Making Of 'Project Barbra'
Barbra is a character I painted for one of my favorite online art forums. Theinspiration came from a great stock photo I found over at Deviant Art. I wasn'taiming for total realism with this piece; I wanted something very funky, simple,and with an interesting color palette. More importantly, I wanted the expressionof the character to really stand out, so I spent most of the time rendering hereyes and lips, to really bring her life.
Step 1: Concept Sketch
The first step for this piece was to create a strong sketch basedon the reference photo. I didn't want the sketch to be precisely accurate to thereference, so I exaggerated some of her proportions a bit to give off a morefunky vibe. When the sketch was complete, I created a new layer and redrew it,to give it a very clean look. The sketch is very important, because the morethings you get right at this stage, the easier it will be to actually paint it -you don't want to leave anything to chance.
The sketch was done at high resolution (300 DPI). Although I'mgoing to shrink the file size in the following stage, it's always a good idea tohave a high res sketch, which can be used in the later stages of thepainting.
Step 2: Color Theme
Once the sketch is complete, I open a new document in Photoshop and start experimenting with a color theme. I wanted very rich, vibrant colors, so I did a couple of tests until I got desired results. I chose a strong red color for the hair, and a cooler green color to help the figure pop from the background. Additionally, I also tested out some skin tones as well.
I have to admit, most of the time, I end up altering the color theme significally throughout the painting process. Lucky for me, it's easy to do this with Photoshop, and I'll explain how to do this in the later stages of this tutorial. Don't be afraid to experiment with colors, you can get a lot of 'lucky accidents' if you do.
Step 3: Blocking
Now that we have a good idea of the color scheme, it's time to block in thevalues. I save the sketch file under a different file name, and then shrink thedocument down significantly (usually anywhere from 72 -100DPI). The reason I dothis is that it forces me to concentrate on the values of the figure withoutgetting caught up in the details (a trap that I usually get caught up in). Thetrick to painting a breathing, living character lies in the values you use, notthe colors, so be sure to establish a strong value statement early on in thepainting process.
I block in the values using some tones from the 'palette' document, and usethe HSB sliders to further help me define the values. Defining the values (thecontrast of the image) is crucial at this point; Don't worry so much about thecolors, but concentrate on making the figure appear 3D like.
Avoid using soft edged brushes while painting - this will give your image avery plastic look. Rather, paint with hard edged brushes to define the forms andcountours of the figure, and a speckled brush to blend the harshtransitions.
Step 4: Color Tweaking
When I'm satisfied with the values, I enlarge the image toaround 33-50% higher, and continue to add definition to the face. At this point,I decide to alter the colors a bit. The green background against the red tonesof the figure was a bit cliche, and not as lively as I anticipated. I rethink mycolor choices, and decide to go for a much more vibrant color scheme. Changingcolor schemes in Photoshop can be done in a number of ways; The 'Variations'tool (Image> Adjustments> Variations), and the Color Balance tool (Image> Adjustments > Color Balance) are excellent for this. Once I get desiredresults, I enlarge the image yet again, and continue to detail.
Step 5: Detailing
Now that the colors are looking stronger, it's time to concentrate on the details. I want to bring attention to the eyes and lips, so I make sure I spend most of my time on those areas. To add more realism to the figure, I created some 'skin pore' brushes, composed of several random dots and such. I applied this to her cheeks and nose, as I noticed that's a bit typical of redheads to have. Don't go too crazy with this, however. Over-texturing an image can flatten it out significantly, and it's a good idea not to go crazy with skin texture for female characters.
Step 6: More Details, Color Enhancement
At this stage, I'm happy with the definition of the face, and continue to paint the hair. For the hair itself, I created several different layers, and used a speckled brush for more definition. The process was repeated several times until I got desired results. I could have taken this a bit further, but I figured that if the hair was kept more loose, it would bring more attention to the face.
Although I was satisfied with the rendering of the figure, the colors felt a bit monochromatic. Using the color balance tool, I introduced a more saturated turquoise color on the background, and warmer tones on the figure herself to make her pop. For further color enhancement, I created a new layer set to color, and enhanced the skin tones of the figure significally.
It's also imperative that the figure and background work together, so don't be afraid to apply colors from the background to the figure, and vice versa.