Digital Pin-up Painting Workshop In Photoshop

Title: Learning to Fly

This workshop is about finding your way, not about copying, tracing or using stock images to get a job done. I don´t want to limit anyone by technique or one software alone. If you are into Corel Painter or Alias Sketchbook you can do the same there, the goal is to use your technique to draw something new and original. For people new to digital painting it is hard to draw something out of nothing.
What I do in this tutorial is to share essentially the basics, how to get a work done from grayscale to color and beyond.
That´s the reason I try to take my students from where they are, some are better in drawing from imagination than others, but nonetheless all have to deliver a work for a degree and in the end it is the result that counts. If creativity, originality and timelessness can be found in the result, the process isn´t important.

Please Note:

This workshop is done in collaboration with Isis Sousa and ITS ART MAG, the following gives you a rough overview of the tutorial and just one video. If you want to see the whole workshop for free, go to ITS ART MAG´s website, register for free and enjoy the hd-videos and the complete text - and even more workshops and inspiration from the site.

Step 1 – Getting the Fundamentals Down
The first step is to outline the sketch. There is no workaround to this, just a variety of options how we can do that.
I have a background in traditional airbrush-painting and the usual way to get this done fast is by using a projector -throwing the image you want to paint on your desired medium, in most cases canvas or illustration-board. Another method is tracing with transparent paper- a transfer-sheet. The main thing to consider if you want to do the outline from the photograph or do a sketch from scratch, is the following: do you want to transport the original measurements and proportions or do you want to alter it? If your goal is to do a caricature or a cartoon painting, scribbling from scratch with an eye on the reference might be the way to go.
In my case I want to stick as close as possible to the given photograph (at least for proportions) for which I have obtained the permission to use. (Special thanks at this point to Louis and Margarita!) so I have chosen the fastest way to get things done and have traced the outlines to go from there. (See Step.01. Below)

If you want to do that in Photoshop, you create a new layer on top of the workshop image and draw the outlines with a small roundbrush.

Step 2 – Drawing in Grayscale
The next step is to get the outlines filled with greyscale values. For this I use a standard roundbrush a bit squeezed to make it look oval. You can download my brushes/Tool Presets that I use, from the “Resources”-list at the bottom of this tutorial. The oval brush from the Tool Presets is what I use for outlines and painting as well.
Actually to block in the values, it will be enough to have 3 tones to begin with:

A dark gray, a mid-gray and a light gray.

Now before I start, I look closely at the reference picture and see where the light is coming from, where the shadows go and where the mid-tones may be placed and move from there.

The video shows part of my process and how I get started. I always use lots of keyboard shortcuts and mostly work in fullscreen mode, for this video I made an exception and show the layers and a window where all the shortcuts are listed. There are some custom shortcuts as well, so whenever I press “F1” this is “Step back” and “A” is Rotate.

Step 3 – Detailed Sketching and Background

Having the grayscale values blocked in, now I can get to a more defined version of the sketch, usually this step includes cleaning up edges, smoothing gradations and adjusting the contrasts. Rather boring but nonetheless important. Important because I will be reducing the grayscale sketch along with the outlines to create a new layer for the figure, from where I can work more efficiently.

Step 4 – Rough Coloring
Find the Video on ITS ART MAG Website

The rough coloring process is very easy, have a look at the above process capture.
What happens is that I create a new layer for the coloring, in normal painting mode I paint with a skin-toned color over the area of the whole body with a normal roundbrush set to around 80% visibility. The next step is to select the area of the body: I select the body area and copy through all layers with CTRL+SHIFT+C and then paste it at the same position. From there I have the working autoselection to clean the edges of the above layer. Which I then duplicate and move into a new group to adjust colors and saturation at each layer. The color layers are set to overlay. I duplicate the coloring layer multiple times (between 3-5 times) to get a more vivid look.
This process will be repeated with every different color, when the “rough” coloring process reaches an acceptable stage, I reduce the layers to one group, when finished editing these, I merge them down to just one editable layer.
Step 5 – Finetune the Foreground Coloring

The next step is similar to the detailed grayscale sketch, timeconsuming but necessary. Refining edges, adjusting color values, blocking in some different hues and tones, mixing them together and work out details on top of that, rinse and repeat. The result can very much look like the above screenshot.
The same procedere happens with the helmet.

Step 6 -Coloring the helmet

The technique and brushes are the same as in the previous step, the difference is the material. Since the helmet should be glossy, there has to be some spec-lights in it, even if the reference photograph doesn´t show any. This is what I mentioned in the beginning of this tutorial, you have to question your reference. In this case also the lighting is very central which makes for some difficult shadows and a rather flat appearance of the skin. If you observed both images in step 5, you´ll notice that I changed the shadows and lighting slightly.

For the helmet you can should look at how surfaces behave, see above: left diffuse surface, right glossy surface. In diffuse surfaces, the material has micro-small texture nearly invisible to the eye that refract the light when it hits the surface. The reason glossy surfaces have a “spec-light” or highlights is that it lacks the micro-texture and it throws the light back in the same way it gets hit by it.

This knowledge can also be applied by glossy parts of the human body that are actually rather wet, such as the tongue, eyes, teeth and lips for example.
See below - helmet development.

Step 7 – The visor, reflection and depth
The visor is an important aspect of the image as it gives me as artist room to deliver a story and add depth. It is like a window and correctly used it can add a whole new level to a picture. In this case I wanted to do a “Pink Floyd-tribute” which means I would do something to resemble a picture that on one hand fits to the picture and to the tribute at the same time.
For the latter I have used a landscape stock image and combined it was a swirling cloth stock package I found a while ago in a way that it looks like a surreal landscape.

I didn´t even needed the hi-res file for this, the small resolution file did it. I used the oilpainting filter to eliminate detail later on so that it looks more fitting to the exisiting style of the figure that I have developed by now.
Below is what I did with the image, first I have transformed it to fit the shape of the visor with transform->warp tool.

Below you see the things that led to the following look of the image. I duplicated the image three times and added different effects to them, including transparency.
(The detailed information to this screenshot are on the ITS ART MAG-Website)

Step 8 – adding details to the character
The model is, besides the visor-reflection, a cental element - and so far I have developed and rendered anything but the very details that make it more lifelike. As you can see in the reference picture she has a tattoo but I don´t want to copy that. What I wanted to do instead is to add something in “my way” of doing things and like in other pin-up illustrations of mine, there are “tongue-in-cheek tattoos”. That´s what I call them, see some examples below:

In this case I did a small drawing of a little pony with “X-ed” eyes. The main use of these small tattoos is to lead the eye around to a specific point. It makes the picture more readable. It is not necessary but fun to do.
Below you see the changes to the character in this step, besides the tatoo, there is some more linework to add contrast, a sticking plaster and a contour around the edges of the model. That was done using the same layer with the figure, turning it black and add layer effects set to outer glow and contour. Some refinement is necessary but that can be done with a plain eraser roundbrush and some patience.

As you can see in the screenshot from above, the visor layers are all moved into one new group, this makes it easier to keep track of different parts of the image.

Step 9 – Background part I
The background in this work isn´t really important and I don´t wanted it to be realistic. Like in most pin-up illustrations the background isn´t relevant.
What I wanted to do is to use the background space to underline a certain message and additionally take the chance to add something to the composition that makes the image more readable (again).

I created a new layer, filled it with black, a structure and a gradient overlay. Then I reduced this layer by creating a group and moving it into the group. Merging the group applies the effects on the layer with “baking” the look to it, otherwise some visual changes can occur and merging a layer group down with layers that have effects applied to them, prevent that this happens.
On deviantArt I found a stock image of wings and this image is without much alteration a good use for these. I could also have drawn them by hand but in the design process I often do mockup of things to see if they fit in. In some cases the result looks good enough to be used or pushed further along the way, and in this case a color overlay to match the outline contour of the model makes only 10% come through. The shape is exactly what I wanted the wings to look, so why bother?

Step 10 – Background part II
To add a level of traditional edge to the creation, I used a texture to make the wings and background appear more painterly. Got the look below by setting the texture layer to around 50% transparency and 50% fill and by adding a correction on top with “brightness/contrast” that´s all.  

The next thing on the background are the crows, I added some stock images/PNG-files. I copied the layer effect “color overlay from the wings and applied it to the crows as well, this leads to a coherent look. One circle in yellow/apricot was added around the eye of the bigger crow to make it appear more graphical.

Another addition to the background are the skulls at the bottom, in the next screenshot below you see some splashes and drawn patterns that just have the purpose to loosen the background a bit. 

Step 11 – Final touches

The last step consists of working on the details , adjustments, corrections and minor changes that make the difference plus “relighting” the body a bit.
The lighting is necessary to add more plasticity to the model, the central lighting works for photography, but when we accept this, the reult is a flat looking, very sterile painting that has no real visual appeal.
In the process video below you see how the skin-relighting is basically done, I just recorded the first few minutes, the rest is essentially the same just on different areas.
Find the Video on ITS ART MAG Website
The lighting is blocked in with a round brush set to scatter. Nothing more is needed. To the final makeover I add some skin structure as well to make the body look more lifelike and less “airbrushed”.
There are countless brush strokes to reach that point and many small adjustments that are probably too much to list here but the comparison between the images from step 10 and step 11 side-by-side make visible what happened.
Step12 – final work
After another batch of changes, the final result is below:

This is it. I hope you liked this tutorial or found it useful.

Background visor - flowing fabric:
Model Reference Photograph (Copyright by Louis Konstantinou):

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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook



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