As I go through the painting process I keep going switiching to Photoshop, because of its outstanding adjustment tools and ease of use, especially with layers. Here, ( Image 5 ) I used Levels and Hue/Saturation adjustments to fine tune contrast and color. Sometimes I use adjustment layers so I can make localized fine-tuning.
During the process I don't have a clear idea of what the final image will be and so it is quite a sinuous walk until I get to the final painting. As you can see here ( Image 6 ) I tried to introduce a cathedral-like building and make the tree "fuller” with small branches. Even if you drop these new ideas, there is always something that is retained ( Image 7 ). That is one of the things I love about digital painting: its versatility to experiment various versions of the same image.
Between these two steps ( Image 8 and 9 ) the main difference is the texture. It can really make the image more detailed and finished. However, this step didn't take so long as it may look because I made use of a custom hose in Painter (I could similarly have done a custom brush in Photoshop) to do the vegetation. I believe that if you have the tools to make things easier (without making it look artificial) use them! It's not cheating in my book.
Something that really helps during the whole process is to seek criticism from the people around you, be it family, work colleagues or even your dog! Most of the time they do not relate to the image the way you do (especially the dog), and most of the time you are doing your paintings for other people to see and not for yourself. So consult the client often! Other ways to seek opinions are through online forums in the WIP sections. Although it's rare to get an in depth analysis of your work, sometimes you get some really cool tips, like the one to introduce some skulls in the bushes behind the trees to spice up the image.
While working the background elements, like the house and the sky I realized that the vegetation behind the tree wasn't really working because the silhouette of the tree was lost. The vegetation also created a strange diagonal that didn't help the composition. So, I decided to cut away some bushes and introduce a mountain ridge to balance the image and add more depth ( Image 10 ).
Back in Photoshop I introduced a warm haze to hint at a setting sun to the right ( Image 11 ). A new layer in Photoshop set to the Color Dodge blending mode can do wonders sometimes. For me it is the best and most interesting way to introduce light into a painting. This was the image I ended up posting in the forums in the finished paintings section.
Another big bonus of digital painting is that an image is never finished. You can paint over it as many times as you like because it will never deteriorate. So, several months later, I picked it up again and corrected aspects that were criticized in the previous finished image, mainly the building in the background and the girl ( Image 12 ). I reworked them and I think the image improved with these important modifications based on feed-back.