In order to give a clear example, I'll now focus on the hand of the rescuer. Firstly, I created 'layer01' at the bottom (Fig.06). Then I painted a rough shadow and added light to it with a normal soft airbrush, making sure to mix them well (here I picked the colours directly from the tree photographs to make sure the work appeared more realistic) (Fig.07a). Then I dragged a suitable photograph into the file as 'layer02' and changed the layer composite method to Lighten. This gave me an image with a charming perspective and a textured look (Fig.07b).
I kept working to get the whole hand like you can see in Fig.07c. But that was not good enough to me, for it seemed as though not to follow the environment. So I added another layer, 'layer03' (Fig.06), above the former ones and used it to do some small but essential adjustments, like identifying small reflections and defining highlights and shadows according to the direction of light (Fig.07d). (I always try to merge layers often; I learned this lesson with this image because with my increasingly large layers, my lovely PC almost crashed during the mission!)
Fig. 07a,b c,d
The following parts of the creation were finished in the same way (Fig.08), and they really cost a great deal of time! In the process, I kept avoiding paying too much attention to tiny details, but tried to focus on working on the entire balance of the whole picture. I find this to be important.
In the draft stage, the white light from the rescuer's eyes were more like stage spotlights (Fig.09a). However, with the painting going on, I found that the two strong cone shapes were going to damage the balance of the composition and weaken the mysterious atmosphere of the painting. So I decided to delete the shape of light and pay more attention to the environmental effects made by the light (Fig.09b). The whole canvas then turned out to be more harmonious. The bits that the light was cast on were painted with a Colour Dodge soft brush with different levels of opacity. This is an efficient way to render a bright-looking object in the dark (I learned this useful skill from Ryan Church). For the toy bear in the rescuer's drawer, I used a custom brush to finish the fur (Fig.10).
Fig. 09a and b
Finalising Who Is That:
The closer you get to the finished piece, the more careful you should become. All the main elements in the painting are being wrapped up, but even the smallest flaw may give the work a totally different look. By observing the work (Fig.11a), I found that the background was too noisy and knew that this wouldn't help the theme. So I painted a layer of dark blue to calm the sky, and the effect was satisfying (Fig.11b). I then defined the moon again and the lights of the city with a soft brush in Colour Dodge mode to add gems to the dark sky (Fig.11c). I also made a narrow path stretch to the hill on the right, in order to make a connection between the main characters and the background. Furthermore, I used a normal soft brush with 40% opacity to darken some outlines of the boy and his rescuer, to make a contrast with the charming light from the creature's eyes.
Fig. 11a, b, c
In the end, after cleaning up, I added several adjustment layers above all the other layers to look for a comfortable colour tone and contrast (Fig.12). I prefer the Colour Balance tool because it changes the different colours in a quite fine way. (I also suggest changing the opacity and layer method of the adjustment layers to look for special effects.) After getting a satisfying colour and feeling, I was finally happy to let the work go.
I hope you've enjoyed this making of Who Is That... and have found it to be somewhat useful. Thank you for reading! My spirit is always with the children that forget to go back home...