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By Serge Birault
Web: Open Site
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Date Added: 13th October 2015
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Take a sneak peek into one of the chapters for Serge Birault's eBook for creating evocative pin-ups...

A girl in a Martini glass… a classic in pin-up painting! In order to keep to this vintage/old school idea, I will try to emulate (a little bit) an oil painting. So I have to mix the cartoony style of Bambi with a classical way of rendering.


Here are the artists who inspired me this time:

Gil Elvgren: He was, is and always will be the best pin-up painter. This time I will try to give Bambi an oil-painting like look. The tones that Elvgren used will have a great influence too.

Cartoon pin-ups: There are a lot of 2D/3D artists who do this kind of character. Andy Hickinbottom, Matt Dixon, David Dunstan, Rebeca Puebla and Shane Glines. Take a look at their work; it could be very useful.

The Sketch

As usual, I don't spend a lot of time on my sketch. The composition will be quite simple. I will probably do some changes, especially on her face (Fig.01).

Fig. 01

Colors and Lights

The light will come from the top left of the picture. I will try to emulate interior lighting, like a photo studio. In order to make it look like an Elvgren painting I will avoid shiny skin by keeping the contrasts low. The tones that Elvgren used are very interesting: a lot of red in his dark colors, especially on the skin, and a yellow base for the light tones. You will see that my palette is very simple and logical.

The Low Opacity Technique

In order to have an oil painting-like render I will try to avoid heavy use of the airbrush or Soft Round brushes this time. I never create custom brushes; I try to use the basic ones that come with Photoshop. They usually do the job.

The only unusual brushes I like are the Ditlev brushes.

A lot of digital artists use these brushes. Ditlev have done a great job!

The problem is always the same: how do you blend colors and paint good gradients? There are a lot of possibilities, but I think using very low opacity brushes (between 0 and 20%) is a simple and perhaps the most efficient way. Airbrushes with low opacity would make the image too clean so let's try to create a more painting-like look.

The Face and the Skin

I will change the face of Bambi a little bit. The last time, she looked a little like a vinyl toy. Her skin was very plastic and reflective. This time, I want her to look like a classic pin-up. I begin with a middle tone, a yellow/orange on a layer. I create another layer for the darkest tones (brown/red). Then, on separate layers, I paint the gradient by using a lot of strokes with low opacity brushes. I do cheat a little bit and sometimes use a couple of airbrushes, again with low opacity (Fig.02 – 03).

The eyes and the lips are on separate layers. I merge all the layers only when I'm happy with the result. I use the same technique for all the flesh tones in the picture.


Fig. 03

The Stockings

Elvgren had an amazing technique for painting stockings. I am going to try to emulate it. The darkest color is a very dark brown and the lightest is the flesh basic tone. It's quite logical, but he also used to add red tones between the two. So I do the same (Fig.04).

Fig. 04

Never do gradients that contain only two colors. Try to do it with at least three! Once again I add a lot of layers and merge them when I'm satisfied with the result. I do, however, keep two layers separate, one for each leg.

The Hair

The hair is probably the most time-consuming part of this picture. I use two very small Ditlev brushes (with low opacity again). For the end of the hair I use the same brushes, but I also use the eraser (low opacity again). The haircut is, of course, very much inspired by several pieces by Elvgren (Fig.05).

Fig. 05

The Glass

Glasses can be difficult, but there is a simple way to create them. First create a Multiply layer over the other layers. Then use pure black and basic Round brushes with low opacity.

You can find a lot of references on the internet to do with creating glasses, but the only rule is to do logical gradients. For the reflective parts use a very light color, but not a pure white. You can also use the airbrush to add little touches on the brightest parts (Fig.06 – 07).

Fig. 06

Fig. 07

The background and details (Fig.08 – 09).

Fig. 08

Fig. 09

I did some minor changes to the background colors and some of the missing part of the composition. There was nothing difficult here. The olive is very simple and you can use the technique we used for the glass for the reflection and the drop.

Minor Changes

I change the shape of the leg and do some adjustments on the light and the contrast. It's very useful to have each part on different layers (skin, hair, stockings, dress etc.,) so you can do your adjustments without changing the whole picture (Fig.10).

Fig. 10

It's done!

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