The painting process was a bit rudimentary - I'd divided the picture composition into a few layers in my head and I began to recreate them one after the other. The first thing is always to create the moo; to see and get the basic color gamma of the artwork so you can see where you are heading to. I took the thumbnail that I'd already made for the painting and put a layer or even two on top of all other ones, filled with solid color. The main point is that on this layer I was able to paint whenever I wanted with different colors and to have more color variation and full control over the mood of the painting. When I do this I always put the layer on Overlay mode, or in some rare cases on Soft Light. There is only one thing to remember - if you use this type of technique you will actually have to paint under this layer with very desaturated colors (Fig.05 - 06).
After that I began with the main part -the rock bridge with the Prince of Persia game logo. I repainted it over the thumbnail with a hard brush, blocking all the main volumes in properly and then I made a selection of the painted part. Here I used a bit of a darker or lighter color (depending if I was painting in the shadows or on light parts) with the rock brush in order to create some kind of a texture on it. After that I picked the Hard brush and painted all the small details, like lights, by hand on a new layer, using only the eraser to blend them properly.
In Fig.07 you can see the painted part of the foreground with the sketch still visible on some places underneath it.
I had the initial composition from the thumb, but after I'd finished the first step, I made a composition check and changed everything that needed to be altered (the Liquify tool or just the usual Distort tool came in handy when I did this). For this image I decided the use the Rule of the Thirds (Fig.08), which is most commonly used in photography, instead of Golden Ratio composition. You can always refer to Wikipedia for some basic info if you feel a bit unsure:
• Rule of Thirds: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_thirds
• Golden Ratio: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio
• Composition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composition_%28visual_arts%29
One of the things that I had to keep in mind was that all the effects and particles in this image had to be animated. So I kept doing careful checks to make sure all the layers blended smoothly with each other (Fig.09).
After I was done with the focal layer, I began to work on the foreground. It is always good to have some stuff near the camera. It does not matter if you going to use Depth of Field or not. This is something that always gives much more depth to the whole scene (Fig.10).
After I was satisfied with the overall result I did a small pass of particles, smokes, etc., on top of the whole image. This is something that added a lot of atmosphere to the scene. And, of course, color corrections - this is the most important step. Giving precise color corrections to the whole image can lead to amazing results or can even lead you to scrap the artwork totally (Fig.11 - 12).
Fig. 12 - Click to Enlarge
Final Tips and Thoughts
1. Always spend some time making thumbnails or basic sketches, before you start! There are tons of artists who jump right into the painting and from time to time this does not lead to particularly good results. It could be thirty minutes to one hour of thumbnail sketching, but take your time and do it.
2. Check you composition at least a couple of times. Flip the image if you feel unsure - flipping the image will help you see mistakes and will allow you to see your painting from different angle.
3. Avoid having a lot of edges, or points at one spot; this leads to a small compositional mess.
4. Have a distinct foreground/background separation. You can always make it less visible at the end, but the other way is more tricky.
5. Check your light sources and spend some time looking at as many references as possible.
6. Details are essential!
7. Have a grayscale layer, put on Color mode, on top of all other layers. Turn it on from time to time and check your picture depth and balance in grayscale.
8. Never be afraid of changes.