In this tutorial, I will take you through the process of how to create the Joker piece. This image was created from scratch entirely in Photoshop, although you should be able to obtain similar results with Painter. The brushes I used were fairly standard; a hard edged brush, soft edged brush, as well as a speckled one. A graphic tablet such as a Wacom Intuos 3 is highly recommended. Of course, the way I go about painting isn't set in stone; there isn't any "right" or "wrong" when it comes to painting, but I do hope you can pick up something useful from this tutorial.
I started this image after I finished watching The Dark Knight on Blu-ray. Although the image was very much inspired by Heath Ledger's performance, I didn't want to paint Ledger's version of the Joker, simply because I found that to have been overdone. Rather, I wanted to create something drastically different, but remaining true to the character at the same time. I opted to depict him as an almost vampire-like character, complete with an intact dead bat to enhance the mood.
Step 1: Sketch
Although there are many painters that skip this stage (some choose to start off directly with shapes), I highly recommend spending some time creating a sketch, especially if you're painting a figure. Start off with a layer and keep things loose. Don't worry if it's a bit sloppy (you'll see why in a bit). Alternatively you can also draw the sketch on traditional paper and scan it in, whatever works for you. When you're happy with the sketch, either create a new layer for clean up and delete the previous layer, or use the eraser tool on your current layer to clean it up; this will ensure you'll have very clean line work (Fig.01). It's recommended you work in very high resolution (300 DPI, at around 8.5" x 11" is ideal). Although we'll shrink this size down considerably, it's always good to have for future use. Save this file under 'Sketch.psd'' for future use. We're ready to paint!
Step 2: Colour Palette
Decrease the resolution down to anywhere from 72-120 DPI. This will force us to concentrate on the "big picture" without getting caught up with tiny details (this is also why we backed up the sketch file). It's a good idea to spend some time thinking about the ideal colour palette for this piece. In this case, I wanted a very dark theme, so I opted for desaturated blues as my main colour theme (Fig.02).
You can either have your colour palette in a new document or somewhere in your painting, wherever is more comfortable. When you're satisfied with your colour choices, begin by roughly blocking in a simple midtone on your painting (Fig.03). I'm working with a hard edged brush at this stage, with "Pen Pressure" set to "OFF" under "Shape Dynamics".
Don't be afraid to change a colour palette if you don't like the results. Try to find one you like early, however, as changing colours at a later stage is a pain in the arse!