advanced photoshop
May
30

How to create a digital painting with expert brush effects, part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Anna-lisa Saywell

Michael Anthony Gonzales explains how to produce an eye-catching digital painting using Photoshop brushes, blend modes and more

How to create a digital painting with expert brush effects, part 1

Step 1 -Get started

How to create a digital painting with expert brush effects, part 1

Starting up a painting can be quite intimidating. So after opening up your canvas, fill it with a gradation or fill of grey using the Gradient or Paint Bucket tool. Create a new layer (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N) and start slapping down paint using any kind of brush just to get you started. Take your time to build your idea and composition by making rough thumbs.

Step 2 – Make an initial pass

How to create a digital painting with expert brush effects, part 1

It’s advisable to work on the background first to establish the light sources for your main subject or character. Use a hard-edged brush with pressure-sensitive opacity. You can also use the Smudge tool with a dotted brush tip to create interesting texture. If you are using a mouse, try to lower the opacity of your brush to give you better control.

Step 3 – Use perspective lines

How to create a digital painting with expert brush effects, part 1

The scene will have a city background, so bringing in perspective lines is a must. To create a perspective line, use your Line tool (U) set to Pixels with a weight of 2-5px. Hold Shift, click and drag horizontally, then repeat, duplicate and merge the lines. Use highly saturated colours for readability.

Step 4 – Build quick shapes

How to create a digital painting with expert brush effects, part 1

Now we’ll work on the structures of the background. Use the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) or the Pen tool (set to Path) to build shapes of the structures of the background, and then fill them with grey. You can add more details to them by using the Line and Brush tools. Remember to hold Shift before clicking, so the outcome will be straight for the Brush tool. At this point it’s not that important for the piece to have much detail; a few sets of different structures like shape variations will suffice.

Step 5 – Lay out the cityscape

How to create a digital painting with expert brush effects, part 1

Make a copy of your perspective lines and use the Transform tools (Cmd/Ctrl+T) to position your lines as a guide for the cityscape. While the Transformation box is active, Ctrl/right-click (RMB) and the other options of the Transform tool will appear. Use Distort and/or Perspective as you see fit. After setting up your perspective lines, drop that layer’s Opacity to around 30%. Go back to the structures you made on the previous step and use the transformation tools to lay out the cityscape.

Step 6 – Add some colour

How to create a digital painting with expert brush effects, part 1

To start applying colour, make a new layer, set its mode to Color and use the Gradient tool and brushes. Another method is merging all the layers you want to colour. Use Hue/Saturation (Cmd/Ctrl+U) then click Colorize, set your preferences then press OK. Pick the Brush tool and change its mode to Color (hold Shift+Ctrl/right-click) and paint directly on the image layer. It is recommended to use Color blending mode as it does not require that you merge any image layers below it.

Step 7 – Refine the results

How to create a digital painting with expert brush effects, part 1

To further polish the painting, create a new Normal layer. Since the cityscape is slanted, use the Rotate View tool and position your view to an upright position as it makes painting much easier. Using a hard-edged brush with pressure-sensitive opacity, go to the settings and adjust accordingly. Set the Brush Tip to look flat, as it makes detailing the structures faster. Adjust the Spacing to quickly make those windows and bars. Also, lower the Hardness of the brush for the atmospheric effects.

Step 8 – Block in the character

How to create a digital painting with expert brush effects, part 1

Create a new layer and, using the Paint Bucket tool, fill it with any low-saturated colour, setting its Opacity to 90%. This is enough for you to see the background under, as a reference when you draw the character. Create another layer and use a hard brush to make an outline drawing. Using the Magic Wand tool, click on the area outside the outline (make sure your outline has no holes), choose the fill layer and hit Delete. Now return the fill layer’s Opacity back to 100%.

  • Nice tut with some great tips, but it feels unfinished. Is there a page 2, or is the character not covered beyond the basic ‘blocking in’ phase?

  • never mind. Part 1. Got it. 😉

    Also, really enjoyed the tip of rotating the canvas when painting angled items. So simple, yet easily overlooked.

  • jack hill

    great tutorial to learn such an awesome piece of digital art , can you recommend more ? as i aspires to become an exceptional designer

  • Lisa Anderson

    Photoshop is amazing for this type of design and art work. Very very professional. Really excited to give it ago!!!

  • Jason Marnie

    Brilliant artwork never seen anything of this quality done by photoshop before.

  • Sally Marie

    Block in a character is astonishing fab piece of work. Layering seems to be a popular thing at the moment.