Under painting to establish the base light and dark structure
Since I had illustrated the cover of the game box, I had previously painted faces of the characters that I could use to get a start without having to paint them from scratch. I took my favourite value study, enlarged it to working size, and pasted these details in place. Now I block in the base structure of all the main elements in sepia tone to mimic my traditional oil painting technique. Basically, at this stage you block in all the light and shadow shapes in sepia tone as a value foundation for the painting. The main Photoshop brush I use is a chalk brush with an 'opacity jitter' brush setting. It gives me the feel of an oil brush (Fig.05).
Apply texture to break up digital look
At this stage I apply lots of texture information on top of the image to get lots of cool atmosphere and "texture stuff". It breaks up the smooth, clean digital look and starts to make the piece have more of an oil painting look. One way to do this is to load a texture into your brush using the texture settings. The texture I used was an old stained concrete wall I photographed on vacation. Place the texture on a separate layer above everything else and set the layer setting to 'overlay' or 'hard light', then adjust the opacity to taste. I then apply a layer mask to the layer and paint into the layer mask to break up the opacity more randomly (Fig.06 and Fig.07).
To make textures using a more traditional method I use illustration board, canvas or watercolour paper. Sometimes I gesso it first with a stiff brush to get directional brush strokes in the gesso. After putting a wash of a dark colour on the board, I tilt the board while it is wet to get drips and random texture. If you sprinkle salt onto the board while it is wet you can get some wild texture! That's an old watercolour technique. The outcome is a texture with drips and cool happy accidents. After it's dry, scan it in and use it as a greyscale texture.
Build up the base colours
I call this stage the "ugly" stage. I begin to block in the base colours to layout the main colour composition. In order not to lose my value relationships, I use 'color' or 'overlay' mode in my brushes to lay out colour quickly. Next, I block in the main body colours with a regular brush. I added blue in Ash's shirt, red on the chainsaw, orange in the background, and so on. I don't get caught up in making the colour too accurate since I will be layering lots of colours on top of it. Digital art is so wonderful in that you can undo, try something else or delete the layer if it's not working. I find it important to work the whole painting and not focus too long on one area. My technique is a loose building-up process where I can make changes as I develop the image, refining the shapes and details as I paint (Fig.08).