Making Of 'God of War'
This image was my entry for a Drawing Jam called "God of War". While browsing the web for some information and inspiration as well, I realized that most of the images just focused on an effigy of God himself. So I decided not to go that route. I wanted something bigger, something more powerful - why not show a God of War fulfilling his destiny?
The idea was set and my next step was to spend some time choosing how to present my image. I'm a big fan of super-wide cinematic shots. So why not giving it a shot in this epic direction? Now everything was set and it was time to fire up Photoshop!
The Tools and Painting Process
I'm a big fan of customized brushes and shapes, but for this image I worked mostly with my "standard" brush set. I used some customized brushed for the clouds and for the arrow, but the rest was done with a hard round brush and my main brush (not named it yet). Fig.01 shows what brushes I used for the entire image. A big help for defining shapes is the Lasso tool. It's easy to draw in some random shapes and work with the brush and eraser over and over until you're happy.
As I said before, I wanted something huge and epic for my image. With that in mind I started to block in some rough color values and shapes. My goal at this stage was to set the main colors and the composition. The God needed to be huge and followed by his army. I painted in the initial shape for the God and set his pose, as you can see in Fig.02.
I kept working on the God and started to paint in more details, such as the God's face. To get a better impression of scale, I started to paint in the God's army by using just the round brush. For the shields I used the Round Selection tool, added a new layer and used by normal "paint/erase" technique (Fig.03).
Reworking the God
Not really happy with the pose of the God, I started to draw in some lines for a better understanding of how the pose could look more impressive and strong. The extended lines on the right side of image were mostly done to find a good level of blending with the clouds and atmosphere (Fig.04).
Reworking the Composition
Taking a break from an image is always a good way to refresh your eyes and view. After a delicious cup of coffee I started to rework the entire image/composition. My first step was to extend the canvas to the right side and add some warm tones to the upper right side as well. I also repainted the entire army by using a customized brush. The brush is a simple shape of a standing person and was set to opacity and jitter. By painting the army a lot smaller, the immense size of the God was shown much better (Fig.05).
Pretty happy with the actual look, I started to paint in some random details to the army below the God. For the shield and flags I created a new layer and worked with the Lasso and Round Selection tools. Again, I was using the same paint and erase technique. I always create a new layer when I'm working with this technique as it gives me the opportunity to work without affecting the rest of the image.
On top of that I started to rough in the first look of the God's armor by using just the round hard edged brushes. I added a big, flashy weapon to do justice to the God (Fig.06).
Mood and Color
I flipped the canvas a couple of times and realized that I needed a more dramatic lighting setup and mood. By using my customized cloud brush I painted in a lot of fog and smoke. This was also a good way to show how the God was manifested from smoke and clouds. For the light rays I used the Lasso tool (holding the Alt key gives you the option to draw straight lines). The selection was filled with a bright tone on a newly created layer, which was set to Add. Using layer effects is a pretty effective way of adding lights or shadows to your image.
Further on I created again a new layer and added a blueish soft round gradient on the lower left side set to Soft Light. I really like to work with a high warm/cold contrast in my images (Fig.07).
More Details and the Evil Army
With a better feeling for the mood and the lightning, I pushed the details on the God and the foggy blending way further, again with just the round brush and the Smudge tool. The Smudge tool is a great and effective tool for blending hard edges.
The left side of the image was pretty much set at this point, so it was a good point to start to add "something" to the empty right side. What is a battle without enemies? The hostile line was blocked in the same way as the God's army (customized brush). For a better visual difference I gave the "bad boys" the color red, while the "good boys" are in blue. I know this is a bit of cliché, but why change what we already recognize? It's always good to use elements that people are used to (Fig.08).
Clouds and Details
Stupid me - I realized that the flags were going in different directions, which would obviously never happen. I repainted the blue flags by again using the Lasso tool and my standard brush. Now, that all the flags were going in the right direction it showed where the wind/storm was coming from.
Not really happy with the God's head I set my complete focus on it. I changed his helmet to rising hair to better show his rage. On top of the hairs I started to add a lot of details to his armor. All the details were painted with the Hard Round brush set to Opacity mode. For the soft blending I used the Smudge tool a lot and for the hard edges I work a lot with the Lasso tool as well (Fig.09).
Armor and Colors
Spending a bit more time on the armor helped to make the God pop out more. I created a new layer, set to Soft Light, and painted in some bright yellow tones on top of the armor to make it more goldenish. Another new layer with a purple soft round gradient on the upper right side shifted the color away from the too-greenish look. Working with extra layers is a pretty comfortable way to change moods, colors and values.
OK, back to the God. I moved his arms downwards, because I had the feeling that his proportions were off. I also added some patterns to his armor for a more ancient and mystical feeling. Some blueish tones were painted into the fog/cloud. Some simple touches to match him with the army below (Fig.10).
Time for the final details. By using the Lasso tool I selected the lightning and duplicated it to a new layer (Ctrl + J). Using a Motion Blur and a Radial Blur filter as well, while the layer is set to Add, gives some nice glowing touches.
I moved his head upwards a bit and repainted his facial expression to make it more aggressive. This was mostly done with the Hard Round brush and the Smudge tool.
For the final color correction I'm really used to the Color Balance layer effect, which is a simple but effective way to change the color for depth, mids and highs. By using this layer effect you're easily able to change the highs to a blue while the depths are more reddish.
I merged all the layers into one and duplicated it. The final "light" touches on the God and his lightning were made with the Burn tool by using a soft round brush. And then I called it done (Fig.11).
I hope this tutorial will give you an insight into how I mostly work. But I still believe that every image needs its "own way" to be painted. One of the important lessons I've learned is that you need a good understanding of what are you doing. If you just paint, maybe the image will look good but it won't have the depth and soul that you can achieve if you know what you're doing.
Thanks for reading this Making Of and I really hope that you found it useful.
To see more by Markus Lovadina, check out Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop: Characters
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 5
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 6
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 7
and Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection