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Speed paint a sci-fi forest scene

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Date Added: 27th February 2018
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Amir Zand uses Photoshop brushes to speed paint a hunter and his mech in a forest scene, with particular attention paid to the color choices...



I wanted to do something different for this tutorial and use an alternative technique to achieve the final illustration. I will show you how I start painting using my brushes similar to traditional paintings to create shapes, textures, forms, and the details to reach the final result.

Before I get into the painting it's good to mention that I'm focusing on the overall illustration during the painting process, and while I have separated some of the steps so that I can explain them better, they happen to be created at the same time while I am painting.

Brushes / First touches

Before I start the painting, I would like to show you the brushes I used most on this one. They are Chalky, Spongy and texture-enabled brushes which I found and modified to fulfill my needs. I use these as both Brush and Eraser to create this piece.


Now for the painting itself, unlike the previous tutorials, I'm not sure about what I'm going to do, I just have this idea to paint a mech with its pilot, and the rest is just like an exploration. I'm trying to have fun here and do something in a short amount of time, so I start my artwork with rough brushwork to create a scene, working on a grayscale tone, focusing on the values and the whole composition first, adding the color to it later.


Making progress

I decide to work on a long-legged spider type mech. As I progress I continue to paint the ground and the background all at once as this is a very speedy process for me, and it's all happening together. As I make progress on the whole artwork, I apply the same level of details to every part. The layers are separated into 3 as I have the background, mid-ground (mech and pilot) and the foreground, which includes the whole ground area. The image below shows the progress of how I manage to paint with my brushes; as you can see on the background, I use my brush to create textures by adding and overpainting certain areas to add this traditional feeling to it, and if I don't like any part of it I just keep painting over it.


Composition work

Following the last step, it's time for me to refine the composition while painting it. As you can see in the image (A) I paint some trees using the shape tool and create a jungle scene in the background. Then I paint a silhouette of a character to have an idea of his position, and add a layer between the background and mid-ground using a radiant light to separate both layers (B). Finally, I correct the mech's position and add additional details which help to define the volume, like adding some highlights on the edges. I continually check the Navigator to make sure I'm happy with the composition.


Create textures

This step is about creating your own textures quickly while painting. It's easy to collect textures, photos, and references from the internet to use in your painting, but sometimes it's much more fun to create your own textures simply by using your brushes to paint and erase, using different tones to create variety. The image below demonstrates how I paint freely on my artwork using different layers, changing the Layer mode to Overlay to pop it up as textures. (A) and (B) are separated layers that I put in Normal mode to show what's going on, but they are actually painted in Overlay mode with 40% Opacity in order to extract my own taste of textures, as you can see in (C). It's a cool technique and I use the same process over and over while I'm working on this painting right to the end. It effects the coloring too. It will add a nice taste to the image.



As I reach the point where I feel good about my overall composition and idea based on my values, I bring in a different tone just to change the overall feeling of my image. It is also refreshing for my eyes to see the image with a new perspective. I always have a pre-coloring step; I use the same colors ninety-percent of the time when I start the painting in black-and-white. It's a personal taste.

For that I would Flatten my image first (it's not necessary to do that but I do it at this point) and use the Color Balance feature from the Adjustments menu. With this adjustment you can quickly add a tone. You have control of your shadows, mid-tones, and highlights. As you can see in the result below, I manage to bring some green mid-tones/shadow and mixed them up with some yellow highlights. There are not actually so many colors here as its feels more monochromic, but it will be a base for the next step.



Shifting the color mood

Following the last step, I add some additional details to the overall artwork, mostly focused on the ground and a bit for the pilot. But it's time to bring some new tones to it using the same technique as the previous step, by painting over in Overlay layer mode using yellows to reach to an early sunrise mood. Colors are playing a huge part on the overall composition and narrative, it is effective in connecting to the viewers' eyes, it's magic.

The colors that I use are the signature of my work. I'm a person who is obsessed with colors and different tones as it appears from my personal paintings as well, it's my main playground! I love to play with colors to reach different scenarios and different atmospheres, as I mentioned before, especially here where I'm trying to be free and explore different things.


Compare it to cooking. Colors are the spices and flavors that you add to your food! Not only adding a hell of a taste but also adding so much to how it looks! So please add it to your dish and remember spices are tasty but adding too much of it also ruins the taste and its look! Be careful not to ruin the composition!

continued on next page >

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