Saturday, 3 September 2011

Painting Process

I've been receiving quite a few requests to demonstrate my painting technique lately, so here goes. I wouldn't really call this a tutorial, but hopefully some of you will get something out of it. Blogger isn't the most practical way to display this, just click the images to enlarge them.

As far as technique goes, there's really not much too it. Most of my painting is done with the default round photoshop brush, set to around 60%-70% opacity and 100%flow. While I'm painting I use the "Alt" key to bring up the eyedrop tool, sample colors and just build up a smooth transition between them.

I tend to shift the hue of lighter values towards warmer colors, but it really depends on what specific material I'm painting.


I'll use the power ranger as an example.

This one was originally painted at around 2000x3000 pixels, which is small for this kind of illustration, but its large enough to get a little detail in there.

I don't use that many layers, there's the background layer, another layer for the line drawing, which is painted over on a third layer, and that's about it. Since this is a full render, I'm not really trying to preserve the line drawing, its just a scaffold to build on and most of it will be completely painted over, there's not much point in cleaning it up too much.

I find it easier to start out with a dark midtone, and define the form with shadow and increasingly lighter values.


Although I'm going to paint directly in color, values are still the first problem I try to solve.

The detail in this design is concentrated in the helm and upper body, and thats where I want the eye to rest, so its where I'm going to paint my lightest values. I pick a light direction that will help me do this and roughly block in the major shadows and start placing the brighter values.

There's nothing very interesting about the legs so I'm just going to let them sort of fade into shadow.


I'm giving the values a bit more contrast and fleshing out the shapes a little more, but at this stage there's still no detailing going on, I'm just painting in blobs of color.


Starting to look a bit more solid, this is where I begin to smooth out the colors, and add in stuff like secondary light sources (very minimal in this case). I saturated the terminator (border between light from shadow) on the torso, its a very subtle effect but it makes the color feel a lot richer, its exaggerated in the image to make it more noticeable.

This is a bit of an artistic liberty, it wouldn't really happen on this type of fabric, especially in this type of light. Its the sort of effect you'd use on flesh being hit by direct sunlight for example.


At this point the painting is pretty much done, all the major forms are defined, all thats missing are small details like the engraving on the chestplate and a few final touches, after that its time to cleanup some of the messier lines as well as the outer edges and add in some background.

And thats about it, on more complex designs or if I'm not too sure about what colors I'm going to be using, I might start in black and white, sort out the values and add color later, but the painting process is pretty much the same.

Along with the default brush I sometimes use this one.

If you're just starting to learn digital painting, this video explains the fundamentals much better than I ever could.

Also this tutorial by Arne Niklas Jansson (Prometheus) really helped me when I started trying to figure this stuff out:

Hope this helps.


  1. Thanks for sharing, this is incredibly helpful to see. I can't wait to try it out myself. Love your work!