Nobody asked for it, but I was tired of working on my comic so I whipped this up on a whim. It's the process I went through to create this:
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1) The sketch. Since the client gave me a pose that he wanted to see, I just did my own take on it. My drawing is more foreshortened and stylized than the reference I was provided. I almost always draw my roughs on regular copier paper with 2H mechanical pencil. Perhaps if I get another Wacom or equivalent someday, I'll finally learn how to do this step digitally.
2) Sketch scanned in grayscale at 300dpi and turned blue. Because there was no question this was going to be colored digitally, I didn't bother with a refined pencil drawing as I often do. I've been paying attention to a lot of digital artists, particularly painters, who often start their work this way without bothering to clean up the drawing before getting into the color process. Sometimes tight penciling helps and it can be fun, but sometimes it really is just a waste of time. The reason I turn the sketch blue is so I can easily discern what lines are drawn, which ones are digital ink and where my cursor is. It's the equivalent of drawing in non-photo blue. To do this quickly and easily, fill a layer above the sketch with a light blue (or whatever color you want), set it to screen and merge down.
3) Digital inks. I just went over the rough with digital inks on a transparent layer above the sketch, the way I do a lot of my art. I also made a great many corrections during this phase. I have something of a tutorial for my digital ink process in my gallery, though I hesitate to call it a good one.
4) Flats. I used to use the lasso and pen tool to make flats, but lately I've found it much faster on simpler line art like mine to use the magic wand and paint bucket. I recorded an action to expand selections so I can quickly make sure there are very few gaps in the flats (at least few gaps that matter since they'll be covered by the line art). Any gaps left visible are easily filled in and kept aliased (hard-edged) with the pencil tool. This layer is below the digital inks, and by this time I would delete the sketch layer as I no longer need it.
5) Gradient shade. I'm still learning how to properly apply this method originally adapted from the coloring style of
. I make a selection based on the flats by holding Ctrl+clicking the Flats layer, then I make a new layer and create the gradient (or multiple gradients depending upon the look I want). The layer is set to Multiply, around 60-75% opacity.
6) Highlights. This layer is above all, even the line art. I just set a layer to Overlay at 100% opacity and make my highlight selections with white. The selections are filled pen paths, but can also be anti-aliased lasso selections. Since I don't have a Wacom or equivalent, I find it more comfortable to use the pen tool.
7) Shadows and glows. This was going to be two separate steps, but my file was getting big so I condensed them. For the glow, I simply copy the highlight layer, apply a Gaussian blur of around 10-15 pixels, then play around with the opacity until I get a look I like. I add shadows on a separate layer set to Soft Light just below the line art, using a dark blue color the same way I make highlights (shadows are never black). I could (and have in the past) also do highlights on the same layer; Soft Light works effectively for both highlights and shadows, and for a simpler color job it can be a time saver.
8) Finishing up. By this point I'm pretty much done. I create some kind of abstract background playing around with gradients, layer masks, patterns and filters (in this case, polar coordinates) to get something that fills the scene out nicely without being too distracting. Of course, backgrounds are my weakness so who knows how successful I am at that. I also do different things to the final image depending upon how I feel. I might fiddle with brightness and contrast, make the glow more striking, use Unsharp Mask to make the image look more vibrant, fiddle with color balance...any number of things. Photoshop has many, many different options--I encourage folks to explore them all.
That's pretty much it. Any questions?