So far the Photoshop file has been divided into three layers: the background, the gradient and the character himself. Continuing on the character layer I start to use a grayscale palette to work on the skin. This is so I can focus on the tonal range, but I also want him to have very pale and lifeless flesh to create a ghostly, non-human appearance and a suggestion of the undead (Fig.07). Although pure coincidence, I really like the expression in the thumbnail (see inset). It suggests to me a look of sorrow, or some forlorn hope which I really want to capture.
Part of the reason I've painted the skin in black and white is that I can overlay a color, retaining the tonal values but with the option of making hue changes at any point during the process. In Fig.08 you can see a dull ochre color on the left, set to Normal mode, but when changed to Overlay (see right inset) it adds a certain glow, whilst maintaining the ghostly quality.
In compliance with the bottom-left thumbnail in Fig.03, I've added the character's left arm (Fig.09). You can also see at this point the layer structure on the right-hand side palette, with the separate color overlay for the skin.
I notice here that the figure looks a little wobbly on his feet, so I rotate him slightly to make him more upright (Fig.10). I also add some fancy brocade around the sleeve and torso to add some interest, and start to form some of the folds in the robe, all of which is done on the character layer.
Building the detail
At this point I am starting to realize that because I have used my thumbnail as a starting point, which was obviously done quickly and not accurately, I have transferred many of the problems across to my final version; namely the proportioning. Not only does the character look very tall, but the rib cage looks too low down, and his left arm is also too long. Sometimes having these exaggerations can help a design, and in this case the small head and long arm does somehow lend our vampire a creepier presence. In fact, a smaller head is often a good device to make a character seem more heroic and portray a sense of power!
However, I have decided to squash everything up a little, which I do using the Edit > Transform > Scale tool. I duplicate the right arm, and on a new layer move it to a better position, using the Eraser Tool to blend it in with the original layer before merging the two together. In Fig.11 you can see the original position highlighted in red and how it has been altered.
With the anatomical proportions improved I start to work on some more detailing, namely fixing him on the ground. I consider the idea of having the robe hide his legs, or making the bottom part of the painting dark to create the impression of him floating, but I settle on some boots, along with a small decorative element to his robe (Fig.12). I add another gradient to make the bottom part of the painting darker, which also emphasizes his skin color.
I've been moving the robe detail around but it never really seems to work until I place it at the top of his left boot, which immediately feels right. I've also added another small focal point to the bottom section of the picture.
One other part of the design which has been causing me some problems is the hands, which look rather too symmetrical – as though he is sitting on a throne. I've thought about the nature of vampires and their reputation of being able to charm and seduce their victims, and so I've decided to change his left hand to a more beckoning gesture (Fig.13).
It's always good to have a distinct lack of symmetry in your characters to make them more believable, but in Fig.14 you can see that the naval is far from being central to the torso and head, and looks awkward as a result.
I alter the shape of the hair, making it less bouffant, and I add some length and highlights on a different layer, just in case I want to reverse it or leave it short (Fig.15). You can also see that I have created a new layer called "eye color”, which is set to Overlay and shows the red tint around the eyes.
You will have noticed that the background color has changed throughout this tutorial, which is the advantage of keeping it separate to the character. You may wish to change the tonal values etc. – or in this instance add some textural detail in the form of a blood spatter (Fig.16). I created this custom brush a while ago and thought, with some subtle use, could prove appropriate to this particular painting. I added a new layer for this effect.
The painting is almost complete now, but after having altered the right arm and hand it has since seemed inconsistent with the other one. The thin wrist and angle of the forearm does not feel right and again mimics the thumbnail too closely. After using a mirror and some careful posing, I decide on a different gesture, the result of which can be seen in Fig.17.
This has been a fun project as I have never painted a vampire before and more particularly because I did not have a clear idea about how he would look before starting out.
It's interesting to see how an idea or feeling evolves during the painting process, and you will have noticed how the character has transformed during this tutorial. There are aspects which perhaps do not follow strict rules, such as how the robe fits around the body (I am sure some fashion experts could point out some of the problems to me!), but from an artistic perspective I like the flow and rhythm it has created.
The boot design and hand gestures have certainly been improvised along the way, and the fact that one sleeve is torn and ragged compared to the other was also unintentional. However, part of the fascination with anything creative is the fact that it can suggest its own direction and surprise you on the way!
Here is the final version (Fig.18).