Making Of 'Sniper'
When I set out to create this image I wanted to represent an elite soldier (a sniper) that was operating in a desert-like area. What I had in mind was somewhere like Afghanistan or Iraq, but in the near future. The general idea was to paint a soldier wearing body armor, a baseball cap and big boots. I searched the internet for all kinds of images of soldiers with different weapons and uniforms, looking for references. I think that reference images are very important if you want to create a realistic image.
I normally use Corel Painter and Photoshop simultaneously. It's my belief that Corel Painter feels more like painting traditionally and I really like that. On the other hand, Photoshop is a wonderful tool that I use to transform the image, apply textures and correct colors. Both programs are complementary and by using them together I can work really quickly.
Fig.01 shows the brushes that I used in Painter:
- Pens - Scratchboard tool: I use it all the time.
- Chalk - Square Chalk: for the background and general volumes with textures.
- Digital Watercolor - Broad Water brush: for the base color.
- Airbrushes - Digital airbrush: for shadows and create atmosphere.
- FX - Glow: for lights and atmosphere. The Glow tool is extremely powerful.
With the idea of the soldier in my head I started to work. The first thing to do was the general line work (head, feet, waist, arms, legs and shoulder lines). You can see my sketch in Fig.02.
Shoulders and waist lines are paramount, because they outline the position of both legs. After that, I started to dress the character.
With the Broad Water brush I applied gray tones. I work from dark to light areas. At this stage I don't care about the color, it's only a matter of lights and volumes. I use the Scratchboard tool at the same time to draw.
I added shoulder and arm protections in Photoshop. I used some textures and then I painted over them (Fig.03).
I selected the parts that I wanted to be colored in Photoshop and then changed the color with the Hue/Saturation (Ctrl or Cmd + U) tool with the Colorize box selected. I always start with a general base tone and, if needed, I can always edit it later in Photoshop. I used Levels to adjust the image (Ctrl or Cmd + L) as it was a bit too dark. You can see the original and the adjusted image in Fig.04.
I applied warm colors to the areas that would be hit by the sun and cooler tones in the shaded areas. To help me see the dark and light areas more clearly, I added a flat black layer to the top of image and set it to Color blending mode. In Fig.05 you can see the effect when this layer is turned on and off. I use this technique continually through the creation of the image and it helps me to spot the areas that lack contrast and require more attention. I learnt this technique from a Feng Zhu tutorial.
I then started to work on the background. My first idea was to paint a city on the horizon. I then changed my mind and went for a classic zigzag composition that gave the image depth and balance (Fig.06). The eye should go first to the face and then move side to side as you gaze down the image.
Now that I had set the tone for the character and put it into a believable scene, I started the detailing phase using Corel Painter. I particularly use the Scratchboard tool for this. I started to draw in the detail, zooming in and out often, because it is important to see and work the whole image at the same time (Fig.07 - 08).
I applied textures to the character using Photoshop. The main texture is the desert camouflage on the uniform. I applied these textures in different layers set to Overlay blending mode with an opacity of 30%. I then applied dirt and damage textures to the boots and knees (Fig.09 - 10). I also obscured the arms and changed the color of the ammo pouches and the uniform with an ocher tone.
Final Details and Background
In the final stage I added a sniper rifle on the back of the character. I changed the background a little bit, but still wasn't sure of the final results. A sniper would usually operate in a rough terrain where there are more places to hide. Therefore I decided to add more rock to make it look like a mountainous area (Fig.11 - 12).
I changed the face (Fig.13) and used some textures on certain areas of the scene to generate depth. I wanted it to look overcast, which is why I added shadows that fade away instead of being hard and sharp. I also changed the shoulder armor because it seemed to be too small (Fig.14).
I hope that this helps you. Thanks to 3DTotal and the 2DArtist team.