digital paiting tutorial

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Digital painting tut forum vers.

Digital painting tutorial 2
By ZxC

You can click on the images for full view

Hi fellow artists, and welcome to this digital painting tutorial. As the title says, this tutorial is on digital painting, and not on how to imitate traditional paintings on a computer. I will focus more on the general work flow instead of getting lost into small details. This tutorial requires you to have a decent understanding of photoshop or gimp, and also that you know how to draw and shade.

The image I will be using to start is this pencil sketch I happened to have around. It is surprising to know that the best method for sketching is still the traditional one. It's just more convenient.

Here's a quick guide on scanning your sketches: First, scan your sketch at a good enough resolution, at least 300dpi. Then open it in Gimp or PS and play around with it to get the cleanest result possible You can use the following tools:
  • Contrast adjustment
  • Color curves
  • Unsharpen filter
  • Threshold
You can also brush away unwanted artifacts such as lines that weren't completely erased. It's also good to make your sketch a different color, it will make things easier later on.

Alright, so now you have your sketch. It's important that you try getting the proportions and shapes correct right now or else you'll get problems later on.

Next step is the creation of the line art. This step is quite simple and easy but it's also time consuming. First, make your sketch a big enough size and high res (around 2000x2000px, and 150 or 300dpi). This will help getting clean and smooth lines.
Then, create a new transparent layer on top of your sketch. Name it *lines*. And then reduce the opacity of your sketch layer to around 60%.
Go back to your lines layer and carefully start tracing over your sketch using solid black lines. If you can, try rotating the canvas so that you can take advantage of the natural movement of your wrist. That helps reducing jagged lines.

Another option would be to use the pen tool instead of tracing manually. This is the best option if you don't have a graphic tablet. Basically, with the pen tool you place dots and the program automatically links the dots with a straight line. You can then curve the line by dragging it. When you're done outlining your drawing this way, you choose the *stroke path* option, select the width of the line and there you go.

This is what I ended up with, note that the black lines and the sketch aren't on the same layer:

Good. Now it's time for colors. You can now hide or delete your sketch layer. It's also a good idea to make your background gray. The reason for that is that if your background is white, you'll end up with dull colors and if it's black your drawing will be too dark.
First step is to figure out how you will divide your drawing. I chose these divisions: skin, hair and clothes
Create a layer for each of your divisions and put them under your *lines* layer. I will start with the skin layer. First of all, fill the whole area with a solid color, it's not important to be precise.

Once you've done that, the next step is to start shading.
But before I'd just like to make a small comment: if you're not comfortable with the way colors interact with each other, you might want to shade your whole drawing in grayscale first and apply color after. That way you won't mess up. But I will be shading with color right away.

This is not a tutorial on how to draw, so I won't really explain how to shade and such. I'll just say that I use mainly the default round brushes and that I use mainly the paint brush tool and the airbrush a bit to blend. I very rarely use smudge.
I also use different layers for special effects such as overlay, multiply and dodge.

Before starting to shade, there's a number of things you must ask yourself. First of all, where is the light coming from? That's an important decision that you have to respect through the entire shading process. You also have to determinate what kind of feeling you want to achieve. Personally I went for warmer colors because they're closer to life.

You can read a bit on *color theory*, which is a set of pointers to help you pick colors that work well together. Here are some basics.

When you shade, my advice is to start with one thing and finish it straight away. Don't try to do the whole drawing at once. If you do it step by step you won't get bored too quickly.

And then you just keep going until it's done. You can add a few details, play around with the light and colors to get an optimal result. I also added a quick background. Use your blending tools wisely (namely the smudge tool), it's useful but do not overuse it or you will end up getting a blurry picture. Instead, use either the paintbrush tool on low opacity or the airbrush tool to blend colors together. Airbrushing over a large surface of similar color will help linking everything together.
Oh and don't forget to sign your work :-).

This kind of digital painting is time consuming. To give you an idea, it took me 3 hours to complete this one, and it's not my first. If you don't like to spend a lot of time on a single painting, you might want to check out speed paintings. You will not end up with a result that is as clean as this one, but they can look really great and usually you can complete one in 1-2 hours.

Thanks for reading, hope it helped.