Before I started working on this image I studied thousands of fashion photos to get the right pose and lighting for my character. I also looked at some Renaissance paintings to better understand the fashion of that era - this information was particularly important for the character's hat.
My original idea was to create a kind of vintage, classic, painterly portrait. I tried to apply a classic painterly effect to the whole image, to enhance the fine art feel, through the post-production work done in Photoshop; lighting adjustments, color correction, and the addition of some objects, such as the choker with a cross and the earrings.
I created the original character a while ago (Fig.01). I decided to use her again for this new concept, improving on the original by changing her clothing, hairstyle, and giving her a hat. The first version was too empty, too simple, but I saw something of God's light in it that I loved and wanted to take forwards into another project. I think it's her face and her sparkling eyes that made me want to keep the character and use it again.
As you can see from the final image I haven't used too many colors or different materials for her clothes - there were just four materials used to clothe her (not counting the jewelry).
I'll start things off by giving you a detailed description about the head of the character. I created the whole head in a traditional way: using two reference photos for the front and side view of a female head, modeling only half the head (and body) and mirroring it across to the other side, attaching the two halves using the Join tool in Blender. I then divided the whole model - including the body - into different parts to unwrap for the UV map (Fig.02).
I divided the whole model into face, limbs, torso, ears, top eyelashes, eye (bottom), nails, and lips. I used different materials for different body parts; the torso, limbs, and face were given the same materials with different textures - multiple materials on each object - and the lips were just another material, just like the eyelashes, the bottom of the eye, and the nails.