A first look at digital painting

Digital Painting, this simple word sparks all kinds of crazy images and notions to anyone interested in gaming. I happen to be pretty fond of it as well (although I still prefer traditional mediums) and like to paint ideas and concepts, or simply pretty pictures.In this tutorial I’m going to show you how I achieved this image, which looks good without requiring too much time and skills.

This tutorial was written for those with some basic knowledge of painting softwares. If you do not understand this tutorial, or cannot find the tools I mention. A basic search should answer your question. If you’re really stuck, feel free to contact me.

6Disclaimer: Now let me clear things right away, there is NOTHING that can replace skill and practice. No fancy graphics tablet, expansive software or even digital rather traditional mean is going to improve your results. The skills you need to acquire first are observation and sketching, light and shadows, once those are understood your paintings will improve on their own.

1.Tools and sketch

This painting can be achieved without spending money on fancy equipment, however if you are serious about it I recommend buying a graphics tablet, it really speeds up the process and makes it more pleasant and natural. Any cheap tablet will do, my personal choice is a wacom bamboo, which is really cheap for an excellent quality product.
As for software anything somewhat serious will do, I use photoshop because I’m used to it but free alternatives like Gimp will work just as well.

My last recommendation which is for me a must have is IrfanView (link). It is a wonderful, easy to use and completely free software. I use it mainly for resizing, cropping, brightness/contrast tweaks, and a few others things which it does really well and fast, without having to search through an endless amount of menus.

Right, now let’s get to work!

Whenever I make a digital work I start with a paper sketch. I find the digital tools absolutely horrible for sketching, and I happen to like keeping some of the paper version on the finished digital piece. However if you feel comfortable sketching on a computer go ahead, all we need here is a line drawing.


As you can see nothing really fancy, just a basic drawing with clean enough lines. Make sure your scan/photo is bright enough though.

2. First coat

Now that everything is within mouse reach let’s begin. The idea is pretty simple, open your image in the software, pick your colours and apply them in a nice uniform way on a new layer.

23. Isolating the line

For those who are using a paper sketch, open it in irfanview or something alike.
Make your picture Black & White (grayscale) sometimes some colours can sneak in your image and disturb the process. Then go to colour correction and turn the contrast all the way up, and adjust the brightness to get as many lines as you can without artefacts showing up.

You should end up with something like this.
34. Pasting the line work on the painting

Import your prepared line drawing on a new layer and remove its white background. (ctrl+alt+2 then delete in photoshop on a french keyboard)
If you don’t know how to do so with your software/setup, do a seach with the terms:
“how to remove white background in [software]”

Once the original lines are back on top it will look like more cartoony
4Note that also added a screenshot of my penguino game in the screen of the acrade booth. This step was simply done by erasing the inside of the screen on the sketch/painting layer pasting the screenshot on layer underneath.

5. Shading

Shadows and highlights are a very important part of any painting. They will add depth and realism to your image. This topic will be covered on its own in a separate tutorial.
The idea is quite simple here, take a darker shade of the base colour to make a shadow, and lighter one to make a highlight.
If you want things to look a little smoother like in this picture, use the smudge tool to blend in your shadows/highlights. Be careful though, this tool can make things look blurry if you abuse it.

Make sure you are painting/smudging on the layer you originally painted your colours, otherwise you’ll mess up the line work.
5The burn tool can also be used, once again with caution as it can seriously damage your colours (it was used on the floor in this example).

6. Finishing Touches

Finishing touches are completely up to you, in my case I wanted a bit more of an aged look so I took a picture of some coffee stained paper, placed it on a new layer on top of everything, and turn the blending mode of the layer on “overlay”.

That concludes this tutorial, I hope it was useful. If you have made a painting following it, send it to me and it might get featured here.

Now as a little easter egg let me show what this painting was truly intended for when I first made it.

That’s right, it’s the box art of my Pinguino game :D


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