Making Of 'A New Bride'


Hi, my name is Roy Stein and I am a VFX artist and illustrator based in London, in the U.K. In this short "making of" article I would like to share with you the process of creating a digital painting from the basic idea to the final artwork, using my recent image, A New Bride as the basis for the explanation.


With this particular piece I started from the basic idea of a dark portrait of a beautiful woman combined with some gothic/horror elements - which is a genre I already love working with and have much experience in. The notion that it would be a frontal depiction of the character was decided upon early on, I just wasn't sure of the story behind it or the color scheme at the beginning.

On a visit to one of London's cathedrals, I saw a statue that gave me the inspiration I needed. It was an early 18th Century depiction of the grim reaper covered by a semi-transparent cloth. This obviously blew me away, and so I immediately sat down to work and came up with the concept of death's minions delivering a girl.

Step 1

I started by opening a new document in Photoshop - a tall composition due to the nature of the artwork's subject (a medium portrait). At this stage you might want to work on a smaller sized canvas, bearing in mind that this stage is for finding the lines and composition, and a smaller canvas allows you to work much faster with little or no lag.

I usually draw the main character and the background elements (the grim reapers, in this instance) on separate layers, as that way I can play around with the positioning until I'm happy with the layout. I find that working with a blue color allows me to sketch the main forms in the best, without being distracted too much at such an early stage - probably something I've kept from my early animation studies, using blue pencils.

After spending around 20 to 25 minutes sketching I merged down the image layers, and ended up with the line art all on one layer, above the white background, using the Hue/Saturation tool to convert the blue lines to black in preparation for the next step (Fig.01).

Fig. 01_concept_sketch

Fig. 01_concept_sketch

Step 2

The second stage of the process, and perhaps the most important, was all about the color palette and overall tonality of the image. I created a new layer underneath the line art layer, and with a large soft brush started to build up the general color scheme.

Now this is my favorite stage, because everything you do here will more or less set the feel and look of the final piece. I chose brownish/greenish tones that were very sickening, and provided a great contrast to the human skin tones that I wanted to use for the girl. Right from the start I knew that typical white sheets on white skeletons would be too common and not very interesting at all. And what I was also looking for color wise was a way of framing the girl that would support the line art composition from the earlier step (Fig.02).

Fig. 02_base_colour_tones

Fig. 02_base_colour_tones

Step 3

In this next step I switched to a smaller brush and increased the hardness all the way up. I hardly ever use sophisticated textured brushes, I find that you can get a lot from the default circular and chalk brushes, providing you keep changing the softness and Pen Pressure to suit your specific task.

I created a few color swatches for the skin tones of the girl, and started to lay down some color. I immediately saw that the peachy skin color shifted the delicate balance of the image contrast, so I decided to go with a dark hair color for the girl, and to compliment that I created a vignette using the same color on the tips of the wings (Fig.03).

Fig. 03_swatch_colour_tones

Fig. 03_swatch_colour_tones

Step 4

At this point I totally got rid of the line art layer, and started to render out the details on the girl's dress and the reaper minions. I was careful not to go into too much detail here, and to keep as much of the original color palette as I could.

When painting in Photoshop, you have to find the way that's comfortable for you of refining the form. I know a lot of illustrators out there use smudging to achieve the smooth result of a finished painting, but I usually prefer to glaze blurred layers to achieve a similar effect - it gives me more control over the final look, and lets me keep the hard edges of the areas I want to be kept "punchy". I used this technique for areas such as the wings and her lower body, which helped a bit by taking the focus away from those areas and keeping focus on the face (Fig.04).

Fig. 04_bluring_layers_for_smoothness

Fig. 04_bluring_layers_for_smoothness

Step 5

The last step took the most time and was basically a stage of adding more and more detail, such as the falling feathers, and lots of refinement and detailing of the girl's face. I felt at this late stage that the colors were a bit off and didn't quite feel right together, so using Curves and Color Balance adjustments, I pushed the red values of the entire image so that it was still monochromatic, like I wanted at the beginning, but a lot warmer and more unified (Fig.05).

I hope this walkthrough has been helpful to you and that it will give you some inspiration for your own digital painting endeavors. Please feel free to visit my gallery or drop me an email with any questions. Thanks for reading!

Fig: 05

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