Stage 5: Blowing it up!
No, I don't mean with grenades! The time was right to double the image size to the final resolution. The next stage involved heavy refinement, which is when resolution really matters. I tidied up my layers by collapsing many of them and then renaming them appropriately in preparation for the next pass. Refinement is a very personal thing because some people prefer the sketchy look, whilst others like to see micro-fibres drawn with great accuracy! Whichever style tickles your fancy, it is important to forget about what other people think and continue until you are happy. The way I begin will often dictate the point at which I stop. If I am using textured brushes from the outset, I can often reach my goal early on and prefer to stop there in order to retain a life that is sometimes lost when refined beyond belief. However, I like playing with both styles - it just depends on my mood, or on a client. This painting was mainly a personal project, and I felt like adding a lot of high-resolution detail. It is a massive challenge to add detail at a high-resolution because the natural tendency is to start painting sharp edges when you are zoomed right in, which, in my experience, often looks unnatural and just does not work too well. So zoom out often, very often. Never lose sight of the overall look for the sake of detailing. At close range, the eye you spent four hours painting may look fantastic, but when you zoom out, there is a possibility it will unfortunately look awful and not contribute to the overall painting.
Also, at this point I decided to paint in a rough mask over Boudicca, so that I could separate her from the background. When I painted in the wispy high-resolution hair and edges, I could do so on a new layer and gave myself a detailed mask in the process. The advantage of this is that it gives you more control should anything need to be changed. Always consider that there may be unforeseen problems and prepare for them in your workflow. You will save yourself hours of work in the process. For example, if I had just painted the hair directly over the background as part of the same layer, I would have serious problems if it meant having to change either the background or the hairstyle. I was able to detail the background or colour correct it separately from the character when I wished to do so. It gave me an enormous amount of control and allowed me to make changes and experiment. When you are working professionally, it is even more important to incorporate such workflow enhancements.
After doubling the res, I proceeded to add further details on new layers. If you look carefully you will notice that she has no eyelashes, earrings, or other details that had to be added afterwards.
Here you can see how I kept her separate from the background layers. Working carefully like this gives you tremendous control.
Stage 6: Conclusion
After an image has been detailed, I like to flatten it, draw over it loosely to tie up edges and make sure that everything is blended and finished off properly. When I'm pleased with the result and there is no more painting to do, it's always nice to colour correct it and make sure that the mood is just right. Sometimes it may be worth considering a few final touches like subtle glows and highlights. They are very easy to add, so easy that it is also easy to get carried away with them. A subtle glow here and there can finish it off nicely though, so just create a new layer above the painting, set the layer mode to "colour dodge" and hit the image with a few accents. For me, the journey ended at this point, and I sincerely hope that you think it was worth it! Thank you for reading, and I look forward to sharing my experiences on future projects.
The final painting!