7 days of PS Actions, graphics, templates & fonts - for free!* Unlimited asset downloads! Start 7-Day Free Trial
FREELessons: 15Length: 1.5 hours

Next lesson playing in 5 seconds

  • Overview
  • Transcript

4.1 Painting a Grayscale Base

Now that we have a clear understanding of how we'd like our painting to look, it's time to get started by creating a grayscale base. Using the thumbnails we created earlier for reference, this base will help us to establish the core lighting scheme before moving on to color.

4.1 Painting a Grayscale Base

Hello and welcome back to surreal digital paintings. My name is Melody Nieves, and this is lesson 4.1. After all that planning and experimentation, I'm officially ready to get started with the final painting. In this lesson, we'll create a grayscale base to establish the lighting scenario exactly like our previous thumbnails. The beauty of creating thumbnails is that I now have a proven method and system for each stage of this painting. I know exactly what I need to do and as long as I follow the same steps I should get a result I'm happy with. Just like before, it's important to tackle the lighting setup first. I'll do this by carving out the shadows in grayscale which is a common technique that many digital artists love. Begin by making sure you have the references you need. The images are close by of course but in the same window. You should also have the file open of the grayscale thumbnails. Remember to make sure you are referencing the right one, because we did try out two different scenarios. Add a new layer to your painting and choose a light gray color from the Color Picker to fill the layer, using the Paint Bucket tool. Create a layer above it, and set it to Multiply. Hit F5 to bring up the Brush Panel and select the hard round pressure opacity brush, making sure that both the opacity and flow are set to 100. We'll be using this flexible brush for the majority of this painting. Hold the Alt key to switch your brush to the Eye Dropper tool so that I can pick up the gray color from the background. Because the blend mode of the layer is set to Multiply, the color will automatically appear darker because it's being multiplied onto the canvas. Start shading the background first. In order to turn that gray color into a darker shade. Just hold the Alt key over the new shade you just painted, and pick up that color instead to begin painting shadow. Fill in the background completely so that there is a stark contrast between the background and the closer details. Use the Eraser tool to lift up some of the shadow to create a nice gradient effect. My goal here is to work from the darkest shadows first and move upward in shade. So if you feel the need to add darker shadows in feel free to do so. Now let's add some shading for the female subject. Again, I'm starting with the next areas in line that I assume to be darker in shadow. Unless you have a really powerful light source, the neck is typically always in shadow, so that's a good thing to know. You'll see that as I paint these shadows, her face immediately pops forward which is exactly what I want. As you move on to the other parts of the painting, try to get the big atmospheric shadows in first. Start off with a large wash of shadow before trying to get those darker ones, that are usually created when an object is directly on top of another one. We have plenty of time to tackle the smaller details, so don't forget to really set your subject into the scene. One of my favorite parts of this painting is her hair. And this step is crucial for getting that beautiful, realistic shading. The key to punching those curls forward is to paint the darkest shadows first. Paint on the sides of her cheeks to push her face forward even more, then move on to the curls. And painting the curls is much easier than you would ever imagine. Focus the shading directly underneath each curl, after all, this is where the darkest shadows reside. All I have to do is paint a few quick strokes underneath each section of curls that would be wrapping forward. Leave the actual curl that's facing you alone because we're using the light gray background as our mid-tone value. Continue this for the rest of the hair. As you slowly transform it, each section of curls has its own beautiful shine and silkiness that I absolutely love. There are so many details to this painting so make sure that you jump around every now and then. We don’t want to lose our own potential for a great realistic piece. And by jumping around you give your eyes a fresh take on a new section of the painting. Take advantage of your resources because the references are ultimately here to help. Yes, some of the tones, values, and lightnings are completely different. But, if you just try to absorb the general structure of each detail you'll be able to transfer the lighting nicely. And even though we will have this light source at the bottom, it definitely doesn't mean that the shading should be inexistent. The light doesn't completely wash those details out. So it's important to get the right shading in, so you can project that magical 3D vibe from the foreground elements. Start at the bottom left corner where the light source begins, then move outward. With all of the shadows painted in, all we need now is the light. Create a new layer and set it to the overlay blend mode. I originally wanted the lighting for this painting to be kind of dimly lit, so keep this in mind, when painting more light. You want to avoid darker areas so that the light scheme still makes sense. And only paint on top of the light gray color in order to make the details super voluminous. Continue adding more light to really pop this painting out and make it more 3D. Now all the details have a beautiful shining quality to them. Let's take a look at the evolution of our lighting scheme. Turn the visibility of the layers off to reveal the original background. See how quickly it became more realistic looking? With the base all set, it's time to transition to color. So, join me in the next lesson, where we'll use layer blend modes to add color to this surreal digital painting.

Back to the top