Making Of 'The Meeting'
The Meeting is a personal image, created mainly to improve my skills and try to achieve a more illustrational feel than I do in most of my other work. I had no ideas about how this image should turn out; the only thing I had in mind was that it should have a lot more detail than my other paintings. So, the goal was set and I made a couple of thumbnail sketches to find an interesting idea and composition.
After some simple sketches, I had the idea of a young man meeting his robot friend. Time to open up Photoshop!
I'm still a big fan of customized brushes and shapes. Those brushes give me the option to concentrate, in my opinion, on more important things such as composition, color balance and values. The use of them also speeds up the entire process.
Based on my simple sketches, I started to block in the main colors and shapes by using the Palm brush and a normal round brush. For the ground, I used a huge, hard, round brush to set the colors and the first "details" were made with customized shapes. When you work with customized shapes, Photoshop automatically creates a new layer. With the shapes on the new layer, I picked the Eraser tool and started to get rid of unnecessary areas or sections that had too much detail (Fig.01).
When I was happy with the initial blocking and look of the image, I merged all the layers together. I then created a new layer and started to paint in my foreground elements by using the Palm brush in a large size. The brush modifications were set to Scatter, Size and Opacity, which gave a more random look. I also used the same brush for the palm tree tips.
Later, I created another new layer and drew in the shape of a river by using the Lasso tool - a fairly simple and effective way to draw different shapes and get some pretty crisp edges as well. When working with the Lasso tool, I used a lot of my P'n'E technique (paint and erase) - I blocked my base color and erased the irrelevant areas. I went back and forth with this until I was happy with the look. Later, I used a color balancing effect to get a more greenish, jungle look (Fig.02).
More Details and Variations
I then added more detail to the palm trees and painted in some single leaves on the bushes by, again, using the customized brush. I realized that the green was too "green", so I used the Color Balance effect to add more yellowy tinges to the mid-tones and highlights (Fig.03).
Details and Sun
The colors felt much better after the modifications and so I concentrated more on the detail. By using my customized cloud brush, I painted some fog into the background and the lower areas. With a yellowish soft, round gradient on a new layer, I simulated the foggy sun and defined my main light source as well. Later on, I painted in a huge technical structure with a specially made brush. For the little glowing effect on the river, I used the Burn tool with a soft round brush, set to approximately 10% (lights) (Fig.04).
The Young Man
When I was happy with the look of the whole image, I started to paint in some basic shapes for the young man. When I start to paint a figure, I keep my strokes pretty loose and rough. I basically use a hard round brush for the blocking and erase certain areas to get the shape of a head, the upper body, etc. A bright yellowish tone, which was picked from the river (Pipette tool), was used to define the frontal lighting for the guy. The highlights are painted with a smaller, hard round brush, set to Opacity and the value blending was done by using the Smudge tool (Fig.05).
Reworking the Background
I then worked on the background again. The huge structure in the background didn't fit anymore and so I decided to get rid of it. I used a hard round brush to do a quick paintover. I kept some of the columns from the structure as palm trees (Fig.06).
For the robot, I used the same technique as described for the young man. It's a simple technique and at the same time, a good way to explore things. I'm a big fan of happy accidents! The only thing I had in mind about the robot was that he should have a more bulky, rounded shape. I thought that this would have a nice shape contrast to the spikier environment and give a stronger connection to the roundish shape of the young fellow (Fig.07).
To get a bit more color variety into the image, I created two new layers - both set to Soft Light. On those two new layers, I added a soft round gradient with pale blue tones. The pale blue tones, combined with the overall greenish look, are responsible for the gray values on the upper right and left corners. In my opinion, it's really important to have a good understanding of light, and especially of color theory.
Happy with the actual mood and color variety, I went back to the robot. Using a new layer and a hard round brush, I started to define the shape of the robot and added some technical details to it as well. To connect those two important elements more closely, I painted in a floodlight to the head of the robot. With the rim light on the young man and the floodlight from the robot, the viewer sill start to connect both elements together. Finally, I painted in some bright leaves for a better contrast to the darker areas by using my leaf brush (Fig.08).
I hope this Making Of will give a small insight - or at least a glance - into creating a 2D digital image in Photoshop. I still believe a good understanding of light and color, values and composition, are the key to a successful image. And if you have a good understanding of it, I think the technique will just be the fun part.
Thanks for reading this Making Of and I hope that this will help you to create your own digital images.
To see more by Markus Lovadina, check out Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop: Characters
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 5
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 6
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 7
and Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection