The idea for this image came from a sort of "Blog War" where artists created their own version of their favorite character from the Game of Thrones TV series. In my case I found the mysterious White Walkers particularly interesting and I didn't know how they were going to look in the series. I searched for descriptions in the books, but even after finding them I decided I wanted to give the White Walker my own look, like a frozen highlander or something.
This tutorial has been written to explain the process of creating this character from the initial idea stage through to the finished illustration, covering topics such as techniques to add color, brushes and Photoshop tools. I make it easier and more interesting I've also included an eighteen layer PSD so you can see how the image developed, along with the main brushes and another PSD showing how I used color corrections to get the mood and tones for the image. All of these can be downloaded here
When it comes to creating a character or illustration there are certain things you can do throughout the creation process to help you achieve a better result. In my case they are mostly technical, but it doesn't matter what your style is or the level of your ability – tools and tricks are always good to use.
Here are a few of mine:
Flip the canvas horizontally, using a hot key, and then paint a while before flipping it back again. Do this multiple times.
Create a secondary instance window to have a small general view on the other screen if it is possible, or a corner if you just have one screen. This means you can use the workspace canvas with more freedom in the large window and see the results instantly in the small window. Doing this allows you to work on details and see how the general look of the image is developing in the blink of an eye.
Create the image in grayscale and use color overlays, which can easily be adjusted until you have what you're looking for. You can also use levels and balance to adjust the contrast and accentuate the lights and darks. If it is still easy to read in black and white then this will help to make the image work better. This isn't always true but can be a good technique to use if you are not looking for a specific effect or look for your image.
The Photoshop brushes are able to download on this tutorial for you have a look and use them, are some of my favorites.
One interesting trick is to paint color with a basic brush, like the ones in Fig.01 and then use a combination eraser tool to remove parts. This gives you instant textures and incidental shapes that can be interesting and cool. It is a good idea to use a different layer for this technique. Have a look at Fig.02 – 03 to understand it better. The noise brush is for removing and the smooth one for painting with color against a white background.
Starting the General Design
With a general idea of what I was looking for, I started to define the look of the character and a basic composition. For me it is sometimes interesting to start in black and white and then use tame tones to build up the blacks and highlights, just for designing basic ideas.
The idea for this image was mostly there already: a highlander or forest cave man, undead and with a crystal sword blended into the hand because of the cold.
In this case the Round Hard-Edge standard brush was used to construct the character (Fig.04).
Here I added more details to the whole scene and the character began to take shape. I thought about how the face was going to look and also worked on some clothing ideas. As you can, I flipped the image so that I could see it a bit differently and work from another point of view (Fig.05).