Now that we have evolved our helmet style and setting design pretty far in pure greyscale, and defined the shape of our objects, it’s time to begin adding colour to our image. To do so, we’ve created a new layer and set the blending mode to Color. We prefer using the Color option as opposed to the Overlay example, because this latter blending mode can make things have too much contrast and ruins our flat clay look, which we’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Since we’ve added sufficient base colour and form to our metal helmet, what we want to do is take it that next step further. Using this oddly shaped brush, titled 150 on the brushes file on the disk, apply this to a new layer set to Overlay blending mode. What you’re looking to achieve is a gentle strengthening of core shadows using a darker colour, the middle area with some reddish-brown colour, and the back side with some cool blue. This gives the metal its first signs of texture and reflection.
Since we used an Overlay layer, you will notice that our painting is now very high in contrast. This is because, as said before, an overlay layer will generally increase the contrast of any surface that it’s painted to; much like the effect of using a glaze layer in painting. This is sometimes a great way to get in more colour, but it will also add too much noise to your painting. So we create another layer over the Overlay layer, and gently paint out some of that new contrast with the 80 brush from the brushes file on the disk. This will gently push the colours back, but still leave a lot of tonal history in our material.
Using my Scratch brush, numbered 125 in the brushes file on the disk, our next goal is to create scratches on our metal. If you look at any brass or iron object, you’ll notice various spots of blue, orange, and/or green colour due to the oxidation of these metallic materials. We will duplicate this here by using a Color Dodge blending mode layer, and painting in strokes that replicate this effect. A good rule of thumb is to always apply sky blue, orange, and subtle green to ensure the most authentic effect possible.
In the last step, you’ll notice that this Color Dodge blending mode layer has also, like the Overlay layer, added too much contrast. Now it’s time for us to paint it back again, but this time, we’ll begin to model the shape of the iron itself. As you’ll notice from our screen shot, we’ve added many scratches, pound marks, scrapes and chips, as well as highlights to the sharp corners, and places where the surface of the metal has been completely chipped off.
One key property to metallic objects is their ability to reflect and refract light. Now that we have defined most of the metal itself, as well as given it a core shadow and a terminating edge (the area of a sphere that reflects no light), we want to add some reflected and refracted light. A good way to do this is to add a Color Dodge blending mode layer, using a textured brush to apply. We have chosen a blue light to the right, since that’s our light source, and a red light near the bottom, since that’s what colour both the gold armor and the reddish skin will reflect.
As you could have guessed, due to the Color Dodge layer in the last step, our overall image becomes contrasted. Again, we’ll want to carefully paint those lights back a bit, unifying our painting. You may have noticed that we’ve refrained from painting in too much light, only unifying our colour, the reason being that adding too many lights will break down the unity of the painting. That said, since we’ve kept our contrast and values very close together, we can add a little light to the center of our sphere, by using an Overlay blending layer – applying a nice warm orange and a soft airbrush.
Now that we’ve spent so much time painting our overall shape, form, and the lighting of our subject and scene – saving most of the detail for later – we can finally go in and start adding those important parts, patterns, bolts, and magic. It’s good to save these things until the end, because if not, you will spend too much time painting around the details that you want and essentially add hours to your painting process that you can’t afford in commercial projects.
In this step, we begin to pull the entire piece together, using everything we’ve learnt so far throughout our steps. This is when you should be adding colour to her face and skin with both Color and Overlay blending mode layers, and painting it back. But most important is adding an overall light source, by applying to a Linear Dodge blending mode layer with a nice hot blue colour – creating a fantasy light source. These steps help unify the entire piece, and from here we can add a bit more detail and tweaks to the helmet itself.
So we’ve made it to the final stretch, the last stages of this painting. At this point try not to get frustrated, as it’s not uncommon to get here and realise that you made a lot of painting mistakes, such as errors in colour, or even in the application of anatomy. I once learnt that the only way to make a great painting is by applying more paint, and more paper. So relax, step away from the painting for a while, and come back later, to get a fresh look at what you’ve done and make any final adjustments.