View Full Version : So you like to digitally paint?

02-25-2006, 12:28 AM
Due in part to (1)semi popular demand and (2)recurring errors in so many different threads in the colored art section of the site, Irecorded my process on this one for the sake of making a tutorial (albeit hesitantly, and not presumingly). Note that the majority of my barking and rambling has more to do with fundamental truths than personal biases, and things everyone should keep in mind when starting a piece of art. The only biase I really have is that I use a wacom tablet (those of you lacking one might find this pretty useless, or if you bother anyway, it'll just take longer)
Let's get started.

Settings: Usually desktop sizes like 1024x800 or maybe larger. Depending on the composition I'll crop in or out from here. This is vertical or horizontal. Resolution for painting, 250 DPI or 300 DPI.
oh, and the brushes I use
For basic lines, solid opaque color, any hard brush will do. round or angled, depends on you. For blending, I just apply 'other dynamics' opacity jitter and flow jitter set to 0%, Control: pen pressure. Experiment with these, I'm not your boss.:razz:
Step one(1).
setting up a compostion.

The planning stages.
I can't stress enough how important planning is. Art is like a lot of things. One of them being japanese food. (I like that analogy cuz thre is a small case of yellow fever around here.) They spend a lot of time preparing everything, getting everything in it's right order, place and whathaveyou, and then it spends like a couple minutes actually cooking.
The more planning you do with a piece of art (color scheme? composition? lighting? perspective?) before you start, the less time you're gonna spend beating your head against the table, trying to figure shit out in the middle of the painting. Every painting goes through an ugly stage right smack in the middle, you don't want it to be because of things you didn't plan. I find a lot of folks here spend time drawing/ coloring the figure. Then when they've burnt themselves out on that, they ask everyone what they should put as a background. This should be avoided entirely. If you don't plan the background from the start, just leave it alone. Just walk away.
On the other hand, if you plan on doing a picture, then cool, compose the shot from the beginning. There's a billion and one things to teach about design and composition, but I'll let someone else tackle that beast. I'm only one dude who admittedly doesn't know everything, I just know something. Anyway. First picture is a sketch.
At this point, it's really loose, just getting the very rough ideas down. Not worrying about detail yet. Just getting the composition down, scale, perspective, action, what's goin on, etcetera. It's of no benefit to you the reader, but I've got the bg in my head, it's gonna be really simple, but just so you know I have thought it out. If it's not enough for you, draw it out really lightly, visualiiiize. Again, we're not getting detailed, just mapping out the basic stuff.

Step 2: Flats
I work a buncha ways, (sometimes I don't bother with lines, I just start using shapes and colors), but this is how this started out and is definitely the most approachable. Once you've got your line drawing down:
Duplicate that layer.
Set the new upper most layer copy to multiply.
Fill the 'background' layer with a muted color, depending on your color pallet for the piece. In this case the main hero's skin is orange (and it's the most eye popping color for the piece) so the bg is blue. you'll notice I usually work in complimentary schemes, sometimes triad, working into tetrad schemes. Here's a good site for color schemes. (http://wellstyled.com/tools/colorscheme2/index-en.html)
Create a new layer between the background color and the line art.
(Note that layers are something you can mess around with how many you use once you practice more and more. The more I use photoshop the less layers I bother with. The last 2 paintings I did were only one background layer.)
This layer is for your color.
Lay in the flat basic tones/colors you're using for the painting allll together. Remember no guess work halfway through the painting.
Also note, and something I'm still beating into my own head, start with desaturated colors. As you work towards the end brighten and saturate the things you want to draw attention to.
Step 3: block in your shadows based on your primary and if you're daring, 2ndary light source. In this piece there's no 2ndary light source, just the ambient light of the environment here, from above.
Decrease the opacity of the line layer so you can see through it.http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v368/Lalilulelo/sanjuro-attacks0-1.jpg
Block in your shadows! Yay! And keep your lighting consistent damnit!

Step 4: Building up your painting's halftones and blending.
This is a lot easier with a tablet (we're not using the lasso or marquee tools folks or cel-shading!) insofar as a more painterly approach goes. We are still not getting stuck on details. We're building up the tones, color and the form of the objects, in this case the dragon man in the painting. Amatures think it's all about detail detail detail. Professionals know it's about structure and form. Detail is the enemy. Any hardcore rendering will be saved to the VERY END of the piece. And only on areas we want to draw attention to. If you render evvvvery little thing your painting will become really stiff and hard for the eye to wander through.

Step 5: Uh oh! The ugly/middle part of the painting!

At this point everything is going according to plan, but uh...not sure how I feel about that. Let's mess something up. While you're painting something, step back and look at it, be critical of yourself (before any of us even lay eyes on it). Is this working? Can I make this better? So I erased the extended arm and started fudging with it. One thing to train yourself to do is, don't fall so in love with your work that you're afraid to change things. Don't get in that mindset of 'oh I worked so hard on this part! I don't want to do it over again!' before you're even done with the piece! This is another problem with rendering things in pieces rather than building it all up at once like you should. If you get caught up falling in love detailing one part, without paying attention to the big picture, somethings gonna fall apart with the whole piece. To fight this, I rarely if ever zoom in more than 100% on my work. What's the point? you're gonna show it to people on the internet at reduced resolution, SOME fidelity is gonna be lost. Focus on the big picture before you start rendering that perfect boot or whatever mundane detail. But back to the point at hand, don't be afraid to just destroy something and look for a better solution. Art is also like chess, you go in with a plan, but don't STICK to that plan (I knew this already before this artist said it, but I'm stealing this analogy from him), or else you're gonna lose. Go in with a strategy, but at some point it should change or evolve as the painting changes. Besides, cranking out paintings formulaicly will get boring. So here's a gif of the different messing ups I did.


Notice I just obliterated that arm (no big deal, can do it again) and started messing around. See what works. Once I decided I liked that arm, I blocked it in with the rest of him. But this face is bothering me, not enough like my original concept for this character. So I destroyed the face and started experimenting, got this which worked better.
Then blocked it in.

Step 6: Morrre building. Some texture?
After building up color some more I've started experimenting with the texture on his skin. He's a dragon so he's gotta look kinda scaley right? Right. You can make textures by drawing some lines/shapes, selecting it with the rectangular marquee, going to Edit, then 'define pattern'. You can also define brushes this way, with either the rectangular or elipse marquee. Be careful with textures, overdosing on them will flatten the form of your figures/objects/whatever it is. Notice our little guy in the upper right as well. I've started building him up because we can't leave him hanging. This also gives us a better sense of the painting as a whole the more you keep all the parts at the same level of development. He's not gonna get too detailed, but he's got some form to him.
With Sanjuro (the dragon), the hair isn't that detailed really. You block in the mass, like anything else. then with a smaller brush do select strands of hair. Don't draw every strand of hair! Suggestion is always best in art. Letting the viewer fill in the gaps with their imagination is always better than what you or I could ever draw. Just give enough information for the viewer to grab ahold of.

Note: Keep your eyes peeled. check for irregularities and errors, fix them as you go along, before you're tired of looking at it. If you are, take a break! come back to it in a few hours or the next day, or even a week later.

02-25-2006, 12:29 AM
Step 7: Almost there
Alright. I'm just now bringing out details and saturation. But not all over! Just areas where I want the viewer to have the most interest. Our ghouly buddy up in the corner there needed some company, so I drew in some more friends for him, it helps the scene/story more. Adds to the sense of urgency, the "!!" factor I guess. I add in little nuances to his outfit (still keeping the consistency in my light source!). For the red on his outfit, I set the brush setting to 'color' or maybe 'hue' to draw patterns or designs on his clothes without destroying my shading. the values stay the same but the color changes. Woot. To pop out highlights, take a middle tone-bright color, relatively desaturated (the left side of the color picker, similar to the base color I'll be detailing, set the brush mode to 'color dodge or linear dodge' and pick out highlights with a small brush size. The two are subtley different. Still not zooming in though. On some parts, taking opacity jitter off (tablet tip really) is good, and using solid opaque strokes pops things out well (like the blades/hilts and his finer hair strands).

I've also started building up the background by this point. Earlier I mentioned it was going to be relatively simple (just cuz of the dynamic forground, don't want to compete with anything) but it's starting to come out. I just really want the tones to help the figure jump forward. I lay in some low opacity strokes that suggest terrain but don't distract the viewer (I hope!).

Step 8: Finish
Home stretch! I added a foreground layer for his 'aura' or...energy power up thingamabob that looks neat/dangerous. This is brush just brush strokes in a diagonal direction, lowere the opacity of this 'effect' layer, set the layer mode to linear dodge (you can get some neat effects with brush/layer modes, but don't abuse it). Push the [special fx] intensity back or pull it forward depending on values and visual heirarchy (what's most important, and don't let anything fight with the most important parts, or confuse anything).


Tweak the color levels and contrast if you don't feel it's popping or looking quite right (image>adjustments>stuff) and shazam. that's that.

If you trudged through this whole thing, thanks for taking the time to.
I really hope this helps anyone in some way or another.

02-25-2006, 01:47 AM
If you don't plan the background from the start, just leave it alone. Just walk away.

That and the pre-.gif part of step 5 = excellent advice.

'Twas a good read, helpful and infopacked without being at all tedious. Top-notch tutorial, and thank you.

02-25-2006, 11:09 AM
Very nice. Simple to understand and very informative. I always find it amazing that artists such as you and wigz can draw such great scenes from blobs and increadibly rough sketches. Thats a talent I do not posses.
But even for little technical me, this tut helps a bunch. Great work!

02-25-2006, 11:31 AM
Eh, once you get that the overall structure is more important than the details, you can do it too. Working from loose to tight isn't hard, if anything it's easier.

02-25-2006, 11:37 AM
I totally agree. General > specific is a general rule that I find applies to many aspects in not only art, but life as well.

02-26-2006, 05:25 PM
Very awesome coloring tutorial kemiro. Is Nick Jansson your hero by any chance? Your art and your tips really remind me of his art and his tutorial. I am a rather large coloring noob and Im looking for all the help i can get. I got my tablet about a month and a half or so back and only now am i coming to understand how colors work. I have been a pencil "artist" for my entire drawing life, so it is very hard for me to think outside greyscale. This tut is really helpfull. Good Job, and thanks.

02-28-2006, 12:28 AM
Very awesome tutorial. You have re-inspired me.

02-28-2006, 02:56 PM
Awesome tutorial, Kemiro. Definitley favorites worthy ^__^
I remember seeing this pic at concept art too.

02-28-2006, 03:24 PM

03-12-2006, 01:02 AM
great stuff. thnx bro!

03-13-2006, 03:57 AM
nice one!!!

03-23-2006, 10:27 AM
Awesome tutorial.
Did you do the entire painting in one layer?
Ack, I'm still confused about layers and stuff.
Also, could I do this with a graphire 3 4x5 tablet?

03-24-2006, 07:28 PM
the lines are a layer, the colors (figure) are a layer, and the background is it's own layer. It just depends on the versatility I need (do I need to move something around or not), but painting on one layer isn't out of the question. That's just eliciting painting in real life. There aren't layers to mess with. You just paint. Yeah a graphire is fine, it has pressure sensitivity.

03-24-2006, 08:17 PM
the lines are a layer, the colors (figure) are a layer, and the background is it's own layer. It just depends on the versatility I need (do I need to move something around or not), but painting on one layer isn't out of the question. That's just eliciting painting in real life. There aren't layers to mess with. You just paint. Yeah a graphire is fine, it has pressure sensitivity.

Ah. I'm really having touble doing this though, especially when the drawing I want is really detailed. I know details are last, but for some reason I can't seem to work with color blobs.

04-03-2006, 08:10 PM
thing is, they're not 'blobs'. They're simplified shapes of what's to come, but blobs is thinking about it entirely in the wrong way. I've just simplified shapes and then worked my way in to a more detailed drawing, you can keep going and going until you've detailed the hell out of it, but the same principal applies... Trying to get too detailed too fast will usually end up with a nice detailed mess without the right structure unless you've already gotten that stuff down.

04-11-2006, 10:03 AM
Ah. I'm really having touble doing this though, especially when the drawing I want is really detailed. I know details are last, but for some reason I can't seem to work with color blobs.

Put it this way, work from big to small. The details come last because they are the smallest. Its like a layer of skin. You draw the epidermis, then the outer layer, then the crevice/textures, then the hair. It's like building a house, you don't build walls until you built the underlaying structure/foundation