Photoshop | A Tool for Artist Garry Kaye

Using Photoshop to manipulate, blur and zoom in on his photo reference, artist Garry Kaye meticulously renders the landscape in acrylics one tiny square inch at a time.

By BJ Foreman

Artist Garry Kaye, who uses Photoshop to help him create beyond-photorealistic, detailed landscapes in acrylic, says his challenge with Apple Tree (below; acrylic, 36×48) was to create depth when using predominant greens. “I attempted to do this,” he says, “by using warm greens in the foreground, offset by colors leaning to the cooler side for the background.”

Apple Tree is an acrylic painting by artist Garry Kaye, who uses Photoshop to manipulate his photo references.

Apple Tree (acrylic, 36×48) by artist Garry Kaye

This painting, when viewed from a distance, looks quite photographic, and the largest green apple on the tree starts to look like a stop-action frame of a ball moving away from the viewer. Yet, when examined up close, the piece reveals the painter’s actual abstract craft. “My objective,” says Kaye, “was to paint the apples so they looked as though they might fall from the painting if bumped.” He renders this vibrating aspect—created by the “aura” revealed by using Photoshop’s zoom tool to view his photo reference—in the built-up layers of color he paints (see detail below).

Photoshop's zoom tool creates the "aura" effect in his photo reference that artist Garry Kaye then paints.

This detail from Apple Tree shows the “aura” effect artist Garry Kaye creates by using Photoshop’s zoom tool on his photo reference.

Kaye carefully selects colors for painting the aura around leaves and branches (see detail below). “It’s impossible for me to paint all of the colors,” he says, “but I try to use those I feel are most vibrant.”

Artist Garry Kaye carefully selects the colors to paint the aura he sees in his reference in Photoshop.

This detail shows how artist Garry Kaye carefully selects the colors to paint the aura he sees in his reference in Photoshop.


Kaye’s Studio Setup Using Digital Photo Reference and Photoshop

After he establishes the colors in the background, Kaye very loosely roughs in the details from background to foreground, including the positions of elements like trees, branches and leaves. The next and most tedious step of the process is adding more and more selected detail, painstakingly, 1 square inch at a time, with the help of his grid-tool.

Artist Garry Artist Garry Kaye's studio setup with computer for Photoshop manipulation of his photo reference

Artist Garry Kaye’s studio setup with computer for Photoshop manipulation of his photo reference

At this stage Kaye refers both to one of the 8×10 photocopied sheets of his original digital image and to the greatly magnified photographic information from each separate electronic grid on his computer monitor. He uses Photoshop’s zoom tool to enlarge areas on his monitor to the degree that “auras” or multiple colors appear in the leaves and branches. It’s these aura details that he paints in “colors we don’t see in the image with the naked eye.”

Using his handmade grid-tool to orient his brushstrokes on the canvas, Kaye completes a 6-inch square every two or three days. Sometimes this can be a grind. “There are low times when I feel I’ll never finish,” he says, “and it can be quite dispiriting. The grid works well for me as it helps me focus on the smaller picture and keeps me from getting too discouraged.” In this way, he can complete two or three works a year. Photoshop technology enables Kaye and his wife to head south in December for their annual three-month working vacation in Mexico, where he finishes his paintings.

Artist Garry Kaye’s Palette of Colors

Artist Garry Kaye's Palette Colors in Acrylics

Artist Garry Kaye’s acrylic palette colors

The acrylic colors of Kaye’s palette are usually the same but are mixed differently for each painting’s individual requirements: Liquitex—titanium white, unbleached titanium, cadmium red light, Turner’s yellow, Hooker’s green, deep green permanent, ultramarine blue (green shade), brilliant blue, cobalt teal, turquoise deep, brilliant purple, deep violet; Golden—c.p. cadmium orange, diaylide yellow, dioxazine purple; Stevenson—iron oxide black, Payne’s grey, cadmium green; Tri-Arts—primary magenta. Here you see the layout of his main colors and how he begins mixing paints for the different parts of the painting.

To learn much more about Garry Kaye’s interesting techniques using Photoshop with his reference photos, check out the Summer 2014 issue of Acrylic Artist magazine.

Interested in learning more about painting with acrylics? Check out this DVD by artist Charles Harrington.

Garry Kaye’s work has been commissioned both privately and publicly and can be found innational and international collections. Steffich Fine Art Gallery on Salt Spring Island, Vancouver, represents his paintings. See Kaye’s website at



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