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Illustration

Create Epic "Man Of Steel" Fan Art in Photoshop

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Your initial sketch is one of the most important elements of a digital illustration or painting. Your initial sketch will set the tone of the rest of your artwork so it is important to get it right. Every artist has their own method of producing a sketch. Some artists sketch from memory, some sketch from a reference. In this tutorial, we will show you how to use a grid to help you sketch from a reference image. We will then show you how to turn that sketch into a realistic-looking "Man of Steel" inspired digital painting that conveys the same feel and intensity as the official promotional material of the movie with the addition of some strong lighting and motion effects. Let's get started!


Speed Painting Video

See how this painting came together in this amazing speed painting video.


Tutorial Assets

To complete the tutorial you will need the following assets:


1. Reference and Grid

In this painting, I referenced a promotional image from the “Man of Steel” movie. I used a grid to help me match up the proportions of the reference image to help me produce an accurate sketch to start with. Once the sketch was done, I began to paint it to bring it to life.


2. Background

Step 1

Once you are happy with the refined sketch, create a New Layer underneath your sketch and title it "Background Rough"

Step 2

Rough in the background with the Hard Round brush on a medium Opacity (around 50%). Don't be too fussy with the details at this point as the background will be very minimal at this stage to keep the main focus on the figure.

Note where the Horizon Line is as you rough in the mountains and scenery.

Step 3

Create a New layer and title it "Background detail 1".

Step 4

Add more rough detail into the background, switching now and then to the Textured Round Brush from Rahll's Brush pack to capture some of that rough snow around his feet and around behind him.

Step 5

Command/Ctrl + Click all layers in the Layers Window regarding the background, and Group them all together (Command/Ctrl + G). Name the Group "Background".

Keeping them organized makes it simpler to find them again when you need to go back later!

3.Base Color

Step 1

Create another New Group in the Layers Window, this time titled: "FACE". All layers regarding his face and head will go in here.

Step 2

On a New Layer, paint in the base tone for face with a fairly neutral skin color.

I've used #e5c7bc.

Step 3

Make a New Layer over the Face layer, and title it "Hair". Block in the Hair base with a dark color, but try to avoid using solid black (#000000)

Instead, I have used #181212.

Step 4

Create a New Group underneath the "FACE" group, and title it "BODY".

Step 5

On a New layer, titled "Base"- paint in the entire body, cape and all with a dull blue tone: #142f4d.

Step 6

Now Command/Ctrl + Click the "base" layer to Select All.

Step 7

From here, make separate Layers that will cover the red portions of his suit, such as his Boots, Cape and Symbol. Fill them with a Red.

I've used #852028.


4.Basic Toning

Step 1

Go back up to the FACE folder. Command/Ctrl + Click on "Face" layer to Select all.

Step 2

Begin toning the mid-tones on a New Layer with a Hard Round Airbrush.

Step 3

Create a New Layer for the eyes, and title it "eyes".

Step 4

With the Ellipse Tool (U), hold down the shift key as you drag the shape, making a perfect circle.

Fill with color #47493e.

Step 5

Duplicate that Eye Layer (Command/Ctrl + J), and drag it over to other eye (by holding Command/Ctrl) to get matching sized eyes. Then erase away where they sit over the eyelid with the Eraser Tool (E)

Step 6

Move down to the "base" layer in the BODY folder, and Command/Ctrl + Click it to Select All.

Step 7

Create a New Layer, and begin painting in the dark shades for that area with a very dark blue: #070c12. Again, try to avoid using solid black. Focus on the form and around the edges.

Step 8

On a New Layer above the "Cape" layer, paint in the dark shadows around that area.

Step 9

Add a New Layer over "boot" and add tones. Also add in some highlights where the light catches on the foot of the boot as well..

Step 10

Create a New Layer for the hand, and also paint in some shadows to that.

Step 11

For the 'S' Symbol on his chest, paint in the dark indents on their own separate layer.

Step 12

Paint in the blue outer edges of the Symbol on another layer. Then clean up edges of whole symbol with the Eraser Tool (E).


5. Skin Texture

Step 1

Move back onto the face, and create a New Layer for the Texturing, and further blending of the shadows. Start with the (15) Texture Brush from the "David Nagal Skin Texture Brush Pack" to put down the initial layer of texture first.

Step 2

Switch to the softer texture brush from the "Rahll Brush pack" (Speckeled Brush) to make finer/smoother skin texture; detailing more around the eyes and the ears.

Step 3

For the eyes, paint in the dark pupils, then add some shadows around the outside, and finally highlights.

Step 4

Use the Blur Tool to soften the edges and blend them into the whites a little more!


6. Hair

Step 1

Move up to the "Hair" Layer. I use the Round Blunt Medium Stiff Brush (a default Photoshop CS5 Bristle Brush) for more even streaks at this stage. Start painting in with the darkest shadows, making sure your brush strokes are angling outward from where the roots are growing from.

Step 2

Create a New layer, and name it "Hair highlights". At this point, there doesn't need to be too much detail. His hair is already pretty solid looking except for a few highlights here and there. Use the Textured Round brush set from Rahll's Brush Pack at size 3-4px, and an off-white color: #b9aca1

Step 3

On the same Layer, jump down to quickly paint in some eyelashes too.

Step 4

At this stage I am happy with the progress of the face and hair, so it is time to move on to the next section!


7.Suit Detailing

Step 1

Returning back to "cape" Layer, begin refining the edges and folds more with a Hard Edged paint brush, and begin working on blending the shadows further. Darkening some areas even more, and adding highlights along the sharper creases. Try to avoid using pure white at this stage, and work with a more reddish-white, such as: #ffe2e5.

Step 2

Once you are happy with the amount of shading on the cape so far, it is time to open our first Texture file, ('NoiseTexture.jpg')

Step 3

Drag and Drop the image onto your painting. Make sure it is sitting just above all of the layers regarding the Cape!

Step 4

We don't want to stretch or enlarge the image to cover the cape otherwise the "noise" effect will blur and pixelate too much. So instead we will be tiling it over the cape. Hit Command/Ctrl + J to Duplicate the layer.

Step 5

Drag the copied layer to the right (hold Shift to keep it level) and place it beside the original tile.

Step 6

Repeat, and drag the tile down this time. Keep duplicating the tiles until there is a large enough square of texture to cover the surface area of the Cape layer.

You can see how the texture is covering all the Cape are with no enlarging required!

Step 7

Merge all the texture layers together (Command/Ctrl + E), and set it to Overlay, and drop opacity to 25-30%.

Step 8

Command/Ctrl + Click on the base "Cape" layer to Select All, then Invert the selection by pressing Shift + Command/Ctrl + I. Press Backspace to erase all the excess texture sitting outside cape layer.

Step 9

Move back onto the suit. Like the cape, soften and define the tones further.

Step 10

On a New Layer titled "Cuff", block in the color and shade the cuff of his sleeve.

Step 11

Move onto the "Boot" and paint in some more tones and details, especially around his toe (where the sole of the shoe begins to turn upward). Also on a separate layer, add edges on the top of the boot.

Step 12

Define some more shadows and highlights on the "Symbol" layer, paying attention to where the light catches on the corners and especially along the edges.

Step 13

Create another New Layer titled "Suit Edges" and place it just above the rest of the Suit layers. Paint in the neat edges of the suit along the neck/cape line.

Step 14

When toning it, begin by painting in the darker tones first.

Step 15

Then add in highlights to give more dimension to the strips.

Step 16

Move onto the hand and continue painting in more detail and texture.


8. Suit Pattern

Step 1

Now it is time to add a Texture pattern overlay on the suit! But first we will need to create the mesh-like texture ourselves! Create New Document (File > New...) and use the following settings:

Step 2

With the round Elliptical Tool (U) make a single, small circle in the center of the document.
Stroke with a 6px Hard Edged brush.

Step 3

Duplicate the little circle you just created (Command/Ctrl + J) and put a little upwards and to the right of first circle. Then With the Crop Tool (C), crop the document right to the edges.

Step 4

Then select (File > Edit> Define Pattern...). Name your newly created pattern "Suit Mesh".

Step 5

Now with the Fill Bucket (G) set to Pattern, select the newly created pattern, and Fill a new, Blank Document with a Transparent Background with the pattern.

Step 6

Drag your newly created mesh pattern onto the Man Of Steel painting above the body "base" layer.

Step 7

With the Free Transform tool, warp the mesh around by the corner points to curve closer to the contours of his arm and shoulder.

Curving the pattern around gives it a much more authentic look as opposed to leaving it flat!

Step 8

When you are happy with the way the pattern looks, adjust the Opacity down to 87%, then double click on the Layer to open the Layer Style Window. Use these Bevel and Emboss settings:

Step 9

Repeat steps 57 - 59, working in the Mesh texture in sections until all the blue suit is covered. Group all the Mesh pattern layers together with Command/Ctrl + G.

Step 10

Here is our total progress so far! You can see now how the mesh we just layered in has reduced that shiny "plastic" look the suit was starting to show, and is now starting to represent more closley the new Man Of Steel costume design!.


9. Highlights

Step 1

Now all we need to do is finalize some more highlights throughout his suit! Create a New Layer over the body base (but underneath suit patterns) and title it "Suit Shine". This will be the new highlight layer.

Step 2

Paint in some soft highlights and shine on the blue part of his suit with the Speckled Brush.

Step 3

Do the same with the Boot on a New Layer called "boot detail" and refine some more highlights around it.

Step 4

Create a New Layer over everything else, including the Body and Face folders, and name it "Final Highlights".

Step 5

Begin by painting in the smaller highlights starting with an off-white blue: #e3fbff. Then begin to work in a bit of pure white: #ffffff along some of the outer edges of his left arm (our right) and shoulder.


10. Background Texturing

Step 1

Open the Texture titled "Icetexture.jpg".

Step 2

Select a portion of the texture with the rectangular Marquee Tool (M)
.

Step 3

While holding Command/Ctrl, drag and drop that selected portion over the top of your Background Layer.

Step 4

Right Click and select Free Transform.

Step 5

Move the texture down to the bottom half of the image, and stretch and warp it to sit on the ground plane just above his feet. Hold Command/Ctrl to individually move each corner. Hit Enter when it is done to finalize the object warp.

Step 6

Press Command/Ctrl + L to bring up the Levels Window. Drop the shadows down slightly and bring the highlights up a little for some more contrast to the ice texture.

Step 7

Also adjust the Hue/Saturation (Command/Ctrl + U) accordingly to bring out some more color.

You can already see the difference by adding in some color to the ice!

Step 8

Create a New Layer, and set the blending mode to Multiply.

Step 9

With a soft brush on a low Opacity (25%), paint in some shadows underneath the figure with a dark blue, Focusing a lot of the shadow underneath his body, and a little under his hand.

I have used #0f1b33


11. Reflection

Step 1

Now hold Command/Ctrl and click to Select All the layers regarding the figure (leave the Background layers). Click the Group icon in the Layers Window (or press Command/Ctrl + G) to put them all into one group folder. Name the group "Figure".

Step 2

Duplicate that Group (File > Layer > Duplicate Group...), and press Command/Ctrl + E to merge the copied Group into one single layer. Move the layer underneath the Figure folder, just above the Background Folder.

Step 3

Use Free Transform on the layer, and select Flip Vertical. Move your flipped Figure layer down and mirror it underneath the current figure like so:

Step 4

Use the Lasso Tool (L) to select some parts closer to where he is touching the surface, such as his Hand, Knee, Cape and Foot, and individually cut them out and drag them up so they are meeting.

Step 5

Drop the Opacity of the mirrored Layer down to 48%, and softly Erase away where the reflection begins to fade out with a soft brush eraser.


12. Ice Detail

Step 1

Now it is time to add a little oomph to the ground around his feet. Open up the Cracked Glass stock image ('Glass Cracked.jpg')

Step 2

Open up the Levels Window (Command/Ctrl + L) and adjust the levels as such to turn the grey into a more solid black.

Step 3

Make a rectangular selection with the Marquee Tool (M), and cut out and drag that selection onto the Background (underneath the "Shadow" layer).

Step 4

Use Free Transform and stretch/enlarge the Cracked Glass so it sits underneath him.

Step 5

Set the layer to Screen.

Step 6

Now duplicate the Layer (Command/Ctrl + J)

Step 7

Select Free Transform again.

Step 8

This time enlarge the layer even more, and stretch it downwards further.

Step 9

With a soft edged eraser, erase away a bit of the center so it is just the outer edges showing.

Step 10

Duplicate (Command/Ctrl + J) the Layer once more, and shrink to sit underneath hand this time! Now we have an awesome cracked ice effect to break up the solid ground underneath him and add a bit more drama to the painting!


13. Environment Effects

Step 1

Now we just need to detail the background layer a little more to sit better with the texture layers we just placed. Create a New Layer over everything but the "shadow" layer in the "Background "folder. Title it "Background detail 2" .

Step 2

Paint in some more snow and ice around the edges of the ground with the Textured Round Brush.

Step 3

Crete a New Layer above everything else in the Layers Window, and title it "Ice Spray 1"

Step 4

Now with the Hard Round Airbrush with the Opacity set around 90%, paint in some little streaks around the "impact zone" (where his hand and foot are essentially hitting the ground).

Step 5

Now select the left side where you just painted in the "spray" with the Lasso tool (L).

Step 6

Now give the selection a Motion Blur! (Filter > Blur > Motion Blur...) Angle the direction slightly to the left.

Step 7

Repeat steps 95 and 96 for the other side, shifting the blur direction to the right this time.

Step 8

Now open the Fire Works image ('Fireworks.jpg').

Step 9

Press Command/Ctrl + Shift + U to Desaturate all the color and turn it Greyscale. With the Lasso Tool, make a selection in the top right hand corner where the sparks are beginning to break away.

Step 10

Drag and drop the cut-out over your painting, and scale and stretch it to cover a large portion of the bottom half.

Don't worry about the pixilation or quality loss of enlarging the portion to this extent.

Step 11

Set the Layer to Screen.

Step 12

Add a Motion Blur (Filter > Blur > Motion Blur...)to that Layer!

Step 13

Drop the Opacity down to around 85%, and Erase away with a soft brush some areas where the effect is too heavy or obscuring too much of the figure, such as around his face and cape.

Step 14

Now open the Lens Flare image ('LensFlare.jpg')

Step 15

Finally, drag and drop the Lens Flare image over your painting and scale accordingly.
.

Step 16

Set the Lens Flare Layer to Screen and position the flare near his shoulder to give the entire image that authentic "Man Of Steel" poster look!


Congratulations! You're Done.

In this tutorial, I have shown you all the little tricks and techniques I use to create a rather intrinsic and accurate painting such as this! As you may have gathered, organized Layers and Layer Groups are quite beneficial for building up a piece that has many levels of tones, textures and effects! I hope you can take away this vital information and apply it to your own projects or just follow along for practice! Good luck!

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