Making Of 'White Walker'
The idea for this image came from a sort of "Blog War" where artists created their own version of their favorite character from the Game of Thrones TV series. In my case I found the mysterious White Walkers particularly interesting and I didn't know how they were going to look in the series. I searched for descriptions in the books, but even after finding them I decided I wanted to give the White Walker my own look, like a frozen highlander or something.
This tutorial has been written to explain the process of creating this character from the initial idea stage through to the finished illustration, covering topics such as techniques to add color, brushes and Photoshop tools. I make it easier and more interesting I've also included an eighteen layer PSD so you can see how the image developed, along with the main brushes and another PSD showing how I used color corrections to get the mood and tones for the image. All of these can be downloaded here
When it comes to creating a character or illustration there are certain things you can do throughout the creation process to help you achieve a better result. In my case they are mostly technical, but it doesn't matter what your style is or the level of your ability - tools and tricks are always good to use.
Here are a few of mine:
Flip the canvas horizontally, using a hot key, and then paint a while before flipping it back again. Do this multiple times.
Create a secondary instance window to have a small general view on the other screen if it is possible, or a corner if you just have one screen. This means you can use the workspace canvas with more freedom in the large window and see the results instantly in the small window. Doing this allows you to work on details and see how the general look of the image is developing in the blink of an eye.
Create the image in grayscale and use color overlays, which can easily be adjusted until you have what you're looking for. You can also use levels and balance to adjust the contrast and accentuate the lights and darks. If it is still easy to read in black and white then this will help to make the image work better. This isn't always true but can be a good technique to use if you are not looking for a specific effect or look for your image.
The Photoshop brushes are able to download on this tutorial for you have a look and use them, are some of my favorites.
One interesting trick is to paint color with a basic brush, like the ones in Fig.01 and then use a combination eraser tool to remove parts. This gives you instant textures and incidental shapes that can be interesting and cool. It is a good idea to use a different layer for this technique. Have a look at Fig.02 - 03 to understand it better. The noise brush is for removing and the smooth one for painting with color against a white background.
Starting the General Design
With a general idea of what I was looking for, I started to define the look of the character and a basic composition. For me it is sometimes interesting to start in black and white and then use tame tones to build up the blacks and highlights, just for designing basic ideas.
The idea for this image was mostly there already: a highlander or forest cave man, undead and with a crystal sword blended into the hand because of the cold.
In this case the Round Hard-Edge standard brush was used to construct the character (Fig.04).
Here I added more details to the whole scene and the character began to take shape. I thought about how the face was going to look and also worked on some clothing ideas. As you can, I flipped the image so that I could see it a bit differently and work from another point of view (Fig.05).
Design and Color Tones
Adding a blue layer colorized everything and I also painted over the existing lines with color (Fig.06).
I defined more of the details and colors, as well as playing with the contrast. I developed the character, adding more shapes and peculiarities, and also added some hints to the background to add context to the scene and create a sense of depth (Fig.07).
Next I made some heavy color corrections, getting rid of the blacks and converting them to dark blues. I also defined the ground against to create further depth and context for the character. I kept working on the face design to make it more undead-like (Fig.08).
Playing with Lighting while Designing
At this point I was playing with the mood and some lights to make everything more interesting. You can download the PSD from the link earlier on in this article to see what changes I made and how I made them (Fig.09).
Here's a close-up of the face. Because the image was quite big, the strokes were quite loose (Fig.10).
Playing with a different palette using "Selective Color", I tried out a more old-fashioned look by warming up the whole scene. As you can see, I played with different brushes to create texture and irregularity (Fig.11).
In this step I basically made some color corrections and worked on details, specifically on the head. I also made the rim lights on the outline more intense for the character and the floor, and used some nature brushes for the ground and the branches he's carrying on his back (Fig.12).
Finishing the Image
From time to time I checked the image in black and white to see how the light and shade was working. I did this by just adding a black and white adjustment layer. I also kept flipping the image at this stage (Fig.13).
With all the painting and corrections done, I sharpened the image a little to remove the soft brush stroke look. I like my images to be a bit sharper; that's just a matter of taste. I also put in some textures to create variation, noise and imperfections that looked cool to me. Fig.14 contains a little explanation about how I used the textures, but this had to be after using the sharpen effect or it would have looked too extreme.
And here's the final image (Fig.15).
Thanks everyone for taking the time to read these words, I hope they are useful. I would also like to thank 3DTotal for giving me the opportunity to share this tutorial.
David Munoz Velazquez
To see more by David Munoz Velazquez, check out Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 5
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 6
Sketching from the Imagination: Fantasy
Digital Art Masters: Volume 7
and Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection