The making of ‘Katsu’

Kian Kian guides you through his image making process sharing tops tips on color, lighting and composition.

In this tutorial I am going to explain each step of my artwork process. I mainly focused on lightening and coloring. After developing your idea, it is better to collect some references for designing both your character and environment. It is so important to observe and do some research before you start sketching. In my opinion this step is one of the most important things in creating and developing your concept.

Step 1: Create and develop

First of all I would like to show you some of the brushes that I mostly used for this work. I was inspired by a type of fox called a Fennec Fox (The fennec fox or fennec is a small nocturnal fox found in the Sahara of North Africa).

I started off my work by drawing some thumbnails with a basic brush. Thumbnails are so important for me to find the right composition and the correct pose for the character based on the idea I have. You should always think about your overall composition.

I chose the third thumbnail because the character is in the right composition and other visual elements help the character to be the focal point. One of the most important elements for a focal point is the shape of the main area in your work, which should not be same as the other shapes in the image.

Step 2: Value

Then I tried to improve my previous thumbnail and worked on it with more detail. For the background I got inspired by the eastern mountains and cliffs.

The next step is the value. Lighting, depth, atmospheric perspective and volume will be developed in this step. For lighting I used a light background and a dark foreground. The character in the foreground will help the focal point as well. You should pay attention to the position of your key light; you can either choose sunset or sunrise. I chose sunset which I will discuss further in the coloring step. I used a basic and soft brush for this step.

Step 3: Color palette - background

For coloring I created my own color palette. At sunset the color spectrum is from a blue range of colors to orange and then yellow similar to what happens in a rainbow. The colors of the object also become less saturated and shift towards the background color. The clouds in the background are all under the effect of the sun and atmosphere. The clouds in the foreground are affected by bounce light off the sky which is in the range of bluish purple.

After making my color palette, I used a soft brush for the sky and cloud brushes for the clouds. Make sure your pen pressure is on.

Step 4: Color palette - character

It's essential to create a color palette for your character too. It helps your process of painting. You should create your basic color, highlights and shadows. In making your color palette you should consider the effect of the fill light (which in here is the sky) and the color of the key light. These are vital factors. Fill light mostly affect the shadows.

Consequently you make your colors base in the position of your character in the environment. For example the orange you make for your sunset is different from the orange at another time of the day because of the factors I mentioned earlier.

Step 5: Painting

When I had the right value and color key for the background and the character I started the painting. I put my sketch layer in Photoshop above all the layers and set it to Multiply mode. Then I made a new layer for the background. I chose my colors based on the color pallet that I had already made. For the base background color I used a soft brush, you can also use Gradient color and then paint over it.

I created a new layer for the clouds above the background layer. Then I made my sketch layer visible, to see the area I would like to paint on. The rear clouds are darker because of their high volume and their blue color is caused by the bounce light of the sky. I used a soft brush and a cloud brush.

Step 6: Painting

Once again, I made my sketch layer visible and created a new layer for the character. Then I laid down the base from my color key. As I said before the character will lose its value because of its position to the key light.

I worked on each cliff on a separate layer. The cliffs also lose their values because of their position, and the rear cliffs are under the effect of the atmosphere, color and light of the background. The cliffs themselves include variations of gray colors. They have low saturation which is why they are so affected by light and color of the area.

Step 7: Implying mass

In this step I started implying mass and volume with the use of lighting and shading. I used basic and soft brushes. I added more details and painted some more cliffs, which are under the clouds in a separate layer. It's better to use textured brushes in order to display material and texture more. I color picked the color of the darker clouds to paint the overhead clouds.

Step 8: Finalizing character

In this step, I finalized the character and added the final touches to it such as the magical stone around the fox's neck and the effect of its light on the fox's face and clothes.

I worked on the volume a little bit more and added subsurface scattering and rim light to the background.

Step 9: Finalizing background

I created another layer above the small cliffs which were beneath the clouds and painted over them with soft and cloud brushes. With some touches of the brush I emphasized the depth.

Step 10: Final touch

This is the final step. I went back to my character and added the magical light coming out from fox's hands and added suspended particles in the air? for instance the crushed rocks and particles of light.
I painted the rocks in a separate layer and applied the Motion Blur effect in order to give them the feeling of motion and emphasize it.

I used different layers for the magical light coming from his hands. In one layer I used one of my smoke brushes which is similar to cigarette smoke, then I painted other lights with a basic brush and applied Motion Blur to them.

Next I added glow, you can paint this glow effect or you can use the Glow blending option menu in Photoshop and apply it to the layer you want. At the end I painted the effect of magical light on my character and the mountains.

Related links

See more from Kian here
Head over to Gustavo Kians' ArtStation
Check out Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop in the 3dtotal shop