I have just finished a painting in what I call my Black and White and Color style (quite a mouthful, I know, but I haven't put a ton of thought into it, so I am left with that rather cumbersome moniker) and thought it would be a good idea to show the progression of steps it takes for me to create one of these. To start with, I should mention that I work with Photoshop CS3. Because of this, I can work in layers which is why, in the image above, you can see the original sketch as well as the black and white image overlaying it. The original sketch is from my sketch book and is roughly two inches in height. I don't usually sketch that small in my sketchbook, and I don't know why I did it this time... just felt right, I guess. I enjoy working with the original sketch as a layer in Photoshop because it helps the image maintain the smooth flow and energy of the thumbnail. Once the sketch was scanned in, I started working on the black and white portion of the image.
I usually start with the main character... or one of them... and work down... or up... or over... I guess it pretty much depends on my mood and how ambitious I feel. In this case, I started with the witch on top. I was interested in seeing only the finished drawing of her, without any competition from the underlying sketch, so when I was done with her, I lassoed the rough sketch of her on the underlying sketch and deleted it. I then started with an area I knew was going to be labor intensive... the grass. When that was finished, I went to the ground and the moss hanging beneath them. I am pretty sure I was working on the sign when I saved the file because it doesn't look quite finished yet. The last component to be finished was the girl and her teddy bear off to the side.
The image above is the final black and white image. I know when it is done when I think it stands up on its own with no color. I changed only minor elements in the original sketch like the way the girl is holding the teddy bear. I thought having it swing out a bit more would help with the sort of flowing, dynamic quality of the composition.
I also varied the brush size as I worked so that the lead elements (like the witch and the little girl) are outlined in a thicker line (a size 6 brush, full black, 100% opacity), the ground is thinner (a size 4 brush, same stats), and the thinnest is the grass (a size 3 brush).
So here is the black and white image with the first color components added. To begin, I make a copy of the black and white image and set that as a separate layer over the original. I then create another layer and fill it with a uniform white color at 100% opacity. It is then placed between the original image and the copy above it. With that done, I create yet another layer and use the paint bucket tool to lay in a uniform color (in this case brown) with the opacity set at around 20%. This gives it a nice antique background that I can work with as I lay in the blue sky.
To paint the blue sky, I, again, work in a series of layers with low opacity settings as I build up the color until I arrive at a look that I want. I have no idea how many layers it took me to arrive at this final sky. Probably between a few and a lot.
The only brush I use while working is the airbrush at varied opacity settings and sizes. I guess I am an airbrush artist at heart.
The same process is followed with the figure of the witch with the exception that I first paint a middle tone at 100% opacity for the clothes, skin, and hair and then, with additional layers, paint in the shadows and highlights with the brush opacity set at around 50%. I like to paint the skin of the figures at the same time for the most part unless there is a reason for their skins to be different colors (like one character who spends a lot of time outside or is from a different geographical location where complexion is darker). It may sound like a lot of layers open for the image, but I am constantly merging them down and working on a fresh one so I don't wind up having a hundred-plus layers open at once.
Now that the witch figure is done to my satisfaction for the most part, I moved onto the grass, following the same process as the figure.
Now things are starting to gel. The grass is basically done at this stage as well as the little flowers scattered through it. I avoided painting it various shades of green by adding in touches of brown and using the eraser tool (the airbrush eraser to be exact, set at about 5% opacity) to lighten a few areas with some of the background color.
I have laid in the middle tone for the earth and used the eraser tool again to give the base of the hill a bit of a foggy look.
Also at this point, I noticed something about the arm of the witch that I wasn't happy with but figured I needed to let the thought stew for a bit...
In this image, I have finished the earth sections and have started on the moss swinging below. I am constantly asking myself if there is anything I have missed... how does it look? I turn it upside down and flip it every which way to give me a fresh look at it. At this point, it's looking good. Except that arm...
At this stage, I have finished every element with the exception of the little girl off to the side. Her hair is done and I am shading her dress.
So here it is! I figured out what I didn't like about the arm of the witch. The creases just didn't look right to me, so after fiddling with them a bit, I resolved to hike upstairs and check out my shirt in the mirror sitting in the same position as the witch. It was the fastest way to resolve the issue. So there, done, off to the printer