Epic Level Artistry Tutorial by Eric Quigley!

Freelance Illustrator Eric Quigley offered to do an illustration tutorial for a very interesting monster, just in time for Halloween! Click on the images below to view full size.

Monster Tutorial by Eric Quigley


Please bear in mind that there are a number of ways to go about painting an image. This is by no means the “right” one (in fact it’s likely the “wrong” one), but it’s the process I took to create this image. Even though my work is all done digitally I still find that it’s best to maintain more or less defined stages and build up the final in much the way I would do a traditional painting. My process isn’t one that implements what you might think of as “tips and tricks”. There is no one super duper technique that will make you a better artist- you must hone your skill and develop your basic abilities before developing your more advanced abilities. Rid your mind of the idea that there is talent involved and understand that if you do this you WILL get better at it. Skills must be learned.

1. The sketch!

The amount of time I spend defining a drawing is normally determined by how complicated it is, and who the image is for. If it’s a personal piece sometimes I can leave the drawing a little looser. More complicated images require more defined drawings or they could take a long time. Ultimately it’s important to plan ahead and have a good idea of what you’re going to do before you begin making things even more difficult with values and again with colors later. Remember- work now is time saved later.


2. No more white!

Above the sketch layer I made a multiply layer in Photoshop and dropped in a solid mid-tone gray scale value (50% gray). Then I applied a dual brush to my current brush and a scatter dynamic to quickly throw some variation into my values. Remember, all of this is just the base and will be painted over in the later stages.

You might find that it’s helpful to ensure that you get rid of all of the white on the canvas almost immediately when you start dropping values. Everything in a painting is relative to what you already have down. That is to say that ever value/color you place will look “dark” or “light” depending on what’s beside or near it. The reason I drop in a mid-tone at the beginning is to try and keep myself from sticking to lighter values by comparing everything to the lightest value and assuming it’s darker when it’s not actually that dark (because you compared it to white). Make sense?


3. Opaque layers!

Now I start a new layer and begin to paint opaquely on top. The idea is to try and start with the opaque paint soon enough to paint over most of your sketch lines by the time things get too far along. The values are still really light, but with this in mind I can drop them lower as the painting progresses. I’ve also made sure to keep him all on his own layer specifically so I can play with the values and paint under him quickly. Later I’ll drop him into the background and paint it all as one, but not just yet.


4. Keep going!

I just continue to build in gray scale. I’m not so sure about it anymore, but I use to think of this as still the drawing stage. Right now the idea is to plan for color and plan your main light source and shapes. Remember when you’re painting that a lot of this will be painted over, but the more accurate you can be the closer to finished you’ll always be. I wasn’t very accurate here, but I find that before I drop color in I have a lot of time to play and pursue my more painterly desires. Also, I was planning on making some tears in his skin, or maybe veins for later on. While I did start to add these in this stage I painted over them again because it wasn’t time for that kind of thing yet. Stick with working out your three dimensional forms early on more so than worrying about your details.

You might also noticed this image is mirrored now. This is something I do a lot when I paint (I had done it several times before this even, but had saved it in the “normal” orientation out of just the chance that’s where it was when it was saved). Remember mirroring your canvas can help you to spot “mistakes” and see your own creation from a different point of view. I have hot-keyed the command in Photoshop so I can do it all the time, and I’d suggest it to anyone.


5. A bit more gray scale!

Here I just played with the values a bit more and rendered a few things out just a bit further. I’m preparing for color and I want as few places to look like the knee as possible (though the knee will stay like that into the color stage… oops). At this point I start using the dual brush dynamic to really throw some textures into the skin. While most of this will be painted over, what doesn’t will hopefully help to build depth later. This is one of the main ideas behind painting in stages.


6. Let there be color! 

Now the idea is to use the values and shapes beneath to add color to the image. For this whole image I used two color layers (because I haven’t dropped the background yet) over top of the black and white layers I just established. This is similar to adding values to your line drawing- make sure that you’re evenly blanketing the entire area before you start settling on colors. To do this properly with my two backgrounds I filled the background color layer with a green/blue and then went back in and added my color on top of the creature. Always start basic and get more defined as you go. Honestly this is the point I’m the weakest and any struggles anyone has colorizing images I can promise you I have as well. If you find color is not your best friend either you might want to try out Color and Light by James Gurney.


Here’s a close shot of an earlier stage of me painting opaquely after dropping in some colors.




7. Now the painting part!

Now that everything is established I can finally begin my rendering. At this point I have a solid foundation and I just begin to solidify what I have underneath and sort of “make it meet” with what I have in mind for texture and how I want the guy to look. I have dropped all of my layers and begin to paint on top of the whole painting as a whole. In a more complicated painting it’s wise to work around the canvas fairly evenly and then establish your focal point even further. At this point there is not a really clear direction for what I’m doing because I’m trying to hop around the canvas often and keep things fairly even, though I wouldn’t call this a complicated painting. I tried to take the scarring much the same way the rest of the painting was established- develop a base and then begin to render on top of it.

 8. Finish up!

I then go back and try to add some brighter highlights to where the shinier part of his “skin” are hit more directly by light, and add some back lighting to help separate him further from the background. A few touches here, a few touches there, and when you finally can’t take it anymore (or you start going backwards) it’s time to call it done. All in all this painting probably took about 4 or 5 hours to complete from start to finish.

Remember when working on paintings like this it’s wise to get up and take breaks often. I would always suggest to try and break down your painting into digestible sessions. You don’t want to be working for so long on something that you can’t begin to see if you’re improving upon it or not. I find it’s often wise to keep many save files handy and to check back on your previous file often to make sure you’re moving ahead and not backwards.

I hope you guys enjoyed this. I always enjoy the chance to go in and write about my process- normally I don’t get a chance to think all that hard on it. Try and make sure that you’re constantly evolving your work and work method to make your work as enjoyable and fast as you can. Thanks for checking this out and if you have any more questions please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at quigleyer(at)gmail(dot)com.

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