Making Of 'Strange High House'


Here is a scan of the original sketch out of my sketchbook. I scan images between 200 and 300 dpi. I take the image into Painter and "equalize" to get rid of the grays. At this point, I cut and paste the entire image back into the canvas using shift+ctrl+v. This pastes the image back into the exact same spot. I change the composite method for the image to either gel or multiply. This causes all of the white areas to become transparent and I can paint on the base canvas without effecting my beginning image.

I paint in the background using a variety of watercolor brushes. I am using paper textures with lots of character so that I get exciting colors. I try at this point to set the color mood for the image. In this piece I decided that it would add a little mystery to the image if it was backlit by the moon. Everything is kept very fluid at this point. I try not to get into the coloring book mode of trying to "stay in the lines".

Look closely and you can see that I am beginning to add some texture to the cliff areas. This texture is made using a custom paper texture along with a custom variant of the square pastel brush. I set the grain slider to a very low value to make sure that I just pick out the texture of the paper. The grain slider is around 15 if I remember right. Sometimes at this point I will go ahead and drop the image and paint on only one layer.

The layers are merged and I begin to add color to the buildings and cliff areas. As in my traditional art, I paint from the dark to the light. In traditional painting (except watercolor) there is very parctical reason for working from dark up. In digital media I do the same out of habit.


I continue to paint adding more color.

  • I paint the rim lit areas on the edge of the buildings and the orange in the windows. [1]
  • I decide to add a little green grass at the bottom of the buildings. [2]
  • I invert the paper texture to fill in the light areas on the cliffs. [3]

The next few mages are simply additional steps in the painting process. I am using the square chalk variant for the majority of the work. I am constantly changing the paper texture as I work.

This image shows how I am using the same paper textures but varying the scale to get different surfaces in different areas.

I'm also working more on the second set of buildings.

I tend to build the color up rather slowly to make sure that I get just the look that I'm after. Of course, the minute I say this, I'll do something completely different.

I have also removed the sign at the beginning of the path.


In this stage I have added a very subtle lighting effect to darken the overall image and give it more mystery.


I start working on the path adding steps and lighting the flat areas.

Just more of the same...which really means that I cannot tell what is different in this image.


More work redoing the the glowing windows. Thank heaven for Painters "Glow" brush.

Some more glow.

The finished image....well, not really but this is the image that everyone saw. The image below shows a mistake that I made on a seperate layer (thank goodness) and decided not to use in the final image.

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