Sketching in your Character
As we now know, this is how I prefer to start, as I think it is the easiest way to begin. By simply laying down a basic sketch, as you can see, I have my female figure outlined. At first, I thought I would give her a ‘Cruella Deville’ (’101 Dalmatians’) look, but as I progressed, I took out the cigarette and gave her a more “smug” look. Basically, you can use references if you want, or you can just channel your own female look. I used a reference for mine, as I can’t sketch females that well, yet. Try to keep your lines very clean, almost as if you’re inking in a comic book page - thin lines, nothing too bold and you can achieve something very simply. Simple is better - you don’t want to make the figure too complex because you should remember that females are soft, not hard-shaped like males. The outfit is completely up to you, if you want something stylish, ugly, futuristic, it’s really down to what’s in your head. For her, I wanted to create a stylish 70’s look; European, fringed outfit, simple, but nice. As for her hair, all you have to worry about is just the basic shape of it - don’t go and make a lot of tiny threads and strands of hair, because it will make no difference in the end.
Laying down the Background and Basic Colours
Now, for portraits, I always do the same thing for my backgrounds. I use the gradient tool, which can be found in the tool bar, and I just pick two colours and lay them flat on the background. For her, again with the retro style, I just took two chalky pink/purple colours and used them as my background. Very simple. Moving on to the figure’s colourings, I always start off with the skin underlay colour, which is just the basic flat skin colour that I’m going to go with. Then I paint in her hair using blacks, a few purples, and so forth. I’m very obsessive about not having something coloured in - I cooled it down though by not colouring the shirt in at first. After I laid down my solid colours (black for hair, pearly-pink for skin, and so forth), I then started to paint over them with highlights and shadow differences, just trying to block in my colours, especially on the eyes which I will work on next.
I decided to give her some heavy eyeliner around the eyes to give her a more mysterious look. I also laid down some brighter colours on her lips, giving what will be my starting point for the highlighting there. Also, remember to colour the shadowed area under her jaw.
For the eye, I will give you a small lesson on them. Since these are mostly covered by eye-shadow and mascara, you have little to work with, yet it should still “pack a punch”. We firstly fill in her eye colour, like we did before. Once you have your basic colouring, use a size 3 brush and start to scribble in some of the highlight colours and the pupil. For her eyes, I wanted to give her an icy cold blue look. So, taking my blue colour out of my colour picker, I then started to work in the oval shape and the highlights. You don’t want to paint too much and make the whole eye a solid blue, but rather you need to blend them together. Then, you can pick out a white colour, and block in the glare on the the pupil. Once you have a good shape and feel for it, use the dodge tool on a very low strength, and start to work in some highlights, mostly in the glare and the tiny bit around the pupil. Once your eyes are nearly complete, you can start to work in some eye lashes. Using a size 1 brush set on 80% opacity, draw tiny strokes from the bottom of the eye lid, and build up thicker lashes on the upper lid using a size 3 brush.
Blending and Smudging Colours
In this step, I will start to blend my colours together and make her look a lot smoother. This is my favourite part - making her more lively - when the painting feels like it’s coming together. I immediately start off with her eyes, sockets, and lids. I use my typical smudge brush which I always use to blend, to get the colours to mix smoothly. Once I’ve blended them together, I go in with either the same colour that I’m playing with, on a low opacity, or the blur tool with low strength, and just touch it up a bit. Once I’m satisfied with the look of it, I start to move on to other parts.
A new technique that I’ve learned from artists such as Linda Bergkvist, is the simple, what I like to call, “glossy splatter” near the eye. This basically gives the shimmer of the skin, using tiny pearl colour blotches. I don’t have it on my skin, but it makes it look a lot more “slick” looking. I then start work on her forehead - blending and mixing as usual.
Blending and Beginning her hair
Moving on to the next step, you’ll notice the strands of hair. I like to begin with a soft brush and stroke in some threads of hair.
Then I go in with a hard brush, set on Pen Pressure, and go over them to get that “dream-like” flow of the hair. As for the skin, I went over it some more, just smoothing it out. Remember, no hard spots - make everything as smooth as can be!