Hey there! Here’s a tutorial for a illustration I did for Bottleneck Gallery. The theme was “Alternate Endings” so I chose one of my favorite movies. I’ll try to make this tutorial very informative/educational/explanatory based on techniques I use and if you have any questions, feel free to drop me an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Well, everything starts with an idea. I had this one in mind for years since I’m a big Akira fan and Tetsuo is my favorite character. I’ve always wanted the movie to end in some other way with Tetsuo beating the hell out of Kaneda.
After several composition studies and sketching I ended up with this one. I usually sketch directly into photoshop, 72 dpi to make things faster, no zooming, just doodling around till I get a nice composition, already in the final proportions so I can work with the canvas lines and forces to make the drawing itself stronger, not just something that looks cropped somehow. I tried to focus on the character and just suggest what’s going on on the scene. You should consider not to deliver everything right away – that makes the illustration more interesting.
2. Then I enhance the image resolution (300dpi for this one) – I’m not using the previous linework, just as a guide, so it’s ok for it to look blurry and all.
I add a light gray layer on the bottom to start working with colors. I figured it is better to work over gray tones because it is kinda neutral: not too cold or too hot and white makes colors looks lighter or darker depending on their hue/values. If my concern was the form or proportions or the piece I’m working on was gigantic, it would be better to use some kind of middle tone green. (That’s a technique people like Leonardo used to rely on when painting huge stuff like the Cappella Sistina on affresco) but that wasn’t the case.
I picked some random purple/blue tones to make the shadows and see if there aren’t adjustments to be made. For me, value is the second most important thing in an illustration – if you do it right, things gets a lot easier in the rest of the process.
After that, I started making some flats for the skin tones (on a layer on top of the value layer and below the linework).
3. So I started making my color palette with my base colors. I usually leave the palette somewhere easy for me to pick with a color picker, on the topmost layer, somewhere that it will not get in my way, in this case, on the bottom of the drawing that will be the last thing I’ll be working on. There are lots of clever ways of doing it, but that’s just the way I do things.
Some compositional clouds on the background and some more flats, each one on a separate layer, ok? That way, I can use these layers as clipping masks to make painting easier.
4. Next, I set a green+blue gradient to the background (layer mode:vivid light) just to create a mood: light on top and the bottom kinda foggy. That will help me set all the other colors right with a nice contrast palette. Then I start to work on the face midtones with the colors I’ve chosen before: a nice vivid bright almost pinky red for the more blood-irrigated areas and a lighter skin tone for highlights – all that on top of the base skin tone, clipped.
5. A flat for the hair, some more detail and linework to the face. I’m going to repeat this whole process to all other areas. I use the main base flat as a clipping mask and paint on other clipped layers right on top – remember: each color on a separate layer so it is easier to make adjustments, erase stuff and play with oppacity to get great nuances.
I’m using some custom airbrushes and default photoshop round brushes with oppacity set to pen pressure.
I try to keep my linework layer on the top so you can switch it on and off to see how things are going and sometimes I just move layers to the top, specially for lifework.
6. So it’s shading time! I use the same purple tones I’ve used before for value in layer mode: hard light.
Then you ask me: Why purple? Well, It looks great and it actually makes sense for daylight shadows. The sky is blue and acts like a huge light filter/reflector – I just use purple that is some kind of warmer blue. Works every time!
7. I just felt that the whole illustration wasn’t warm enough so I used a yellow layer on top of everything (layer mode: soft light with reaaaaally low oppacity). You get the feel.
And notice how my sketch/linework layer is still there even when I’m redoing everything.
8. So, working on the cape just adding a darker red and then the same purple shadows. Since there’s this heavy sunlight on the character, I had to make some reflected light on his face.
I have also used some texture here with layer mode set to Overlay and with a layer mask to mask some of the texture I don’t want to show.
Also, to simulate the light fabric I duplicated the shadow layer and set it to Exclusion on top of the other layers making everything smoother and lighter.
The arms work like the face except for some highlights from the backlight. The secret is putting that almost pinky reddish tone, add some light skin tone then shadow it really hard close to that backlight. It feels very natural.
9. Just repeat the same process…
10 + 11 … over and over again making sure you don’t miss the reflected light, shadows and respecting the materials things are made of. It’s okay to use reference images for that or even simulate the environment and take some photos to use as guides for color, light and shadow.
It’s a time consuming process but it’s worth it so things don’t look all made of plastic or something.
12. Notice the color palette down there, now with tons of nice colors. Use it so you don’t have to keep switching layers on and off and messing with opacity.
Sometimes I just switch the whole background off to see if the edges are okay, that kinda simulates a studio shot and it’s easier to understand light without the interference of the background.
13. And here’s the final image. The debris where pretty easy to make, I just kept copying and pasting stuff then making random lines with a really small brush making these shatter patterns, added some texture and some atmospheric perspective. The burnt hole in the shirt was okay to do since that was already in my clipping mask, blood was made using some watercolor brushes and playing around with layer modes for this dry blood look on fabric. I have also enhanced the yellow soft light layer on top and added a dark blue layer set to soft light to make darker things still dark.
Phew! That’s all I could remember telling you guys. I hope you have enjoyed the tutorial and hopefully learned something with it to improve as an artist!
Again, if you have some questions, doubts, or just wanna chat, feel free to send me an e-mail: