In this walkthrough I explain how I used Photoshop and a Wacom Tablet to paint a character from the new videogame Bioshock for GamePro Magazine. This walkthrough gives you an overview on how to use textures in a digital painting. Enjoy!

I painted this piece over line art by Joe Ng (another artist on the UDON team) for the August 2007 issue of GamePro Magazine. This piece required extensive use of textures because of the rusty metal elements on the character’s suit. I used Photoshop 7 and a Wacom Intuos tablet. My favorite tablet is the Wacom Intuos 3 6×8. See my tutorial on choosing the right graphic tablet.

Step 1 – Line Art

Photoshop Tutorial – Bio Shock – Line ArtThis was the easiest part: I just opened the file and there it was! Great line art from my fellow UDON artist Joe Ng.

Step 2 – Flats

Photoshop Tutorial : Bioshock Videogame Digital Painting - Flats

A fairly complicated piece like this one, requiring several different textures, calls for an extra step in the process: Flats. As explained in my previous tutorial on how paint a Wonder Woman pin up, flatting is a technique borrowed from the comic book industry. In simple terms, each area is filled with a base color (metal, belts, clothing, etc.) to serve as a basis for the following coloring steps. I usually flat using different layers, one for each element of the figure. For example, in this case, I add all the metal parts in their own layer (see the yellow-ish areas in the image above); one layer for the clothing (the grey areas) and so on.


Step 3 – Textures

Photoshop Tutorial : Bioshock Videogame Digital Painting - Textures

Textures are what makes this piece in the end. The trick here is to add several different kinds of textures and to have them applied to only certain areas (i.e. the helmet). A simple way to achieve this is as follows:

  1. Create a new layer (let’s call it “my texture” for simplicity) above the layer you want to apply the texture to.
  2. Open a texture image and copy and paste it into the “my texture” layer.
  3. Set the texture layer blend mode to Overlay.
  4. Now you can see through and how the texture looks as applied on the layer below.
  5. Change the texture layer opacity as needed. I usually have it at 20% or less.
  6. Move the texture around to make sure you find the best fit.
  7. Assuming you have a flat of the area you want to apply the texture on already on its own layer, select its transparency.
  8. Select the texture layer.
  9. Add a layer mask: Layers –> Add Layer Mask –> Reveal Selection

Now the texture covers only the area that is supposed to. Using a layer mask gives you flexibility. It’s much better than simply deleting the area of the texture you don’t want to show because if you do so, you can’t go back and move the texture around later on and make adjustments.


Step 4 – Shadows

Photoshop Tutorial : Bioshock Videogame Digital Painting - Shadows

Once happy with the textures, I painted the shadows on the figures using an adjustment layer set on multiply. See my Wonder Woman tutorial for details on this technique. The shadows layer is above all other layers in this case. See a detail below:

Photoshop Tutorial : Bioshock Videogame Digital Painting - Shadows - Detail

Step 5 – Details

Photoshop Tutorial : Bioshock Videogame Digital Painting - Details

In this stage I refined the character, added more shadows and details. I left highlights for the next step.

Step 6 – Highlights

Photoshop Tutorial : Bioshock Videogame Digital Painting - Highlights

This is where I really had fun! I like to paint highlights at the end. It usually is the most satisfying part of the process. Usually, adding highlights and incidental light really brings my paintings to life.

For highlights, I add a new layer above all others and paint the details in, usually zoomed in at 200%. I used several rusty metal custom made brushes I created earlier and some I had to create specifically for this piece. See close-up below to see the results:

Photoshop Tutorial : Bioshock Videogame Digital Painting - Highlights - Details