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NUBIAN HIGH PRIESTESS—The Process from Oil to Digital

Stage 4
Her Highness
gets a hairdo.

Stage 4

I copied the braid onto its own layer within the painting file, and meticulously assembled braids, copying braid layers, linking and merging the many accumulating layers as I went along. On each braid layer, I deleted the bottom of each braid so it aligned with the yellow area I had previously filled in to be the background for her yet-to-be-created bejeweled braid ferules. The sides and top of her hairdo took the same size braid; I would need to shrink the width of each braid (with the Transform option) and reduce the highlights to assemble the back and underneath braids, giving the illusion of depth, distance, and shadow. As a finishing touch, I carefully edited the back braids and moved the back-braid layer behind the front-braid layer until her hair looked as realistic and elegant as I could get it.

Stage 5

I created the collar in sections assembled over the solid yellow collar mat. I made a single collar division on another layer (by selecting and copying a vertical rectangle), and simply smudged in highlights and shadows, and applied an inner bevel to impart a thick metallic appearance (much like making a button for a web page). It was necessary to adjust the hue to make it look more like real gold than “costume gild.” This first section went in the center of the collar. I copied the layer several times and distorted each with the Transform: Distort option as I placed new sections around the collar in a nice array. The collar looked like a linked chain of metal plates—exactly as I had visualized it. Painting this section by hand—matching all the sections—would have been quite challenging. 

Stage 5
A golden collar

Stages 6 and 7

I added jewels by again drawing a sketch of the jewel, scanning it in, painting it in a separate PhotoShop* file, and placing the finished jewel on its own layer within the Nubian High Priestess painting. I copied the jewel layer several times, adding a drop shadow to “embed” the jewels into each collar section. It was easy to distort the angle, change the hue, and resize each jewel. Make one jewel and you have a whole jewelry-box full of ‘em!

* PhotoShop is a registered trademark of Adobe Corporation

† Eye Candy is a registered trademark of Alien Skin Software

Stage 6
The Priestess is
showered with jewels.

Stage 7
Tiny jewels adorn the
rim of the collar.

Stage 8

Bejeweling her braids was going to be a challenge. I used the saved collar section (“web page button”) I had created for the collar, to select an oblong V-shaped section with the polygonal lasso tool, copied it, and created a PhotoShop* layer within the painting. I applied Eye Candy®’s† chrome filter in custom mode to create the illusion of a cylinder, then copied and transformed small sections of the cylinder to place metal rings around the ferule. Jewels were easy to add, by copying a jewel from the gem layer I created for the collar, and resizing/changing hue as I liked. Lastly, copying the ferule layer, I plugged ferules on the ends of her braids one by one until her hair was properly and elegantly bejeweled.

Stage 8
Golden ferules tip
her braids.

Stage 9
A regal gown in 3
editable layers

Stage 9

The final steps included the small portion of her gown, which again, I colored on its own layer. Adding swirls and metallic appliqués (which I snagged and assembled from a gold brocade fabric scan!), I made yet 2 more layers. This was necessary, as I delight in being able to change clothing colors in my models to suit whoever buys prints of my paintings. It’s a simple customization that many clients appreciate. I can change the whole background (hinting to any location in the world) of many of my belly dancer paintings, by simply plugging in a seascape or pyramids, or whatever, on it’s own layer. I even change the costume colors. My art prints can all be unique.


The original scans were about 14 MBs each (at 200 dpi); combining the two halves made my painting file about 28 MBs. As I went along, the painting ballooned to nearly 70 MBs in PhotoShop’s PSD format with 9 layers. I flattened the image and saved it as a TIF file for printing the posters—this speeds printing considerably (it’s only 29 MBs). For my own amusement, I ran several artistic filters (fresco, watercolor, colored pencil, etc.) over my painting to create unusual “artsy-fartsy” prints.

There is more than one way to complete a task within most computer programs. The methods I used worked for me very well; you may find a different, easier approach. Experiment. The steps I took to complete this painting are not the only possible ways to accomplish artistic goals, but the ones that I found intuitively accessible and easy for me. The best things are, my house doesn’t smell like turpentine (if I use standard oil colors), the cats don’t get a blue ass from sitting on my palette, I don’t have to buy paints (running more than $10 a tube these days), and I don’t have to wait for anything to dry before I proceed (again, using oil colors). The whole concept of using a computer to finish or enhance a painting is such a thrill. Art is now a technological activity!

Fine Art continued

NUBIAN HIGH PRIESTESS—The Process from Oil to Digital