Character Painting


Recently I was asked by many people about the Character Designs I did for Aquanox 2 Revelation. Most recent question regarding the images were: Is it a Photo manipulation? How much time did you spend on one of them? Did you use Photo references?

I do use photo references sometimes, it is no big secret, and all artists do use references. When doing a scene with very complex geometry and many light sources I do use references for lighting and shading. For single Characters with simple light sources there is no need for reference materila most times. So, most of the Aquanox Characters were all done freehand with no references or models.
Personally I don't care much about photo-realism, I think if you like photo-realism you should take some photos and make a mate painting. With this tutorial I just want to explain the style I decided for the Aquanox Characters.

Each Character took me about 3 working days. I did many changes according to many critics and my personal opinion. The biggest Problem was that some of the Character did appear in the prequel of this Game Aquanox 1 and were painted in a very different, more cartoon like style. So the challenge was to create new Character and make the old designs fit in as well.

For this tutorial I did create a virtual Character AYU, she does not appear in the game. I did not want to spend too much time on it, so I only did spend about 7 hours on her painting and arranging the images for this tutorial. I
did not work out many details, just did it as simple as possible. But I guess it is enough to give you an idea of how it works.

No reference was used for this one.

I did start with this style in the beginning of last Year. The first image of this kind was "Vampire Goddess" I did wrote a tutorial about this image for the book "Digital Fantasy Painting" which was published by Watson-Guptill Publications in New York. I dislike any kind of Filter or manipulation of Poser Characters, so my Idea is very simple. I believe that all you need is software with basic tools and layers.

The style of this shading/lighting is based on the cell like style I used for many old Characters. Shading an organic object with a brush makes it look plastic but not very realistic or too artificial like some airbrush paintings.

I used to like hard shadows the way you can see them in most anime. When I started to blur some of the color layers I developed some other style and this is what you see on this pictures.

It is in fact nothing special, just the basics, but it is enough I think.

Step 1 - Sketching

First of all I did a rough sketch of a character with my Wacom tablet in Photoshop.

Then I opened a new layer and did perspective and proportion corrections. I did not stick much with the body since I decided to make the cloth very simple. Making cloth and hair is not the topic of this tutorial.

Finally I did the final line work I needed for this image (above).

Step 2 - Colouring

I opened a new layer and set the layer option on multiply and colored the face with a brush. I used a green color because it is easier to see then some bright skin tone. In the next step I did fill the green area with a bright skin color tone.

On a new layer I painted an imaginary light source ( this helps me for orientation.) After choosing some darker skin color I started to paint the shadows on the layer with the skin color I created in the beginning. Step by step I did the same procedure by selecting a darker color, I guess you get the idea...

Step 3 - Removing Cell-Shades

When I had enough of it I did raise the contrast a bit to make the different tones better visible.

In the next step I used the smudge tool to soften the edges and remove the cell shading effect.

When closing the layer with the linework it looked like this. (°__°)

In the next step I used a soft airbrush tool to give the shadows more depth and correct some rough looking spots.You can see the steps on the images below.

Step 4 - Advanced Colouring

After I finished this step I made the layer with the line work invisible because I don't need it for the next steps. With a fine brush I repaint the eyes and other details witch are now missing with the invisible line work and add additional fine shadows.

After finishing the rough shading I did adjust the colors because they look very unnatural since I only used 1 color. In the next step I did fine color and shadow tuning,. With a soft brush I did paint over the face with different blue and green colors on a new layer with a multiply setting. Then I merged both layers to a single one.

Having plain black color in my image looks unnatural so I over painted the black areas using a very soft and fine brush with a low transparency. I used the tones displayed on the image next to the eye. Also I did correct the nose and some other fine shadows I considered as to dark or to hard (right).

In the nest step I did raise the contrast a little bit and added some more soft dark shadows.

Step 5 - The Eyes

I reduced the transparency of the layer with the skin color and opened a new layer fort additional details. This way I could see them better..

Then I did set the transparency of the skin layer back to 100% and merged it with the detail layer and zoomed in to work on the eyes.

In this step I opened a new layer and set the layer option to multiply then used a blue color and painted over the eyeball to to get a blue touch on it. I did use the color displayed next to the eye on the image. In the next step I did add some brown color to give the eye decent shading.
Next steep I opened again a new layer and painted the highlights with a brush tool over the eyes.

Step 6 - The Mouth

Again opened a new layer and roughly painted with a hard brush highlights on the lips and nose. Then I used the smudge tool to soften and correct the highlights.

Now the face was
acceptable so I did stop working on it.


Because it is unimportant for this tutorial I did not spend much on the clothes. I simply opened the line work again and proceeded with the same steps like with the first skin color. I did not work out any details, just did fill it black and did some real cheap shading on it. So don't be confused with the shitty look.

Step 7 - Painting Hair

In the next step I opened a new layer and roughly painted black hair with a large brush. With a fine brush I did add fine hairs to make it look nicer. Again with a fine brush and dark brown color I did paint some brighter hair. As you see I did not stick for to long with the hair, so it is not very detailed but you get the idea how it works.


The quality is limited by time only, you can work in a higher resolution and add as much details as you like. The more time you invest the better the look.

As you see it is pretty simple! Now it is your turn! (^__^)/

After finishing the lighting/shading I merged all layers and pasted the girl on
some simple texture and made some quick arrangement, did fake some depth effects,
nothing special.

Don't consider it as a finished illustration or something, it is just for a demonstration purpose of this tutorial.

Have fun!

Randis ::  

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