This image is part of a series of quick painting execises featuring "Lord of the Rings" characters. As a reference, I used a frame of the movie's DVD put on pause on a TV.
I look at the subjects for a minute or two, trying to absorb it's shapes, volume, colors and mood. After this brief time, I start loosely sketching the main shapes with a large brush with a 60% opacity.
I use a limited amount of colors, mostly the predominant colors in the subject. Very important at this stage, is to get all the shapes and volume right (or almost) before moving to any detail work.
Light and dark: With a smaller brush, and a very low opacity setting, I concentrate on capturing the subject's lighter areas. After the larger lighter areas are set in place, I might switch to an even lighter color and use it to sketch some of the brigthest highlights. Then, I move to the darkest areas.
Blending: Now, I switch to the brushes tool. This tool enables me to obtain a very realistic blending of the strokes. Also, I like its feel and its dynamics. It takes time to blend colors with the brushes tool, but I make sure each stroke is well placed. Concentration and proper control of the stylus pressure are the key.
Final details and highlights: Anyway, using a smaller brush, I start refining all the areas that need more detail, especially the main features, such as the characters heads and clothes. At this final stage, I add highlights, especially in the eye and lips areas.