A realistic depiction of humanity, rather than some idealised concept of it, is a difficult thing to convey in an illustration. In this tutorial, Richard Wilkinson walks you through the process of how he created a portrait of an elderly man grieving.

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The artwork was created as part of a series accompanying an article on how police and medical professionals deliver tragic news in The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine.

The tutorial includes notes on how to prepare a sketch, create a rough digital painting, and how to finish the piece with sharp dynamic brush strokes, subtle colour fills and fine details through the gradual building-up of layers. You will learn techniques to add realistic shadows, and liven up the eyes and hair with highlights.

Follow these steps to create your own portrait of a person experiencing a profound emotion. So put aside a day or two, grab your graphics tablet and pen, and prepare to create your own detailed digital portrait.

Time to complete

1-2 days


Adobe Photoshop CS or later

Project Files

Click here to download this tutorial's project files

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