Making Of 'Man-Eating Plant'
Man-Eating Plant was created for a Drawing Jam and was my personal interpretation of this famous plant. In this Making Of I'd like to show my working process and I hope this will be of some help to others.
In most of my images I just use one or two main brushes and some custom brushes, but this always depends on their specific need. I really like to combine those brushes with the Selection tool - this gives me the opportunity to get crisp edges and to just paint certain areas in my images (Fig.01a - c).
I don't know why, but I'm a big fan of layers. I always try to keep my layers until I'm happy with the look and feel. After that I reduce the layers to one and start working on a newly created layer.
It's probably easier to show you my workflow instead of telling you, but I'll give it a shot. I usually start by drawing a selection on a new layer for the shape I'd like to paint. Once I'm happy with the shape I start to block in the main color. Normally I hide the selection, but I've kept it for this example for a better visualization (Fig.02a - b).
My next step is to create another new layer and roughly paint in the shadow areas (Fig.02c). After the shadows are painted in I start erasing the parts of the shadows I don't need. This process goes back and forth.
I do the same for the mid-tone areas and highlights too. For the highlights I usually draw in smaller areas and paint/erase them on a separate layer. I'm still using the same brush for painting and erasing (Fig.02d - f).
While many other artist start with a rough sketch or a line drawing, I start mostly with blocking in some colors and pretty rough shapes (Fig.03). It often takes some time to see "something" in this chaotic brush mess, but I use this time to let my brain juice and my imagination flow.
With this image I started to see some tree shapes and decided to go with a "clearing" for the overall mood and direction. The next step was to draw in some tree shapes by using the Selection tool. Once I was happy with the shapes I painted in some color values with my main brush. I also used the Eraser tool for some softer blending values (Fig.04).
Defining Shapes and Mood
I kept working on the trees by using the same technique. The trees in the background are simple brush strokes. This is an easy way to give your image depth and a better sense of scale.
For the ground I used a technique that was developed by Sparth, called "custom shapes". It's quite similar to custom brushes - but just working with shapes/paths instead. After dropping in the shapes I used the Eraser tool to get rid of the crisp edges. The leaves were made by a custom brush. Color gradients on soft light layer were used to set the overall color temperature and mood (Fig.05).
Happy with the mood and colors (for now) I started to add more details and some foreground and mid-ground elements by using the custom shape and brushes technique again. For the highlights on the trees I again used the Selection tool - simply select certain areas, hide the selection and start painting (Fig.06).
Blocking in the Plant
Having a lot of fun painting the forest, I totally forgot the topic - Man-Eating Plant. After a "quick" web research (great source of inspiration and a time killer as well) I was really inspired by the beautiful shapes and colors from that sort of plant. With using my main brush again, I blocked in the initial plant shape and added some light and shadow as well (Fig.07).
Second Plant, Details and Color Temperature
While working further on the plant by adding details and defining the light direction, I decided to add another "calyx". Also I duplicated the plant layer and set it to Soft Light. This is a pretty good way to increase contrast and intensify the colors. I used the number pad to play with the amount of transparency. At this stage I kept all my layers separate - one for the background, one for the background details and one for the plant and the leaves as well (Fig.08).
Color Temperature and Details
I duplicated all the layers and reduced them to one. Now it was time to add more details to the background and foreground as well. I used my custom leaf brush again to add more volume to the bushes. The colors are always picked from anywhere in the image to keep the color theme consistent. On top of that I added some leaves on the trees with the same brush, too. You should always try to repeat elements from your image. Flipping the canvas from time to time refreshes your eye and will give you a different point of view. I also duplicated the plants, and scaled down and moved them to the upper right corner. The newly formed shape of the plant will lead the eye to the center of interest (Fig.09).
Center of Interest - The Lady Pistil
After a while I was happy with the plant, but something was still missing. Something that attracted a man, something inviting... and what attracts a man more than a beautiful woman, with a perfect body shape? (Yeah - sometimes men are simply constructed!) The idea was set and I started to block in the female body shape, again by using my main brush. Keeping the shape simple and using only white contributed to a more mystical style and feeling. Glowing sparks around the female body were also a good way to add some "magic". The sparks were made by a Round brush (with modified settings for shape, jittering and spacing) (Fig.10).
The Poor Dude
Ok, I've got all things set - the environment, the plant, the magical feeling. It was time to work on the poor dude that was supposed to be eaten by the plant. I used again my main brush (set to opacity mode) for the silhouette and the Selection tool for details. I used the same technique as described in my workflow earlier and started painting my main color. For the details I always use a new layer. I tend to erase parts of the main color to get the shadows and only paint in the highlights. This process goes back and forth until I'm happy (Fig.11).
I added a new layer for the atmosphere. The fog was painted with a custom cloud brush set to a big size (up to 1000 pixels). By using the same brush for erasing certain areas on the cloud I was able to get a better cloudy/foggy result. The thought bubble with the heart was just for the fun of it, but I decided to keep it (Fig.12).
I took a short break from painting the image at this point. This is, by the way, another good approach to get a fresh view on your image. After a cup of coffee I found that the overall color mood was too warm and brownish. I really like a high cold/warm contrast in my images so I created a new layer and added a blue radial gradient (top right corner to the middle of the image). The layer was then set to Soft Light and the opacity was set to 40%. I duplicated and flipped the layer. By using the color/saturation filter I changed the blue to a warm orange (Fig.13).
Once again I duplicated all the layers and reduced it to my final layer. A new layer was created for the last final details. I added some more leaves to the foreground (custom brush) and on the trees in the background as well. For the light rays I again created a new layer (20% opacity), painted in some bold yellowish brush strokes and applied the Motion Blur filter. I duplicated the layer, set it to Add and adjusted the opacity. I then flattened the whole layer and made a copy of it. For the glow effect on the sparks and the lady pistil I used the Burn/Dodge tool with a Soft Eound brush (set to opacity mode) (Fig.14).
I hope this tutorial has given you some insight into how I usually work. There are a lot of different techniques and ways to get some great art down on your canvas. But I really think that a good understanding of light and shadow, color theory and paying attention to your composition is key when it comes to creating good art.
I hope this tutorial was helpful and if you have any more detailed questions then don't hesitate to drop me an email.