the Dark holes you the "layer preview pop-up" are holes of transparency.
To correct it, go to Filter > Color > Color to alpha ; and while the dialog is open, fly over the canvas ( a color picker icon should appear ) . Pick the grey background color. And press ok. It should remove the bright-grey background colors included by error on your top layer. Good luck

( by the way I think you use a too small brush. At this early step, don't be affraid to use a large brush, and imagine the face as a low-polygon model as in the first generations of 3D video games. )

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30. Yaffa

thursday 03 july 2014, 20:05

Wow, thanks for the quick response! That did the trick though thanks.

I was thinking to myself after I finished the first couple steps that I might of made the strokes too small but I thought I was just seeing things. I'm probably going to redraw the whole thing after I'm done with it. My biggest challenge with drawing is getting the basic shape of something at the start. The start is always the most difficult for me. It's just something I need to work on and this is defiantly helping a lot. I'll defiantly be using you as a reference : )
thursday 03 july 2014, 21:00

@Yaffa : yes, the start strokes are really important. That's why a lot of artist likes to do sketch or speedpaintings ; mainly to practise first strokes ; and not spend too much time on finishing ( finishing is relatively easy compare to setup the right fundation underneath ). It's also fun, because you can go from a topic to one another very fast with skech/speedpainting ; and just enjoy to have a creative flow.
There is forums with thread ' dailysketch' with a lot of themes idea. ( eg. on cgtalk, or )
Have fun while painting !

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32. Kusaha

saturday 05 july 2014, 00:20

I'm totally newbie at digital painting, but I really tried my best to follow this tutorial, but I'm stuck at the 13th step, how do you make those strong lines, and details. (What I mean is before that step it looks like you actually painted the image but at this step it almost looks like a drawing) Could you explain me this?

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33. Yaffa

monday 07 july 2014, 23:58

Thanks for the links I will definitely go and check them out. I'm pretty sure they will help me and It will be fun switch between several drawings. I just wanted to share what I ended up with after I finished this.

finished product:

After finishing it I definitely can see where I need to improve on (mouth, eye's, facial features, shading, lighting, and how to make better use of proportions). I do have to say though, I'm really jealous of your shading abilities you just make some areas just so solid. Like I said before this has helped me a lot and given me a lot to think about. After I finished this and compare it to my other drawing I just think to myself, "wow I can actually draw this". I know I still have a long way to go and will always be learning but this is definitely a huge step in the right direction so thanks for all over this and continue helping new artist get started.
tuesday 08 july 2014, 08:39

@Yaffa : Hey, thanks for sharing your result ; yes, making solid volumes and give the illusion of depht, light and materials texture is defintely a challenge.
What I wanted to share with this tutorial was also how to work with a palette of grey tones, and transmit this 'sculpting' exercice with light and volumes.
Good luck for your next exercice and carreer path to take skill in digital-painting :) it's long for everyone but rewarding !

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