How to Paint a Sexy Girl in Photoshop
A step by step tutorial on how to paint a sexy female figure in Photoshop. You can also see my workflow, thought process and general tips on creating beautiful figurative art.
STEP 0: Setting up the workspace
I generally keep my workspace very minimal. I keep my canvas zoomed out and have my pre-made color palette in a separate window. I treat this window like a traditional oil palette and mix and pick my colors from this window. My main monitor, a Cintiq, was also my tablet. My reference image is on the second monitor.
STEP 1-A: The Drawing
I keep the drawing really loose, focusing on good gesture and rhythms. This gives the figure life and dynamism. I also begin to establish placement of the figure here.
Step 1-B: Drawing cont.
I further refine the drawing. Now I can focus on correct proportions and anatomy. Because I stayed loose in the gesture, I was able to retain the movement and fluidity of the pose. Satisfied with the drawing, I can now commit to a placement and composition.
Always, always, always take the time to make a solid drawing. Think of the drawing as the base, the foundation of the painting. It must be solid, working and well established for the image to hold up during the painting process. This is especially true in figurative work.
STEP 2: Color
I use my palette window to mix the colors in a traditional way. Limiting my palette and mixing this way will produce more ‘natural’ looking colors, ie. colors that exist in nature or that you get from tube paints.
Using a big brush, I apply color very loosely. This gives nice color variety in the skin tones and overall image.
STEP 3: Seperate the Lights from the Darks
I take a middle value of a color and block in the shadow pattern. This also establishes the light source and direction.
STEP 4: Define core shadows
Further separation of the light side and dark side. Pay attention to your edges. Generally core shadows on a figure have a firm edge. This the first step in ‘modeling’ the form.
Modeling means to turn the form in space. Lights bring form towards you. Darks push the form back. Edges define how the form turns in space.
STEP 5: Add darkest darks
Add the darkest darks. Go almost to black. This establishes the darkest value of your value range.
STEP 6: Lightest lights
Using a warm white mixture, I add the lightest light value. This will generally be the highlights. Go almost to white. The will define the the lightest value of your range. Defining the extremities of the value range will guide you in selecting values during the rendering stages.
STEP 7: Addressing the background
Well it has to happen sometime. I loosely block in the value, color and texture of the background. Again using big brushes and working loosely.
STEP 8: Modeling the head
Since the head will the be focal point, I begin to model the head. Focusing on accurate values and edges will give the forms of the face dimension, life and believability.
STEP 9: Modeling the figure
I refine the figure, esp. the torso. At this stage I also decide to make the stripes a light, cool blue instead of a dark warm color. Staying loose and flexible allows me to experiment.
STEP 10: Modeling the hands
I begin to model and refine the (right) hand. I also address the value of the arm going into the hand. Again, focus on correct values and edges.
STEP 11: Modeling the hands cont.
Refiining the (left) hand. Because the palm and underside of the fingers are visible, I make sure to use a lot of reds. Edgework is critical in making the small forms of the hand turn in space and be believable.
STEP 12: Final details
I refine the edges in her face. Add highligts in her hair. I also intergrate the hair and figure into the background. I also crop and adjust the composition.
A detail of the hand rendering.
STEP 13: Final image
OK as you can see the image had been flipped. Throughout the process, I constantly flip the image both horizontally and vertically to check for mistakes and make sure the composition works. At the last minute I make the decision to flip the image becaue I felt it worked better and was a stronger composition.
I also went back and refined the color and value in the head. Adding more saturated color and contrast draws the eye to her face. I also add the final details in her clothing and necklace and further refine edges throughout the image.
Detail of the head rendering.
*Post Mortem – my process and general tips on digital painting*
1. Brush Setting
80% of the time I work with the basic hard round brush at these settings:
- 100% opacity
- “<em “>Other Dynamics” set to “Pen Pressure” at 0% “Opacity Jitter”
This stroke gives me a lot of variey, control and simulates the oil painted look.
2. Work ‘Zoomed-out’ and stay zoomed-out
I generally work as zoomed out as possible. This simulates standing back away from the painting. This allows me to see the image as whole and focus on good design and composition. This ensures that the image ‘reads’ well at all stages of development.
I also use very big brushes. I try to use a brush that seems too big for the strokes that need to be made. This keeps the painting loose and adds a lot of color variety and life. My intention was to create a work of art with a ‘painterly’ look, so using big brushes and big brush strokes helps create that feel.
Whenever I get in trouble or get stuck during the process, I know it’s becuase I am looking too closely at the image. This is one of the pitfalls with working digitally, the ability to infinitely zoom into an image. If I work too zoomed in, I get lost in the small insignificant details instead of focusing on good design and the overall image.
Whenever I get stuck, I can always correct myself by standing back away (zooming out) from the piece, go back to big brushes, and then coming back in to refine areas where I want the viewer to look.