Breaking down the process of this illustration into stages:
I have broken down this piece into the five main stages used to create it. This gives some insight into how i work with an illustration and how i have put together my workflow. Hopefully this is useful to you, the reader.
If you create art digitally and dont know how to, or have not decided on a spesific way to structure your layers or workprocess. This is a great foundation to which you can add or detract stages as you work and get a feel of what your personal prefference is.
This way of working also lends itself well to focusing on one thing at a time. The struggle with the idea of thinking about light, depth, colour, shadows, detail and backgrounds etc all at the same time can be daunting and even exhausting. Which, in turn, could lead into abandoning or not finishing an image that would have been great.
Fun Fact: This is also how a lot of the good traditional artists and oil painters like Rembrandt is thought to have been working.
Stage One : Line art / Drawing.
Before you begin sketching and drawing, make sure to create a new transparent layer over the background layer.
There are two reasons for this. One reason is that we are going to add a background at a later stage. The other reason is that we want to manipulate the drawing as freely as possible without having to erase or refine a drawing filled with background colour.
This is where splotches, artifacts and “goblins” come from when working digitally.
The drawing and line art stage is pretty simple in itself. The focus here should be the idea you are drawing and outlining it. Try to think of it as if you were drawing with a pen.
Some like to draw loosely and then create a new layer on top to refine the lines further. This time i refined the line art while i was working on it.
Starting with a loose sketch and refining/redrawing it on a new layer could be a good choice as this tends to give the line art a more dynamic feel and gestures tend to look better. You kind of keep the “magic” created in the sketch.
Do not focus on shadowing yet. If you are used to working traditionally this could be tough. But shadowing is a part of the next stage and a new layer.
Instead, think about making the line art crisp and keep the anatomy of what you are drawing in mind.
Stage Two : Gray scale / Underpainting.
The gray scale layer a.k.a the underpainting is just that. Tones of varying degrees of gray or in this case golden/yellow tones ranging from dark to bright.
The intention with this layer is to establish and define where the light in the image comes from. This along with establishing the shapes of the shadows and even the character itself provides depth to the illustration. It kind of moves into the three dimensional world from simply being a two dimensional line art/drawing.
Usually during this step i would paint in grey tones, spaning from completely white and black and almost everything in between. However as this was a more cartoony character with a bright colour scheme i decided to go with the golden/yellow scheme. This was firstly to make the characters colours pop more as this layer will bleed through to the colour layer. Secondly i wanted to try something new.
I also found it interesting how some of the grey shadowing almost turned blue in contrast to the yellow scheme.
Stage Three : Colouring / Glazing.
Looking at the colour layer by itself, you will see that the hues chosen look really dark and flat. This is because it is displayed without the gray scale layer beneath it. When you create this layer make sure it is set to “color” as the layer type. This is usually done through a drop down menu after selecting the layer.
After you make sure the layer mode is correct andyou have seen to it that the layer is on top of the gray scale painting. Colouring can commence.
After the chosen colours are painted over the gray scale, you can notice how different they actually look if you turn off the layer with the underpainting. usually darker and flatter than we would have chosen if we were painting with colours from the start.
Classical and traditional painters call this step glazing, as they paint over the gray scale with a thinned out paint to make the underpainting shine through.
When working digitally with the layer set to colour mode we can mimick this, but yet, have more control and change the colours as we see fit afterwards as they are gathered seperately on their own layer.
This way of working also takes a lot of the guesswork away, as you basically just fill in the different areas with the one desired colour. It kind of turns it all into a paint by numbers scheme after the grayscale is done.
Stage Four : Putting it all together.
Now we put all the layers together in the correct order to have an illustration that is close to being finished. This is a good time to go over all the layers and organize them if you have not done this while working.
This means giving them names and making sure that if you come back to work on the illustration, you know what layer does what.
I like to give them full names like “Grayscale”, “Colour” and “Line art” but abbreviations works just as well as long as they are understandable to anyone opening the file wanting to work on it. Suggestions here could be “GS”(Grayscale),”CLR”(Colour) and “LA”(Line Art).
Stage Five : Finishing Touches.
Finally you can add some finishing touches like effects, highlights and Specularity / diffracted light etc as you see fit. I like to add a backdropp to my characters in the form of shapes and design elements rather than painting a city or forest behind them.
I hope you found this interesting and helpful.
Thank you for reading.