A small character can tell abig story – but traditional character art can be rather flat and one-dimensional, tending towards a cartoonish feel.

In this tutorial, Ricardo Ajcivinac shows how to recreate this brilliant image (which is also the cover of our Jan 2010 issue), and how to give your character art extra punch by using lighting and layer styles.

The principle of this tutorial is to create a complex background with a focal point that hints at a story behind a character. Once you’ve mastered it, it’s a highly versatile technique.

Light effects are very trendy these days but you can avoid clichés by mixing them with something different and interesting; the result will always be an amazing image that gets everybody’s attention.

Step 1
Create a Photoshop document measuring 934 x 1,280 pixels and fill the background layer with a greenish grey (#bec7bb). Paint this with a large yellowish grey brush (#c9c3ad), then create a new layer.

Set the blending mode to Soft Light and paint with a black brush around the top right corner, and white brush for the middle and bottom.