Welcome to this article. Here, in a few steps, I will be describing the painting process that I go through to create one of my illustrations - in this case: "Illuminate My Soul". I will only be focusing on the drawing process, so you will probably need some basic Photoshop knowledge to follow these steps. There are many other digital painting techniques out there to learn from; I'm just showing my way. It work very well for me and I hope you can learn from it.
On the other hand my technique is constantly evolving and that's why I'm always adding new things into my painting process. I encourage you to do the same, so that you can keep getting better and better results.
This is maybe the most important step in the whole painting process. It is here that you define everything: composition, shapes, balance, lights, shadows, atmosphere, angle etc... As you can see I started with a classic centered composition, which concentrates the view onto the most important object: the energy drone. My idea was to create something heavy and a little bit broken, like some mechanical machine that has been used for so many years that it's hard to see it working. Notice how the arms are hanging from the body (that makes it heavier), and how the perspective is set so close to the ground (making the robot even bigger) (Fig.01).
Once I'd defined the shape of the robot, I spent some time on the surrounding things like the background (some destroyed buildings), the foreground, and a second mech at the horizon. Keep in mind that, in general, the more objects you add to a scene, the better the image will look (but remember to keep the main objects clean, because those are the center of the attention). Just remember to balance those things with your composition, and scale (Fig.02).
If you notice, at this stage I was just working with greyscale values. This allowed me to focus mainly on the composition and the robot's shape.
Now it was time for the most fun part. Here I considered how the armor was going to end up; if he was going to have big shoulders or not; if he was going to have a chest etc. At this stage, the robot looked kind of like a bug and that's something I knew I wanted to change later, as well as the eyes. So basically what I did here was just painting the area where the light was hitting with a lighter gray and areas where the light didn't reach with a darker gray (Fig.03).
TIP: Here I added a very smooth and subtle gradient to the foreground, the robots and the city. This helped the image become more realistic. (You can clearly see that on the second mech.)
I continued shading the most relevant parts of each object until I could see a logical mechanical device, something that had volume, and also a 3D feel. It's important to keep in mind that the more logical the image is, the more realistic it will become. As a special preference, I used a Smooth Edge brush to add some shadows to the mech's body (Fig.04).