To play up the plasticity of the material, we’ll use the Plastic Wrap filter to to add a shiny texture to the outfit. Go to Filter>Artistic>Plastic Wrap and adjust the Highlight Strength, Detail and Smoothness sliders to what you think looks best in the preview pane. It probably won’t be perfect, but get as close as possible to matching the light source and apply. Make any changes by painting over by hand- smooth any unsightly lumpy spots that the Plastic Wrap filter may have made.
Remember the golden light source we omitted? Now its time to bring it out! Ctrl+Click the outfit layer to make a selection, then make a new layer above the outfit layer and set its blending mode to Overlay. We chose a very light yellow and paint in the areas where the light source should shine on the outfit, then merge the Overlay layer and the outfit layer together. Lastly, using the same method, we add glowing arrows and trim to the outfit to finish it up.
We’ve decided that the hair will be full and voluminous, blowing toward the right side of the image. Begin painting in big locks of hair with an airbrush, flowing as a giant fan was near her face. Be mindful of the light sources and keep them believable by placing colours accordingly. We add vibrant blues to the left, dim blueish purple in the front, and pinks to the right. We also blend the background colour in with the hair toward the back as a blurring effect.
Since we’ve established the hair flow direction and blocked in most of the hair locks in the previous step, we’ll begin to define the hair locks further by adding individual strands of hair with a small Round brush. Start at the top, where the hair begins, and work your way down each side following the flow of the hair direction. There’s no need to define every strand- only those that are in focus. The rest can be blurred slightly by selecting and using Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur to create depth.
We add hair strands going in the opposite direction of flow for added realism- a little chaos works wonders with making hair look more believable. The glows of the outfit are very attention getting because of the use of colour, so to bring more focus to face, we concentrate on making quite a lot of strands around the face that are in focus, and leave the lower part of the hair more void of detail and blurry.
Technological gadgets are a cornerstone for the sci-fi genre, so our character here will have a headset that is streamlined and modernized. Using the Lasso tool or Paths, separate the earpiece top surface from the base. Paint them separately with a big Airbrush making it obvious where the planes of earpiece change. Lastly, use the Dodge and Burn tools to enhance highlights and shadows, which will make the material appear metallic. On a new layer paint in designs and buttons.
On a new layer below the earpiece (or above with a mask made of the earpiece selection, as we’ve done) paint in the antenna and mouthpiece with a hard edged Round brush. Use the Dodge and Burn tools as in the previous step to enhance the metallic texture. Metal is reflective, so don’t be shy to add in some colours of the surroundings, from the face for instance, as well as from the light sources. Don’t forget to add a cast shadow from the mouthpiece on the face!
Now its time to add that finishing touch! For this, anything goes. In this case, its merely about enhancing what work we’ve already done. To do this, we add in some mysterious smoke to the environment, just to amplify the mood a bit. We also work on blending the character into the surroundings a little better by adding reflective glows from the light source, and mixing more of the background colour into the hair and vice versa.
Take a moment to look the entire piece over carefully and take note of any final changes that you would like to make. Flipping the canvas horizontally will also help you to find errors in your work you may have otherwise missed. Press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E to merge all visible layers together as a new layer. Use this layer to fix any mistakes and make any final adjustments necessary such as colour correction, contrast, and sharpness.