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Digital Painting

Craig Mullins
9 Lessons (8h 6m)
9 Week(s)
English Spanish Portuguese

Two Ways to Learn


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  1. Watch Video Lessons at Your Own Pace
  2. Assignments Included
  3. Peer Feedback
  4. Switch Courses as Often as You Like
  5. Access to all Schoolism Webinars included

LIVE Classes

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  1. Watch Video Lessons with a Planned Curriculum
  2. Scheduled Assignments with Deadlines
  3. Personalized Paint-Overs and Real-Time Feedback From The Instructors
  4. Watch Video Lessons and Peer Feedback as Often as You'd Like
  5. Ability to Contact Instructor with Questions
  6. Digital Certificate of Completion
  7. Weekly Class Meetings LIVE on Zoom
  8. Access to all Schoolism Webinars included

Course Description

In "Digital Painting with Craig Mullins", you will get a glimpse into how the machinery works in the mind of one of the world's first digital painters, Craig Mullins. Over this nine week course, you will learn Craig's own principles and philosophies about digital painting borne of his thorough understanding of art and its rigorous application.

He will talk about and demonstrate how light and shadow have worked from the Renaissance to the present day and how you can use those techniques in your own work. You will learn to properly distinguish and use color, value, and saturation, and much more. Craig will show you how he wields edges and simplifies forms to keep his work on track and readable. There will be demos throughout this class so you can watch how Craig executes the things he talks about. If you paint digitally, or you want to learn from a master how to level up your work, or heck, if you simply own a tablet and a stylus, you have to take this class!

  • Adobe Photoshop

Lesson Plan

We will start off in this first lesson with some overall thoughts on light and shadow. We will take a broad look at values and shapes and some of the ideas that make them work to our advantage as artists. We will emphasize the importance of making choices between what is light and dark, forcing a graphic clarity that will help preserve organization as our image is refined.

In this lesson, we will look at two exact opposite approaches to starting a painting: first, we start with the extremes of value -- black and white -- and introducing half-tones. Then we will do an extended demo showing the opposite method: by starting from a middle gray tone and moving toward light and dark more gradually. Both can be used for beginning a painting that you can take to finish. The clarity of the graphic approach will help prevent the subtle approach from being too formless and vague.

This lesson looks at a rough progression of lighting through history, from the darker and more contrasting Renaissance through the 19th century, Impressionist lighting, to more recent developments of modern high dynamic range lighting. We will apply these lighting styles to photographic examples. Understanding these types of lighting can be of great help in making creative decisions about value. We need to have the skill to paint in any key and not just default to what is comfortable.

You might think it is obvious that color, value, and saturation are separate things but in this lesson we really try to understand what this means so that we can manipulate them separately as independent variables. We will also discuss the principles of warm light and cool shadows, and cool light and warm shadows. Once we fully grasp these concepts, many creative possibilities open up.

This lesson explores my take on edges, which might be a little non-traditional. Edges can be powerful and beautiful, but only if other more important aspects are solid. We will examine numerous examples showing the different variables that can cause edge quality to vary. We will also discuss exceptions to the rule, such as in graphic painting, Impressionist painting, and compare the same image painted with mostly hard edges vs. mostly soft edges. There are principles about edges but no absolute rules per se. Once you come to terms with that, you will find edges to be a powerful tool for suppressing or heightening aspects of an image both technically and stylistically.

Rarely does a painting glide out of our minds and onto our computer screens without a fuss; just about every painting that is worth doing fights back at some point, it happens to the best of us. In this lesson, I use a student's image (which is already working pretty well) and instead of adding more detail and subdivision of form, I go back to the beginning and rethink what the basic assumptions were about the form, lighting, and perspective. This can and should be done over and over until your image is working in the simplest terms. This way, when you go ahead with detail, you will do so with much greater effect.

In this lesson, we cover some things that don't merit their own separate lessons. We will take the value separation approach much further and refine it to 5 values. I will show you how I use value shapes as a mask and add texture in order to paint structural objects quickly. Other thoughts include the abuse of black and atmospheric perspective in concept art, and a Photoshop trick for tightening up a loose shape without being too mechanical.

Now let's bring it all together: this lesson is an extended demo in which I will narrate my thought process while painting from a reference photo using all the techniques and principles that we have covered in this course up to this point. The source is high contrast, so the shapes are already quite definite. The procedure is not as formal as some of the previous exercises; my intention is to show you a more sensible, realistic way to go about doing an actual painting.

Many lessons up to this point emphasize the importance of the beginning stages of a painting. So how do we move on from there? This lesson shows that refinement and fine-tuning is really the same process, just at a finer scale -- it is the same analysis of form, perspective, and lighting, just applied to smaller forms. You can increase the resolution of your canvas and render down to the level of skin pores if you want, but conceptually it is the same idea.


Craig Mullins

Craig Mullins is an internationally renowned Concept Designer, Digital Matte Painter and Illustrator. He was born in Sacramento, CA in 1964 and, at the age of three, moved to Ohio where he lived until he returned to Pomona, California to attend college at Pitzer College. After graduating, Craig went on to study Product Design and Illustration at Art Center School of Design in Pasadena, CA, from which he received his degree in Illustration in 1989.

In 1995, DreamWorks Animation commissioned Craig to create a series of visual development paintings for their first animated feature, "The Prince of Egypt". He used Photoshop to paint them all digitally. The work made such an impact that Craig was hired to teach the DreamWorks' artists how to paint using Photoshop. His pioneering work contributed greatly to creating a process that is now the standard in animation.

For the past 20 years, Craig has inspired artists from around the world, speaking and teaching from North America to the Far East. In recognition of his unique contribution to the world of Digital Art, he was unanimously awarded the inaugural EXPOSE Grand Master award in 2003 and; in 2009, ImagineFX named him as one of Fantasy & SciFi Digital Arts "Top 50 Most Inspirational Living Artists". Craig's credits include: illustrations for Marvel Comic's Halo Graphic Novel; concept design and digital matte painting work for a long list of feature films that includes; (Matrix Revolutions, The Golden Compass, Narnia, Final Fantasy, & Tangled); concept design and illustration work for computer games inclduing(Halo, Age of Empires 3, Fallout 3, Assassin's Creed & BioShock ); illustration for book covers and magazines (Halo Encyclopedia, When Gravity Fails, Exile Kiss, & Playboy magazine); limited edition posters and trading cards ("Revelations" for Assassin's Creed, "1959" for BioShock, World of Warcraft and Magic: The Gathering collectible cards). In 2008 Craig's work crossed over into the world of fine art when he was invited to work with French artist, Pierre Huyghe, for his Exhibition at New York's Guggenheim Museum and; was one of a select, few artists commissioned to make traditional paintings of the Blizzard universe for Blizzard's Gallery of Fine Art. Craig works from his home studio in Maui where he lives with his wife and two daughters.