queen

This tutorial is by no means the only way to do digital painting. But since I have been asked how I go about things, I figured it might interest some people. I am also no expert on lighting or anything else, this is really just a tutorial to show my process of painting from start to finish.

Tools I used ~ Adobe Photoshop 6, Corel Painter 8, Wacom Intuos2 graphics tablet, three or four references, and lots of chocolate :)

Please note that all brush settings that I mention are only for Photoshop (PS) 6, and Painter 8. I don't have experience with other programs, or other versions of PS and Painter, so I can't really say if there is any difference.

1 + Ok, first things first. I start with a white canvas - in this case 3300x4200 pixels, 300 dpi. I sketch out my initial idea on a new layer. It is a good idea to label your layers if you plan on having a lot. My sketches are always very light, so I had to darken the layer significantly in order to show it here. The close up in the left corner is how it looked before I darkened it.

Sketching is pretty easy if you have a graphics tablet. I paint at 35% opacity with "wet edges" checked, Size and Opacity set to Stylus, and Colour set to Off (those settings can be found in the Brush Dynamics menu). My sketches always start out sloppy, this version is after I have cleaned it up a lot.

I also planned from the start to give her wings, and factored that into the composition. But I left it blank at the beginning since I wasn't sure whether I wanted angel or butterfly wings.

2 + Next step is to block in colours. I usually try out a bunch of different colour schemes before I settle on one, but this time I knew all I wanted was red, and LOTS of it :)

The way I block colours in is by turning off the pressure sensitivity (turn Size and Opacity to Off, and uncheck "wet edges") and set the opacity level to 100%.

I put each thing on a different layer just to keep organized - corset, skirt, hair, skin. All these layers are below the sketch layer so that it stays on top. If you tend to accidentally paint on layers you don't want to - like your sketch layer - you can select the layer you want to preserve, and lock the layer by checking the last square at the top of the layers menu.

3 + Now I start to block in shadows and highlights. The easiest way I have found to blend colours is with the eye dropper tool. I just use the "alt" key for a shortcut while I am using the paintbrush. This way I can paint a bit with one colour, and then select a similar colour and keep painting. Using a low opacity level, like 35%, and selecting nearby colours with the eye dropper, will eventually blend the colours together to look more painterly.

I don't use any fancy PS brushes, I just use my own custom set of plain round brushes that are a variation of the default brushes that come with PS6. I have a bunch saved at various sizes with the Hardness set to +50%, and Spacing at 5%. I don't tend to use the blurry or hard edged brushes simply because they are either too blurry, or too hard for my tastes. Just experiment with the settings until you find what works best for you.

4 + At this stage I am just blending more, adding more shadows and highlights. Same as the last step. Blah blah blah.

Oh yes, one of my favorite things in PS is the "Lock Transparent Pixels" option (the first of the four check boxes at the top of the layers menu). Once you lock the transparent pixels, you can be sloppy and it wont go out of the lines. Here is an example: if I want to paint on the skirt and it's on it's own layer, I just select that layer, lock the transparent pixels, and paint. You will see what I mean if you try it. Painter's equivalent is the "Preserve Transparency" option toward the top of the layers menu.

An important thing to watch out for is exactly what you can see along the edges of the skirt for the next few steps. They look pasted and un-refined. It is really important to refine your edges as you go along without the pixel lock on. If you don't, you will end up with edges that look pasted.

5 + Now I finally give her a background. I usually try to work out the background along with the figure, but I knew that I was going with a simple background so I just left it blank until this stage.

I also changed the colours on the corset and skirt since I wasn't really happy with them. I tend to do that a lot. Re-paint things that irritate me after a while.

All of the painting has been done in PS so far. I wanted to get lots of texture in the background, so I take the file into Painter and start to just slop colour on with random brushes set on random settings. I can't remember all of what I used, but there were some sponges, pastels, chalk, and thick oil paints. I use the Papers menu a lot for this. I just switch to different papers while I am working, and adjust the paper magnification to get different textures with the chalk and pastels.

6 + And here we go back to PS to put in the checkered floor. I just made a square on a new layer, and then duplicated it and placed the squares corner to corner. Then I used the free transform tool set on perspective and brought the top corners of the grid in. Hard to explain, I don't know if that makes any sense. Well, it was an experiment, and I think it worked out nicely - at least I liked the way it turned out.

7 + I wanted to give the black part of the floor some texture, so I set that layer to "difference" - you can find the layer settings at the top of the layers menu. I just tried all of the layer settings until I found one I liked.

I finally decided on butterfly wings. So I sketched them on a new layer, and blocked in the colour for them. I also erased the back of the skirt since the perspective on it was bugging me.

8 + You may be wondering why the wings suddenly look finished. Well, I did so many steps without working on any other part of the painting that I decided to make a separate wing tutorial to save room here.

Just a short summary of the butterfly wings if you aren't interested in the wing tutorial: I did all of the painting in Painter, and I used the Round Camelhair and Opaque Round oil paint brushes on various settings, all with a fairly low opacity. Those are my two favorite brushes in Painter.

I also finally start to put highlights on her hair. I mostly used the Round Camelhair brush on a low opacity to build up a nice red glow. Nothing too bright just yet.

9 + At this point I decided that I didn't like the skirt, and I re-painted most of it in painter with the Round Camelhair and Opaque Round oil paint brushes.

I also started to add some lace on a new layer. I thought a brighter red would help to tie the bottom half of the painting in with the top a little better.

More highlights on the hair, this time with a higher opacity to make them more visible as separate strands. As I start to use brighter colours, I go down in brush size. So I am using a very small brush when I get to the brightest highlights. I also usually use a small airbrush for the small strands just because I like the effect better than the small oil paint brushes.

10 + More work on the lace. More shadows and highlights on the skirt.

I also deepened the red of the corset - I just liked it better this way. I used the same brushes I used on the wings so that it would look a bit more velvety.

You might also notice that she suddenly has a left arm. I had intended to sketch it in when I first started, but I couldn't decide how I wanted her hand to be on her dress until now. So I added it :)

11 + I wanted to add some sort of element of design to the top corners, and I decided on roses. I sketched the roses on a separate layer the same way I did my initial sketch. Here is a detail of the roses so far (I put it on a white background since it is easier to see that way).

I also started to build up more lace at the bottom of the dress. This was done in PS with a small brush. Just making lines on different layers, erasing bits, adding dark spots, adding new layers with more lines in other colours. It is time consuming, but I liked the result.

Her skin looked a bit too light for what I was going for, so I darkened it a bit and added some more shadows.

12 + At this point the piece is really finished. I just finished up the roses and duplicated the layer a few times to make it dark enough to stand out. Here is a detail of the final version of the roses.

I also went around all of the edges to make sure that everything was refined. I try not to get too picky about things, but when I work at such a large size on the computer, it is easy to miss things that I would normally see if I were painting traditionally.