Sketch Diary: Angel of January Part 4

Continuing from the last sketch diary entry detailing the battle of wills against horrible color schemes.  I wasn’t quite sure how to compose this next entry, as I couldn’t quite figure out how to record my many hours of tweaking in Photoshop nor do I want to confuse you with the cluttered mess that is my digital coloring method.

I am relatively new to digital painting so I haven’t quite figured out the most efficient way to paint yet.  How about a list of things I learned during this painting that made me fear digital coloring less instead?

Learn the use of Layer Masks and Adjustment Layers!
Being able to tweak the contrast, color, etc. of an image without destroying the integrity of your original image will save you many headaches in the end.  Layer Masks are especially helpful if you want to integrate textures into your image with a more natural feel while Adjustment layers let you tweak elements such as Levels, Contrast, etc. while still keeping your original image untouched.  For example, I used a Gradient via a Fill Adjustment Layer to get the subtle green glow in the texture of the marble behind my angel in this painting.

(Peter Morhbacher has some great tuts on using masks and integrating texture, “How to Apply Texture Without Looking Like a Douche” and “Masking Tutorial” ).

Creating convincing light beams is totally easier in digital.
Wish I could say it was my brilliant idea that resulted in the light beams coming from the top left on my painting, but it was from this jewel of a tutorial.  I used the thicker beams they mentioned in another tut by the same person.  A gal could get used to not having to mask off with tape or masking fluid or painting around the light shafts like I would in watercolor. Hoorah for saving time!
Blending takes time…even in digital.
90% of my time on this image was spent blending and blending and BLENDING some more, especially in the area of her skin.  I used default brushes set to Pen Pressure and an Intuos3 Wacom tablet to color this image. In my experience so far, if you want your image to maintain that painterly feel, it’s better to blend with brush strokes than rely on gradients or fills. It’s far too easy for things to look sleek and plastic in digital so watch yourself! 

Another trick I used to maintain a subtle texture in this painting was to insert texture from free texture sites in layers set to Overlay and attached to the various elements of my image with Clipping Masks.

For things like the skin and hair, I used roughly three default Brushes set to varying Opacity and Scatter settings. I’m sure there’s a whole world of custom brushes to discover, but these are the ones I used, in addition to the default Chalk brush, which I used to simulate the color pencil lines when I needed to touch up my color pencil layer I had scanned in from my original drawing.

A little texture goes a long way!
Critique is priceless, no matter the medium!
As much as I’d like to say this image popped out of my head sparkling and awesome, it looked like crud during a midpoint when the angel’s skin was purple, the window was floating and overwhelming, and I was frustrated with it.  That’s when turning to more experienced digital artists really saved the day! 
Sam Hogg and Stephanie Reeves gave me wonderful advice, paint overs, and encouragement and that is just what we need when learning a new medium, so don’t be afraid to check out places like CGsociety and (or your own arty friends) for critique!

I did a time lapse video of all of my progress shots. Next time, I’ll try a screen recording program (any reccomendations from you guys?)

And finally, the finished image!
“Angel of January”, 11×17 in.
Digital painting over color pencil outline.
Download a wallpaper of this image.

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