In this tutorial Amber Chen will show you how to draw a beautiful young witch using Photoshop. Enjoy!
Author: Amber Chen
Concept and Sketch
For this Halloween-themed painting, I wanted to do a sexy pinup girl, and of course, Halloween plus girl equals witch! With my main subject decided, I considered her pose and the composition for the sketch, and meanwhile I also started thinking about other things that are associated with the holiday: jack-o’-lanterns, black cats, bats. My goal was to combine these elements without making the image seem overly crowded or busy. For the sketch, I created a new layer in Photoshop and scribbled out (my sketches are really messy) the basic idea. This is the sketch I ended up with, although it underwent some tweaking before I settled on it. For instance, I originally tried putting the bat wings on her hat, but I decided that they were too bulky and didn’t flow; I thought they would look cute on the cat instead. Also, her hands are kind of fudged in right now. Often I leave the exact details till later, as the sketch for me is just to get the concept sorted out. In this case, I will refine the hands in the next step.
I used to have well-defined line art in all of my paintings, but I got away from that some time ago. Every now and again, though, I feel that it would be appropriate for what I’m doing, and I decided that this was one of those times. So I started a new layer on top of the sketch, lowered the sketch’s opacity, and having chosen to go with very thin lines, I got to work with the default 3-pixel round, hard-edged brush in black with pressure sensitivity set to diameter. (If I want thicker lines, I use the 5-pixel brush.)
For my purposes, I only lined the things that had definite shapes; I skipped the witch’s hair–as well as her face–the cat’s fur, the straw of the broom, and the lacy part of her (sheer) top. And since the wings were attached to the cat, I actually left them off altogether for the moment, and ditto for the ribbon tying her hair. At this point, I also took the time to properly sort out her hands. On a new layer, I sketched them out a little more cleanly so that I could complete their line art.
Her left hand wasn’t too difficult, but I ended up photographing my hand (holding my tablet pen) as reference for her right hand.
Here is some of the line art at 100% zoom–my working size–so you can see the line quality. It doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect like a vector drawing, and in fact, imperfections and varying line strength give it some life and personality.
Here is the line art super imposed on the original sketch. You can see that I made a few adjustments, particularly in the area around her right hand, and I got rid of the decoration on the boots. When I flesh out the painting later, I keep referring to the sketch (it’s my uppermost layer) to remind myself what the face, etc. should look like.
Next I laid down the basic layers as well as colors for the painting. These layers go under the line art. Generally, I choose a dark base for most things except for skin, which I start with a light midtone. (I did start the orange parts with a midtone at first, but I later changed that while I was shading.) I made a new layer for each color, and some colors even have two layers for easier separation of parts. Otherwise, it was just a matter of using a hard-edged brush to fill in the colors. I set the background to varying gray tones as well to help me see whether I had painted each color all the way to the lines (dark gray for light colors and light gray for dark colors), and while I did my best the first time around, this is easy to touch up later.
Finally it’s time to give this painting some depth! Currently, the main brush I use to paint with is a custom round brush with jagged edges. I set both opacity and flow to pressure and turn up the angle jitter to maximum. You can try this yourself, but of course you should always use whatever you’re most comfortable with!
There are a few ways to easily paint each section. I used to use “preserve transparency” on each base layer. This allows you to paint only where already is paint in that layer.
Alternatively, you could create layer masks of the base layer–either on the base itself or on new layers–to constrain your paint.
However, I have relatively recently discovered a new love: clipping masks. The keyboard shortcut is ctrl/cmd+alt+g (and it’s in the Layer menu in the top toolbar too). It’s like a layer mask, but the mask is automatically set to the base layer below it. You can also have as many clipping mask layers as you wish. (The next one you make is set to the same base layer as the first, not to the first clipping mask.) Clipping masks make any touchups of the base layer very simple. If you find that you missed a spot, just fill it in on the base layer, and the clipping masks automatically fill in as well without your need to manually redo the masks.
I like to start painting with the skin, especially the face. It’s important when you’re painting (and I do this even during my sketching sometimes) to flip your canvas horizontally occasionally while you work. This makes it very easy to spot mistakes, as most people tend to skew their art either to the left or to the right. If it looks strange, fix it while it’s flipped, flip it back, and fix it again if you need to. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to the face, so when I’m working on a face, I mirror the canvas relatively often. Photoshop does not have this command set to a shortcut by default, so I made one myself.
Even when I’m concentrating on the face and skin, though, I still like to rough in other areas bit by bit. It gives me an idea of how the image will look as a whole so I don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees, if you will.
Along the way, I decided, at the suggestion of a friend who thought the breasts looked too pasted on, to alter the top of her dress a bit, a change which was done to the respective base layers.
By the way, feel free to use as many layers as you need for you to be confident. For instance, on her face, the eyelashes are on a separate layer as are the highlights. On the boots, the reflection from her skin is on a different layer from the main shading. This makes it easy for me to correct anything that needs it.
Meanwhile, as you can see, I had already started on the witch’s hair, which was the first undefined part that I tackled. For this painting, I divided it into a bangs layer, which went on top of the skin layer, and a braid layer, which went behind her layers. It’s easiest to start hair with a dark color and then layer lighter-colored strands on top. You should establish the general flow of the hair with dark and medium colors and gradually build detail on top with the lighter colors interspersed with additional darks and with smaller brushes. I also added a redder tinge here and there for a little bit of color variation. Here is how the bulk of the braid turned out.
Finally, with the default 3-pixel brush, I added wayward hairs singly on a new layer. A lot of them are taken from the lighter spectrum of the hair colors, but I also added some dark ones. Then I went to the Gaussian blur in the filters and blurred the layer very slightly; usually 0.2 to 0.4 pixels is sufficient to soften the hairs just a touch and get rid of the harshness of the hard brush.
The effect of adding these random hairs is subtle but helps add to the realism. Be careful not to overdo it, though, unless your person has really frizzy hair! Here is a bit at 100%.
The bangs went through the same process, and I added a mask to them as well in order to push them behind her right shoulder. I also lined and painted the ribbon in her hair going through the same basic steps as before. And the last part of the witch was the sheer top of her dress. I did a little image searching on the internet, looking at sheer, tight materials, such as pantyhose and lingerie, to get an idea of how sheer cloth behaves in regards to lighting and value. Using what I found, I finished up that part of her, including some black trim as places where seams would be.
As for the broom, the stick part of it was straightforward and done with clipping masks as previously. The process for the straw was very similar to that of the hair. Straw, though, doesn’t flow in strands the way that hair does, so I tried to make the individual bits of straw stand out alone more.
The last unlined part in this piece was the cat. The main body of the cat was done on a layer under the broom. The tail was done between the broom and the witch. Because it’s black, only the biggest, brightest highlights show up; there’s not too much detail in black.
On several new layers, I gave my cat eyes, whiskers and eyebrows, some extra fur along the visible edges so that he wouldn’t look too smooth and glowing eyes.
The original sketch had a trail of light coming from the jack-o’-lantern, and I added that now. The little stars were done with one of the default brushes that come with Photoshop; I just messed with the scattering, spacing, and size and angle jitters to get the desired effect with minimal effort. (You don’t need to paint each one individually!) This painting was not intended to have a background, but I didn’t think the wand’s glow worked with a transparent or white background for display, so I threw in a quick, messy night sky with clouds. In this case, I used the large default chalk brush and some Gaussian blur. (I’d actually like to go back and do a more polished background later.) One final very important thing, since I did this with line art and the painted layers are all under the lines’ layers, the lines show in a few areas where they are not supposed to. In particular, the witch’s hair and the scalloped edge of her top should go on top of the lines in places. I used layer masks to hide the lines where they shouldn’t appear. And with that, I was done!
Hope you like the explaination given, please email me your comments and queries. Thanks.
About the author
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