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Making Of 'Under the Root, My Kingdom'

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Date Added: 12th November 2008
Software used:

The Story

To put this piece into context, I should talk about the story in which the scene appears. The story is from "Nausicaa and the Old Tree", a children's tale which has a sad mood and a very tough ending for the little girl, Nausicaa (but don't worry, there is hope for her). The illustration is of the only lit scene in the story; a sweet afternoon at the beginning of summer. We see Nausicaa seated under a huge root of "Vieille Branche" (the name of the old tree), on a flower bed, sun-kissed by a beautiful, golden atmosphere. By the way, Vieille Branche is a speaking tree and, in this scene, it's the last time Nausicaa sees him before he is crushed by heavy machinery. Before I go any further, I would like to add something about the necessity of this story. I'm a person who is unable to draw or paint without a story. I believe this is a problem, and I have resolved it by deciding to write my own stories. I feel that this way, an illustration can be given a soul and a reason, but it cannot be fully appreciated without being placed in its context. Now, we can go to discuss the preparations made for the piece...


I never work directly on my computer. I start by drawing a first, rough version out with my old traditional pencil onto paper (yes, it still exists) A first rough version (Fig.01), and then continue to finely detail the sketch with full texture and lighting (Fig.02). I know that this way seems to be a very long way to prepare, but I work this way because I love to draw - much more than painting, in fact. I then scanned the drawing and took it into Photoshop, using the "Photomerge" option to recompose the original drawing, working very largely at 34cm x 43cm. After that, I exported the image into Corel Painter IX.5 - my main digital tool.

Fig. 01
Fig. 02

About Painter

I know that Painter is not the most popular software for digital painting, but I haven't found an equivalent for the tools that I like to use, with those in Photoshop. I used the following tools; Round Oil Pastel, Digital Airbrush, Variable Splatter (airbrush), Soft Flat Oil, Just Add Water (blender), Grainy Blender, and Glow Effect (see palette-pic). I also used the Sidewalk Texture paper. My specifications for the Round Oil Pastel were Grain: 63%, Resat: 100, and Bleed: 13%.

Fig. 03 - Palette-Pic

Basic Colours

(Fig.03-05) What I love about Photomerge, in Photoshop, is the way it places the recomposed drawing directly onto a new layer. I set the layer to Multiply and started filling in the canvas using the Paint Bucket tool. I chose to work with a golden, brown colour to fit in with the story and the filtered mood of the forest. I also added a green tone, and that was all for the colours.

Fig. 04
Fig. 05

Fig. 06

The Lighting

In Painter, I used a Ryan Chuch method, so I don't want to imply that it was my own technique. It was very simple to do and even used a lot of my system resources as my picture was large (Fig.07- 11).

1: Firstly, I dropped all of the layers (Layers / Drop all).
2: I then duplicated the canvas (Ctrl + A / Ctrl + C / Edit > Paste).
3: I selected the Glow tool (in the Effects category) and then selected the colour (I highly suggest using a dark colour here).
4: I then set the tool as wide as I could, using it at its maximum. Then it was time to spread the light from the light source out to the darkest areas. Don't worry if the tool paints over your shadows.
5: I then selected the Eraser and erased the light from the shadowed zones that I didn't need. As I did this, I revealed the canvas and the original colours, without the Glow effect.
6: I could then add some interesting light reflections with the Glow effect, onto local areas, working with the Eraser again (and also playing with the opacity, too).
7: When I was ready, I dropped my layer, and my computer was happy.
8: The operation could then be repeated as much as was needed by selecting a particular region of the painting and pasting it into place. At every moment, I was able to play with the opacity of the layer to judge whether the light was too strong.

Fig. 07
Fig. 08

Fig. 09
Fig. 10


When it came to adding all of the details, all of my layers were dropped. I decided to blend the colours with the drawing on different areas. My own way of working can be very chaotic. I started with the bark, went on to the flowers, went back to the bark, detailed Nausicaa's face, worked on the flowers again, and so on. I also worked a lot with the contrast, too. The best way to explain my method is to give you some examples, depending on the subject I was working on.

continued on next page >

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Ross on Fri, 02 March 2012 3:57pm
This is an absolutely superb tutorial of great work, of a great subject! The first thing I was reminded of when I saw the pencils was Alan Lee. And that is saying a LOT!
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