advanced photoshop
Mar
8

How to paint sci-fi characters in Photoshop, part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by The Advanced Photoshop Team

Create a beautiful sci-fi portrait from the ground up with these simple steps

How to paint sci-fi characters in Photoshop, part 1

Download all the tutorial files here

Step 01

How to paint sci-fi characters in Photoshop, part 1

Start by creating a new document with sizing dimensions set to your desired preference. On a new layer, begin sketching with a brush of your choice- we’re using a simple hard Round brush. Think about interesting shapes and design elements that you could incorporate to draw the eye toward the focal point. Here, the bold lines of the outfit and headset will help to lead the eye toward the face. Once you have a solid rough, redraw it on a new layer so that it will be nice and clean.

Step 02

How to paint sci-fi characters in Photoshop, part 1

Make a new layer for each of the largest elements. For instance, we’ve made a layer for each of the following: background, skin, outfit, hair, and earpiece. With the sketch as a guide, make a selection of each element using the Lasso tool or Paths. Either of the two will do the job well, but we are using Paths here for its adjustability and it’s smooth curved edges. Fill the selection with a base colour on its corresponding layer, and lock the layer’s transparency.

Step 03

How to paint sci-fi characters in Photoshop, part 1

Take a moment to think about light source colour and direction. We’ve chosen to go for a bright and warm side lighting with a blueish ambient light. The contrast of warm and cool colours should help in creating the focus of the piece. Grab a large airbrush and paint in some colours on the skin layer. Don’t worry about perfection at this point, just concentrate on the colour choices and establishing the lighting direction and mood. Getting a good grasp for colour early on will aid you throughout the painting process!

Step 04

How to paint sci-fi characters in Photoshop, part 1

Now that we’ve set up a nice base to work from, its time to flesh out the character! Turn the sketch layer off or lower it’s Opacity down a bit so that we  can see to work underneath. Keep the light source(s) in mind as you work- There are two so far, here- the brilliant golden light from the side and a dim blueish from in front. Using a soft Airbrush, we begin painting in the forms of the face with shadows to areas that wouldn’t catch much light and subtle highlights to areas that would.

Step 05

How to paint sci-fi characters in Photoshop, part 1

You could certainly focus on any feature first, but we’re going to start with the nose, as its pretty simple to think of in 3 dimensional space-a projection from the face- and having it detailed early on will help to imagine the other features. Begin further detailing the shape of the nose that we previously created- be sure to emphasize the roundness of the nose tip (highlight), the concavity of the nostril (shadow), and the hard and soft edges where the nose meets the cheek and upper lip.

Step 06

How to paint sci-fi characters in Photoshop, part 1

The lips will be a bright pink colour, so we choose a few shades and begin defining the form of the lips with a medium Airbrush, making vertical creases in a slightly darker colour for texture. Its also important to develop the area surrounding the lips in order for them to appear natural. Once the form is well established, use the Dodge tool to create highlights. The lips are in range to both light sources, so make highlights from each!

Step 07

How to paint sci-fi characters in Photoshop, part 1

We begin painting the whites of the eyes first with an Airbrush, concentrating on shaping the roundness of the eyeball. After the whites are completed, make selections with the Elliptical Marquee tool and colour in the irises. Add in the pupil and radiating lines of various shades in the iris, and begin fleshing out the surrounding eye area, such as the upper and lower eyelids. To finish off the eyes, use a small Round brush to add in the small details such as the eyelashes and a bright highlight in the iris.

Step 08

How to paint sci-fi characters in Photoshop, part 1

Finish up with the remaining skin detail of the neck and chest area using the same method as the previous steps. For added realism, we go back and add tiny imperfections to the skin. For this, we’ve created a custom brush composed of tiny random dots. Depending on the colour and brush sized used, these dots could be anything from moles or freckles to skin pores. After covering the skin, we make a selection of the most focused areas and use Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask only enough to make the imperfections just stand out.

Step 09

How to paint sci-fi characters in Photoshop, part 1

Disregard the golden light source for this step and concentrate only on the blueish from the front- this will allow the following step to be much easier! The outfit will be made of a thick, leathery, plastic material, so emphasize that thickness in the edges and seams. We also add in a few wrinkles in the suit around the arms and the back of the neck. We’ve also decided to add in yet another light source- a bright blue from behind.

Continue to part 2…