This tutorial describes one process for making a simple painting in Photoshop. Of course, there are other approaches, and probably better approaches, but this is how I do my work, for the curious. These steps are intended only as guidelines - not as a definitive guide. Experimentation is the key to good art, after all, not mindless copying. That said, enjoy, and I hope this tutorial proves useful.

1. L

The first step should always be the line drawing. Without a strong basis, any painting is doomed to failure. By 'strong', of course, I don't mean bold lines or heavy shading. I'm referring to sound anatomy and perspective. As you can see, there isn't much detail in the line-drawing--the details can be ironed out later during the painting stage, as long as the general linework is in place. Ordinarily, one would draw in the background as well at this stage, but in this case, the background is going to be flat and stylized, so the usual issues of perspective will be moot.

Step 1

2. B

Next up is the background. I always leave the line-drawing as the top layer, and add new layers underneath it, so I can switch the sketch on and off to see how I'm doing, or fill in the lines. In this case, that involves a repeating motif of stylized hypodermic needles on a green circle. This was done by selecting an oval area with Photoshop's SELECTION TOOLS, and then using the STROKE COMMAND in the EDIT MENU to draw a black outline. The needle was only drawn once, and then copied and pasted at different angles around the oval. To draw the syringe, I used the rectangular SELECTION TOOL, then the oval SELECTION TOOL (holding down SHIFT to attach it to the existing rectangular selection), then filled it in with the PAINT BUCKET. The needle itself was added with the LINE TOOL.

Once the spiky oval was complete, I added another layer underneath it, and reselected the area. I then used the PAINT BUCKET to fill it in with the nasty green colour pictured here.

Next, I added the basic colours of the skin, hair, and skirt on another layer, on top of the background layers, of course. This was done with the PAINTBRUSH TOOL, using a soft brush to avoid overly stark, unnatural-looking edges.

Step 2


At this point, I was ready to add form and lighting. I decided to place the light source overhead and slightly to the right, in this case. This is always the fun part--and also the easiest part to mess up, if you're not careful. As you can see, I started with a deep brown, defining the areas of deepest shadow. I did this on a separate layer, just in case I wasn't satisfied with the result, and wanted to start again. Slowly, I built up the highlights, layer by layer, moving from darkest to lightest. I used the AIRBRUSH TOOL at 10-30% opacity to do this. The last step was to add a Multiply layer, and add richness to the shadows with red and green lowlights. Note that the highlights on the shoulder and face are not white - they are actually blue and yellow. Pure white doesn't translate well to print, and it doesn't look very natural, either.

I followed exactly the same procedure with the drapery, defining the creases in the garment with dark colours, then moving gradually towards the highlights.

Step 3

The hair was done using exactly the same method as the skin and the dress, with a few minor variations. It's impossible to draw every strand of hair, so I first decided where the locks would fall, and then built up colours and highlights from there. I used reds, greens, blues, and yellows here, allowing the complementary colours to create the illusion of depth. I used a small, soft-edged brush (found in the Brushes palette) for most of the strokes, and a larger brush for defining bigger segments of hair.

Step 4

5. F

And...the final result. I added a few finishing touches, like the background shadow (made by using the COPY MERGED command with only the figure layers showing, then running the resulting merged image through the DESATURATE and THRESHOLD FILTERS (in the Image --> Adjust pull-down menu). The image was done at about 6 times the size it is pictured here, so I could work on the details without causing serious eyestrain.

Finished Picture

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