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These are the steps I used for a piece called Amena Hurr.

Amena is copyrighted to Lucid Raven Productions, so no touchy, and no using the images here for character portraits. Got it?

rough sketch I did three rough concepts for the final piece.  The other two were more polished (I was having a bad drawing night or something - this didn't come out all that great) but this was the one selected. 

General idea was this was supposed to be a threatened character, holding her own but definitely not at ease.  I wanted to portray the danger she might be in. 

pencil 1 I changed the layout a bit because of the format of the card, which would be a rectangle with length on the sides, rather than up and down.  Having her holding the candleabra lower would have cut off most of it in the printed card, but having it held higher would give it a more interesting look than just the girl's face. 

The idea was to produce an inked piece and then use it to create a digital painting - it would be quicker to work on ink rather than undefined pencil (or so I thought).

pencil 2 Working on the inking.  The nice thing about inking is it makes you think about things - you can get away with vagueness with pencil, but when you go to ink something you have to get those details down.  I added the knife to give her a tough edge.  I don't like my chicks to be walking victims.  
Here is the inked version I used for the coloring.  I didn't want to have too much shading that would get in the way later. 
This is the inked version "pushed" to a final format.  I inked the outline of the circle behind her and then filled it and added the stars digitally.  I don't have the patience to fill that in with ink by hand.  :-P  Plus it's messy. 

I made the final inked version because I just really like black and white pieces - I didn't care so much if it would ever get used. 

So here's what we've got so far:

* I am working at 9x12 inches, 300 dpi. 

Color, first stage.  One thing I've learned is coloring on a white background is bad.  Fill the background with a neutralish value of the background you'd eventually like to put in, and then work over that. 

Yeah, this looks pretty awful.  My first color stages always seem to look horrible - I really have to work on it before the piece starts looking anywhere close to how I want it to look.  Maybe I'm a slow color learner or something.  The important thing is not to get discouraged and walk away during the first stage, or you'll never learn how to make it better. 

You can see the inked piece faintly under the color.  I had "cut out" the figure in the inked piece, tinted the lines from black to sepia, and reduced it to 20% opacity - just enough to make it show through, but it would still blend in to the painting and not look comic styled. 

I start coloring areas by blocking them in roughly. 

You'll notice the mirror image - I tend to flip the image periodically when I'm working on it, which is really easy to do when working digitally.  It "refreshes" your brain and helps keep you on target. 

Stage two, looking better.  For some reason I like to work on the eyes early in the drawing stage - it doesn't matter if I'm working in pencil or digitally.  I think the eyes make or break a piece - if they are lifeless, trying to finish the rest of the drawing will be a chore.  I like to get the eyes "working", and then match the rest of the face, and finally match the body to the face. 

I picked up on a highlight color - in this case a magenta pink.  The yellow candlelight would give everything a purple shadow (shadows will be the contrasting color of the light source), and the pink would be reflected from the dark red silk of her gown. 

I also emphasized the orange in her skin by adding transparent washes of intense color in layers.  I'd add the color, fiddle with the opacity, and then merge it with the base "skin" layer.  If I were more practiced in digital media, or had better color sense, this would probably be unneccessary, but I got the effect I wanted. 

Stage three - adding the hair makes a huge difference.  I made her a brunette because brunettes are highly underrated in fantasy art.  There are plenty of redheads and raven tresses, and blondes are always popular, but not so many brunettes.  

I've also started adding shading to the dress. 

Stage four - adding details like jewelry - also started work on the candleabra.  I fixed her nose, too.  At this stage, there's still some refining going on in her face. 
Stage five - close to the final stage before adding the background.  I added more of the blue highlights for the moonlight coming in behind her, finished the jewelry and began working on the fabric of her dress. 

I'm really proud of my candles - probably my favorite part of the piece is the candles.  I don't think the rest of the piece came out as well.  I also did end up adjusting the candleabra from the original inked version, which is crooked and not quite even. 


This is the final color version of the figure with no background. 

I wanted the candleabra to look like old silver, and in stage 5 it looked more like iron.  Adding some highlights made it look "shiny".  I also added more pale blue highlights on the figure.  I decided her finger was too long as depicted and changed the position.  There are a lot of finishing touches that a person might not notice, but help to make the figure "fit" in the scene.  For a while I'd just sit there and stare at it, trying to think about the placement of shadows and highlights.  There's a lot of time in those tiny details.  This is why stuff takes me forever to finish. 

Rough background test.  The figure is still unfinished at this stage, especially the lower part.
Background stage two.  Figure is still unfinished. 
Finished piece.  There you have it. 

If you have any comments/questions, feel free to visit the message board.

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