Category Archives: Digital painting tips

General tips I’ve discovered or use during my works in progress.

Colouring the Light – Part 3

Once you have the grayscale values done, it’s time to move on to the colouring. You still want to keep it flexible and loose at this stage, to make it easier for quick decisions-making.
Taking your grayscale from the previous stage, pull your blacks down to about 70% using Levels. Then create a new layer on top and set it to Multiply. When you start painting on this layer with colour it will darken what’s below, so pulling the blacks down in the previous step will counter this. Switch your brush to hard round with no pressure and start colouring. Just work in solid, flat colours for now, it will make them easier to change, since you’ll be able to Magic Wand a block of colour. This might take a bit of getting used to getting the colours right, but just play around and you’ll get the hang of it.

I’m not going to go into colour theory here, that’s a whole other set of blog posts and there’s plenty of them around. Work individually on each character and try not to let one influence the other, and play around with skin tones. Even if a colour isn’t working on one character, you can always try it on another. It also helps to keep some coordination within the colour palette for each character if you can.

Once you’re done with the basic colours, you can move on to the final stage of highlighting. Add another layer on top and switch the layer mode to Lighten. You should be able to colour pick beneath where you want to highlight, pull up the lightness and saturation of your picked colour and start painting. Work over the characters, you’ve already added the highlights at the value stage so this shouldn’t take too long. Try adding in a bit of complimentary light to the rim on one side to imply a secondary light source, just to punch the characters out a little more.
You could leave that as the final state but I’ve gone a little further and added a Normal layer and just painted over some areas to blend them in a little better and tidy it all up. I also added in a Colour layer to tweak some of the colours here and there, like the flames coming from the Sorceress’ hands. Then I added a Colour Dodge layer and lightly painted over some of the highlights to bring out more contrast. I also worked over some of the metal areas on that same layer, like the swords and armour, since the Colour Dodge method is great for adding sheen for these types of material.

Once you’re all done, hey presto! You should have a decent set of characters for your portfolio!

Later on, I’ll take two or three of these designs and work them up to a more polished character design with side and back views.

If you have any questions, or even any tips to add to this just pop them in the comments below.

Part One – Embrace the Shadow

Part Two – Lighting the Shadows

Lighting the Shadows – Part 2

Taking the silhouettes and scanning them into Photoshop, you can start working on adding some depth. It is more obvious on some of the silhouettes what type of character they will end up as, but you shouldn’t be afraid to completely change them if an idea comes up, just keep doodling and sculpting it into something you think works. What you shouldn’t do is use reference of any kind at this point, it all has to be loose and come straight from your head, just rely solely on your imagination.

The biggest advantage of working with silhouettes is that you haven’t invested too much time with them yet, so there’s no need to get precious about them. If you compare the original scan you can see I drastically changed the complete design of the sorceress while still keeping the same basic pose. What you also should do at this point though, is use the opportunity to fix any proportion issues.

I just used a round hard brush with pressure set to Opacity and switched back and forward between various sizes. Don’t worry about any textured brushes, just concentrate on filling out the characters and getting your values right. The other thing you should do at this stage is to pull the black of the image down to 50% gray, this will give you the scope to add both highlights and shadow to the figures.

d key – Switches the Foreground and Background to black and white respectively.
x key – Toggles the Foreground and Background colours.

Here’s a few stages with a couple of the figures to show you what I mean.

Sorceress silhouette: Click to enlarge

Cowboy silhouette: Click to enlarge

And here is the final set. I’ve given them all names to make them easier to identify, and also to help me remember what direction I want to push them to the finished stage. Next up is colouring.

Click to enlarge

Part One – Embrace the Shadow

Part Three – Colouring the Light

Baku-Rider WIP 3 – Feather Details

I managed to get a bit more detailing on the wings done tonight (luckily Marta’s Dahligs tips in the Art Class in this month’s ImagineFX helped). I need a few more smaller feathers on there at the top, maybe darker, browner ones will help, and then I should be done with that. I still need to do more texturing on the dragon but apart from that I should be close to done.

Final Initiation of the Baku-Rider WIP 2

Well, now that Christmas is over, we can all settle down and get some painting done again. Here’s a little more of the Baku-Rider pic. I’ve missed the deadline for the IFX cover comp, but I’m not too bothered, I didn’t want to rush this because I’m quite happy about how it’s turning out. It’s taking me a lot of time to work on the dragon skin, and I’m not 100% sure about how well it’s turning out, but again it’s a learning experience.

I’ve been building it up in stages and layers of colouring and brushstrokes, to get plenty of texture in there and to stop it looking flat. Hopefully its working so far.

The other thing which was bothering me was the tail, I felt it was confusing the composition with the loop at the end so I’ve changed it, and I think the eye follows the image better now.

I’ve also put some more cooler shadow into the ground below which I think has helped the whole scene. I still need to work on those wings yet though. really want to get this finished soon, so I can move onto the many other sketches and half finished pics on my harddrive.

Here’s the full image so far:

Now for the wings!

Final Initiation of the Baku-Rider WIP 1

So I’ve started this new image, I may enter it for the ImagineFX cover competition, which closes on the 10th of January, but it started off as another personal piece. Now before you think ‘How’s he gonna ever get that done in time, there’s only a few days left?’ I started it about a month ago, and have been working on it on and off between a very busy December in work, and a very busy Christmas, so I’m only getting back to it now.

I’ve been wanting to do a dragon type pic for a while, since I haven’t really done a finished one before (there’s so many things I haven’t painted in a finished painting before). I was trying to think of something a little bit different, and came up with some initial sketches and colour studies, and also the final lineart, which was done with pencil and paper then tweaked in Photoshop. For the record, the dragon-like creature is called a Baku, and the guy being chased is a member of a race called the Mastro from the continent of Krame. He has been training all his life to be a Baku-Rider, and this is his last initiation, a flight with the Baku. If he survives, he passes, if he dies, he fails. Just so you know 🙂

I wanted to get a good flow to the image, and make the composition very dynamic, and to have the guy in front really pop out with some foreshortened perspective, to help with the sense of scale of the lizard. Scale within my images is something I always struggle with, so every now and then I have a go at hitting it head on to see if I can further my efforts.

This is the next stage, I’ve gone quite far on with the colouring, pretty happy with how the background and the Baku are going after a bit of colour tweaking. I chose to go for a blue creature (I like painting blue!) but especially since I’d decided the ground was going to be a orangey-brown, grand canyon style background (after browsing on the web and collecting a few reference photos for inspiration) I also pulled a cracked mud texture from, overlayed it onto the ground before painting a lot of detail over it.

However, I’m still not happy with the flyer guy. He’s just not standing out enough for me. He’s the punchline of the pic, he’s the story element. He needs to be at the end of the that compositional s-shape of the dragon, and be really focused. So after a bit of advice from the guys and gals over on the ImagineFX forums, it’s back to the drawing board with him:

It’s better, but it’s still not getting the feeling of depth across that I want. His pose looks awkward now too, especially the wings. Again back to the drawing board. Each time I’ve been sketching him out with pencil and paper, then scanning it in and colouring. I find it easier to concentrate on his pose when I’m just working on him with a pencil. One of the biggest problems I realised I was having was that I had no reference for the pose or perspective of his body, it’s quite difficult to find pictures of people flying, until I had a brainwave of searching for photos of skydivers (Doh! Why didn’t I think of that before?) Boy, did that help. So here’s my next attempt:

And now I’m happy at last, he’s sitting a lot better over the mouth of the dragon, the line flows up nicely through him, and he’s extremely foreshortened in a way I think works well within the scale of the painting.

It’s definitely been worth spending time on this guy, since, as I said before, he really is the main storytelling element to the pic. I’m not completely happy with his skin colour yet, it’s a bit too purple, but I’ll leave that to end as a final tweak.

I did some more work to the background, I decided I wanted it to be a bit more misty. Also made some colour tweaks to the background and started texturing the dragon:

The gliders wing feathers still need worked on, and I need to finish texturing the dragon, a few colour tweaks and background details and I should be all done.