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The making of ‘Let it go’

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Date Added: 14th September 2017
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Aran Pirayandeh guides us through the creative workflow he used to create his watercolor style scene.


This is a personal project that I made in my free time. I was inspired with an idea when I started making a background painting on a rainy day. In this tutorial I will show you how to make a watercolor type illustration and I will also talk about composition, atmospheric perspective, and something?s about making brushes, etc.

In this tutorial I create a rainy day with pale colors, soft harmony and lighting that demonstrates the emotions towards the image that was on my mind! I tried to create centralization and got help from colors and composition techniques.

At the end I will talk about post-production and touching up tricks. I also share great notes that I learnt from my masters!

Step 1: Visual ideas, sketches and studies

My initial thought for this illustration was an Indian like girl on an elephant in a rainy village, they were leaving and the girl looks at me for a moment. So to get started I needed to search for these key words; elephant, girl, village, rainy, to get key visuals for each one. I collected references that were close to my concept in color, shape and similar to the main idea. I saved the images those showed me how humans sit on an elephant and some references for objects.

I did so many sketches of elephants and some sketches of the girl, from different views and some face studies. I do sketches on paper and use all kinds of references. After studying from references I started to hatch out my concept without looking at any images, this way I don?t get distracted and find my image is more individual.

My main sketch

Step 2: Watercolor background

For making a wet atmosphere and fog, I found my watercolor style useful. They are many ways of using watercolor effects, but for my background image I choose the wet on wet style.

To achieve this I went to the brush presets and loaded up the Photoshop Wet Media Brushes, I then picked the brush named Watercolor Fat Tip. I found this brush to work perfectly, just tick the Transfer option for the brush to get a wetter effect and to achieve a pale look use it with light pen pressure.
The rainy/foggy background where I used perspective guides

Step 3: Composition and space

Due to my illustration concept I separated the planes of the work and change the value of them from dark to light, this helps the image from two aspects, one of them is to create perspective and another is to create silhouettes.

Also to achieve a more effective and balanced composition I check my raw painting with perspective lines and the golden spiral guide.
Finding correct placement of objects and good composition

Step 4: Complete the painting

Using the reference photos and some other inspiration I created a color palette, they are in a sultry village so I thought the harmony of greens worked well and as I wanted to create focus on the girl and elephant I used the complementary color of green for some part of the girl?s and elephant?s body.

For achieving good harmony I had to add in some green steps and to frame the composition in a circular effect of colors I put some glazed touches of red around. Then I started to add final details to the image using the Color Picker tool on the skin and environment palette.

I started painting the base colors on my figure and elephant sketch and background with my wet brushes setup

Step 5: More about brushes

I did this painting using only the preset Photoshop library of brushes. Go to the Brush Preset and turn on the Wet Edges check box and you can use it with any kind of brush.

Also you can choose Wet Media Brushes from the dropdown menu and manipulate them to get your own special water color effect. In this step I use some square and calligraphy brushes with Wet Edges box checked to complete the scene and do more glazings!

With the opacity set on a low percentage I add layers of details

Step 6: Details, fog, lights and rain

Slowly I painted all the details, complete the lighting and add some fog between the layers to separate them and also make that wet day wetter and more sultry.

Remember in this kind of rainy day, because of the clouds in the sky, it seems like the sky is a really big soft box, so all the shadows are smooth and soft, and our light source is at the top. So I emphasized the light of the top of the objects.

I made a brush for the chain with the spacing option in the Brush Tip Presets and bend it with Warp tool.
I added some cool and white touches to show the drops of the rain, wet skin and many other things to help to improve the image. Finally I painted some more rain drops and added Motion Blur to them.

Adding in final touches to draw focus to my main character

Step 7: Post production the image

At last I corrected the contrast, lighting and colors, and make the image more attractive using image adjustment tools and blending modes. I added some subtle details ? especially to the figure, I added a middle gray layer with noise over all layers and under this layer I made a copy of my painting and added a High Pass filter to it and changed the layer blending mode to Soft Light to get a sharper image.

The final adjustments layers

Top tip: Wet media brushes

I have found so many interesting brushes that I can make based on this brushes to get the watercolor effect.

Drippy Water (number 9): Select it and turn the Wet Edges checkbox on, turn Scattering off, turn Color Dynamic on and set the Control to Pen Pressure. Then change the background color to white and the foreground color to whatever you want, and now set the brush mode to Multiply.
I really Love this brush which I manipulated based on Photoshop?s own brushes

Related links

See more from Aran Pirayandeh by heading to his website

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