Making Of 'Soul Hunting'
I want to draw dark heroes all the time with their faces hidden by dark cloaks. They have strong bodies, gorgeous armor and hunt humankind's soul.
In the preliminary phase, when thinking about the composition, I tried to diversify the gesture and apparel as much as possible, whilst still trying to keep to the concept I had in my head (Fig.01).
After comparing my sketches I chose the sketch of the death knight in the top left, because the war horse and the floating cloak have a sense of power and influence, which worked with my initial thought and give me space to develop the idea.
The next step was to begin to refine the draft that I had already chosen. I started to build upon my initial idea and, without thinking too much about the relationship between the colors, made use of a variety of brushes to confirm and build upon the relationship between the dark and light areas (Fig.02).
This stage is important as it is done in preparation for the next stage when color will be added. When you are in the early stages it is helpful to open a new window so you can have one zoomed in and the other looking at the whole image.
This way you can work on small areas and see the effect it has on the entire image.
After the lights and darks were established I could move on to the coloring phase. Layers set to Multiply and Hard light were used to create the relationship between the warm and cold colors. As you can see I used red and blue to do this and covered the main part of the image (Fig.03).
Through repeated color adjustments (Ctrl + U, Ctrl + B and Ctrl + M) I achieved the color effect that I was striving for. I also started to use the brushes with Fusion effect applied in this phase, which will also play an important role in the rest of the image.
I found a rock photo and added it to the background. It was important to blend it in to the scene using transparency effects and color adjustments (Fig.04).
This gave the scene some texture. The next step was to deal with the relationship between the war horse, armor and character.
It was important to differ their colors slightly to make the structure clear.
It was important not to completely cover the armor with brushwork at the draft phase so that the image would be more vivid once the color was applied.
The next step was to deal with the shadow and to add some texture to the character. I used the backlight color for some of the detail on the characters as I thought this would add some mystery and power to the image (Fig.05).
I started by working on the areas where the light interacted with the armor, using the Scale brush to add further detail to the armor. For the cloak I tried to capture the momentum rather than consider the folds carefully, and I adjusted the color gradually as the cape became more affected by the background color. My favorite brushes are marked in red in Fig.05.
I then added a yellow color to parts of the armor highlight, which enhanced the image and contrasted with the red of the cape (Fig.06).
I also added some color to the light reflecting from parts of the main character, as this implies that it is part of a larger scene and that there is more around him to reflect color. Then it was time to start to think about finishing off the image. I continued to adjust the image and refined the areas where the light reflected off the armor. I also cleaned up the structure of the armor on the horse's neck. In order to enhance the mysterious feeling of the image, I added some spikes and skeletons to the foreground (Fig.07).
To finish everything off I continued to refine some of the details. I enriched the detail on the armor to show more of the design and when that was done I went on to make sure the light and shadow on it was accurate. I used a variety of random brushwork to make the image look relaxed and full of passion. This process continued until I felt that the image was completed (Fig.08 - 09).
The entire process of creating this image was fast. It was important for me to use expressive brush strokes to enhance the free flowing effect. I sincerely hope all of you liked my Making Of and learnt something from it.
To see more by Songnan Li, check out Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop