This tutorial explains my technique for creating a digital portrait. Step by step instructions on how I go about painting a face portrait using Painter. This approach also works for Photoshop. A tablet (Wacom or any other with pressure sensitivity) is a must-have requirement. Enjoy!
First and foremost, I look at the subject for a minute or two, trying to absorb it’s shape, volume, colors and mood. After this brief time, I start drawing. The main shape is loosely sketched with a large brush with a 60% opacity. At this stage, I don’t worry too much about precision of the strokes. Mostly, I use one or two colors. I try to use the predominant color in the subject. For skin tones, I usually lay down a darker color. I like to work the highlights on this layer in the next step.
This is the stage where I add volume to the initial flat shape. With a smaller brush, and a very low opacity setting, I concentrate on capturing the subject’s lighter areas. For this stage, I use a midrange color (in between the predominant color of the previous stage, and the color of the brightest highlights found on the subject). After the larger lighter areas are set in place, still very loosely, I might switch to an even lighter color and use it to sketch some of the highlights. No line drawings yet.
Shadows! At this point, it is time to darken some of the areas left untouched until now. Now, I switch to the brushes tool. This tool enables me to obtain a very realistic blending of the strokes. Also, I like its feel and its dynamics. Anyway, using a smaller brush, I start drawing the main features, such as the eyes, nose, eyebrows and mouth. Again, no need to be too precise.
Refining the shape. Now that most of the elements are in place, I have to make sure the profile is right. Having the main features sketched in place, I can judge if any of the elements shape or positioning are off. As visible in the image of this step, I redrew one of the eyes, since it was too high in the previous stage.
Refining the volume. At this point, I also finalize the light and dark areas. I don’t worry much about blending now. Before moving on to the next step, I make sure all the subject’s features are in the right place and well proportioned.
It takes time to blend colors with the brushes tool, but I make sure each stroke is well placed. Concentration and proper control of the stylus pressure are the key.
Final details and highlights.
At this final stage, I add highlights, especially in the eye and lips areas. For this image, I left the hair for last, since I enjoy painting hair very much and prefer to leave it for last, so that I can look forward to it while working on the other parts of the image.