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How to Digital Paint a Girl by Johannes Helgeson

How to Digital Paint a Girl by Johannes Helgeson

Johannes Helgeson is a Concept-Artist and Illustrator active in the games-industry. In this tutorial you will see How to Digital Paint a Girl by Johannes Helgeson in his own words.

“This process is designed for a reasonably fast and predictable result. It’s aimed at beginners who are familiar with photoshop primarily, but might be beneficial for more advanced users as well. It’s meant for painting from one’s own imagination, and I’ve reached this process through years of experiments and advice from more senior artists (Adam Ford and Sam Nielson have outlined similar approaches in the past). If I had a reference or model in front, my approach would be different, and I’d focus on getting the right shape, color and value of each stroke from the get-go. Here we’re using photoshop as a tool to figure out colors and values. I would like to point out that my process is continually changing as I’m learning new stuff, and what I’m doing here might be obsolete in the near future. Please apply your critical thinking when approaching this, and know that I have merely attained a journeyman level of expertise. If you’re serious about learning, check out masters such as Zorn, Sargent, J.C. Leyendecker, Rockwell, Velázquez and Sorolla.

I’m taking the liberty of giving you the PSD-file (reduced in size to 50%). When I fail to express myself in words, perhaps you can find clarity in the file.

Download here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/22680645/JHelgesonGirlsTutorialSteps.psd

1. Lineart

I just drew some chicks doing stuff. Talking about drawing is a whole different chapter, and this tutorial is about painting. In short, I try to have some fairly clean lineart which I can use as a foundation. For more about drawing, look at Stan Prokopenko’s Youtube Tutorials, check out RadHowto, read Glenn Vilppu’s Drawing Manual and Walt Stanchfield’s Drawn to Life Vol 1 & 2.



2. Masks and Shadow-Shapes

I mask out the lineart using the polygonal lasso tool (hold down the command-key (mac) or ctrl (PC, I think) to activate it with the normal lasso-tool)). This creates really hard and crisp edges, and is very fast. I don’t know of any faster more accurate way to do this. In marketing-art in particular, the client will often want the characters clearly separated from the background, to be used in different contexts, so we’re being preemptive. I do this per default by now.

For the shadows I fill a layer with a solid black, which I then lock into the positive shapes. Now, painting in a layer mask, I use a 100% hard-edged opaque brush to separate between light and shadow. Mentally, I’m trying to imagine doing it roughly like in a Mignola-Painting. Depending on how much of the positve shape I want to be in shadow, I will either paint the shadows or the light, whichever requires the least amount of work. Finally, when I’m done, I change the color of the layer to a midtone purple. I think this looks good, and the purple hue, to the best of my knowledge, is a combination of the ambient color of the scene (which in this case is blue-ish), plus some warm light (from the key-light, the sun (which is actually white but I’m stylizing it warm orange/yellow)) mixing in from bouncing all over the environment. Am I wrong? However, let’s say our subject is on Mars, or in Space, the color of the shadow would be different. In this case, Red and Black respectively.



3. Sculpt Shadowshapes

There’s a difference between Form-Shadows and Cast-Shadows. Form-Shadows occur when the form is turning away from the light-source, creating a smooth transition from light to shadow. A Cast-Shadow on the other hand happens when and object is blocking the light, creating a hard-edged shadow. In this step I try to distinguish between the two, plus going into a little bit more detail that I was in the previous block-in step. A mistake I did in the past was to treat this step too casually and sloppy. Take your time, be patient here, it’s going to be really helpful later on. It can be beneficial to look at some reference too, to make sure you’re being consistent with the light. Wes Burt kicked my ass at the Made Workshop in Berlin around 2009-2010 (can’t remember exactly) regarding my shadow-inconsitency.



4. Ambient Occlusion

Using the lasso-tool (not a single stroke without a selection, otherwise all the edges get too soft) and a big smooth airbrush I apply a dark shade to areas which receive little or no light. This is pretty good for separating forms of similar value and hue. I’m not Uber-detailed with this. I’m using a really dark dark reddish color for this. The reason for that is that I’m simulating a lil’ bit of Sub-Surface-Scattering (more on that later) and because our eyes are very sensitive to warm hues (shorter wavelength light) and picks them up easier. Also, because the subjects I’m painting exist in a largely cool-colored scene (which I’m imagining), by contrast, the areas which don’t receive blue cool light will appear warmer to our eyes. So the red is faking what our eyes are doing in real life.



5. Local Colors, Temperatures and Color Variety

I first fill in a reasonable fleshtone all over. Then I’m using a color-randomizer brush, and some textured brushes to add variety and to activate the fields of color. Then I start adding temperature variations, like the more reddish knees and elbows and cheeks, and the more cool breasts and pelvis. I’m essentially thinking about where the blood is closer to the skin and therefore more evident. Also natural tanning, from being outdoors plays a part in this, like a woman who wears a bikini at the beach will get a certain complexion and various local temperatures of hue. A mistake I did in the past was to make this layer completely flat, and with ONLY local colors. That looks dull, and sucks.



6. Ambient Light

I imagine these girls outdoors on a fairly clear and sunny day. Therefore the big blue dome (the sky) that surrounds us tints everything in shadow blue/cool. I add a subtle cool blue/purple to upwards-facing planes in shadow on a screen-layer. To the best of my knowledge, a screen-layer works as light works in real life, additively. It’s important to not go overboard here, and make the value of the blue light too bright, because then you can mess up the contrast between what’s essentially in shadow and what’s in light. I consider them as two families, which I want to keep fairly separate. (See image below, in step 7, where I combined this step and the next)

7. Bounce-Light

Downwards-facing planes in shadow receive a warm bounce-light. I imagine the ground-plane reflecting a warm main light (the sun). Also when that same light hits the skin, and is reflected upwards into the downwards-facing planes, we get a warmer and lighter hue. I’m tinting the planes warmer. A mental way to think about it is to imagine the girls standing on a floor of golden coins. I want to emphasize how important it is to think about everything in PLANES, and the angle of those planes to the lightsource. The more perpendicular a certain plane is to the lightsource affecting it, the more that lightsource will influence it. Also, the further away from the lightsource the plane receiving the light is, the less influenced it will become. So a downward-facing plane around the eyes will be less tinted by the reflected light from the groundplane than a planes around the knee, for instance.



8. Key-Light

Real simple, selecting the shadowshape-layer from before, I create a new layer with the shadows as a mask. Now, painting only in the light-areas, I go in with a big airbrush with a warm hue. I just want to capture the general direction of the light with a few simple and big strokes.



9. SSS – Sub Surface Scattering

In a new Overlay layer I’m painting with a really saturated red. I’m mainly focusing on painting in the core-shadow/terminator, and places such as fingers and ears. SSS happens when light enters the skin, picks up the red hue of the blood and then scatters out again, creating a more red-hue. It adds a lot of life to the colors, just remember not all materials act in the same way, and skin is particularly susceptible to SSS.



Flatten all, and adjust colors with adjustment-layers according to taste. I’m also letting the original lineart remain in some places, totally intuitively.



10. Paint! The Grand Unpredictable Adventure to Shangri La!

All the previous steps have been preparation for the grand adventure of painting. Consider everything up to this point, packing our bags, reading the maps and familiarizing ourselves with the language of some foreign, exotic and wondrous land. Now we’re ready to set out on our journey.



Website: http://helgesonart.blogspot.se/
Artstation: https://www.artstation.com/artist/helgesonart

Digital Art, 2d art, 3d art, matte painting, artbrew, concept art, illustration, digital painting, drawing

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