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Painting Mythological Creatures in Photoshop

By Matt Dixon

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Date Added: 30th June 2015
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Think about the mood and lighting you have chosen for your final image. What color scheme suits this best? I have chosen a cool color scheme of blues and greens. These colors are traditionally associated with the ocean and should support the nocturnal setting well too. Some complimentary orange hues will also be included to add interest. I’ll also use a unique accent color to draw attention to the sinking ship.

I block in a simple color scheme the same way as I lay in basic values. The value sketch is placed on a layer set to Multiply and I work beneath with a broad brush and opaque color. At this stage, different portions of the image can be colored on separate layers so that adjustments may easily be made if necessary (Fig.08).


Once basic colors are in place, the image is flattened and rendering can begin. I color pick from within the image, working mostly from dark to light within the established pattern of values. I want to ensure the form and shape of everything in the image is well established before I move on to the next stage (Fig.09).


Details are next. Charybdis is huge: small details will help to establish the size of her body without breaking up the large, simple shapes that give her bulk and weight. Teeth help to pull the viewer’s attention towards her head, while small details on the ship help it stand out better against the swirling sea (Fig.10).


Some subtle secondary light from an unseen moon helps Charybdis to stand out from the background. The raging sea is created with a combination of deliberate marks and custom brushes made from a simple scanned paint splatter. Carefully placed, these splatter shapes are a quick and effective way to add energy to the water (Fig.11).


Some final detailing and the addition of some stronger highlights completes the illustration. At all stages of the painting, I'm working with the full image in view so I can see how working in one part of the piece may affect another. Working up the image as a whole, rather than tackling portions separately, is a good way to help retain the balance established in the early compositional sketches (Fig.12).



Look back at the brief to see how it compares with the finished image. Every piece of work is an opportunity to learn, so this is a good opportunity to be critical of your work. What works? What doesn't and what could have been done differently?
I'm satisfied with my final illustration. It has drama, I think the sense of scale is effective and I'm pleased with the idea of a clear sky to show that the raging sea is the work of Charybdis.

The creature design is consistent with the brief and I think there's just enough human anatomy in evidence to be able to imagine Charybdis as a raging leviathan, or a tortured soul bellowing with frustration at being trapped in her hideously transformed body. I'd be curious to know how different it would have been if I'd taken an alternative route. I guess the only way to find out is to go back and do it again!

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