Painting and texturing a believable statue such as the amazing illustation on the left is much easier than you might expect. When it comes to painting anything, it’s best to start by breaking it down into the simplest of forms. Texturing and detailing always come last in a successful painting, whether it’s digital or traditional.
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In this tutorial, George Patsouras shows how to paint a realistic face, step by step, before texturing and detailing it. The painting stage is just as important to the finished piece as the texturing – you can’t have one without the other.
The statue’s face was based on that of the artist’s brother; Patsouras’s initial sketch is included. Of course, you can base your image on any portrait photo you like.
Before you start, head to cgtextures.com and download some textures from the
Stone > Marble > Noisy category. Software
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Click here to download this tutorial's project files
When doing a portrait piece, it’s essential you first draw the model as accurately as possible. One helpful trick is to use a grid to nail the proportions, which works especially well for portraits such as this. First of all, open up your reference photograph and create a new document of the same size for your version.
Work at a high resolution (300dpi or above) to maintain a high level of detail. When that’s done, you’re ready to activate the grid. If you’d rather use the same image as in this tutorial, open
sketch.psd and skip to Step 3.
View > Show > Grid. You will see a group of boxes which will help you draw the model square by square. If needed, you can separate the boxes further by selecting Edit > Preferences > Guides. Select something you’re comfortable with and begin drawing the portrait box to box. Save the file as sketch.psd.
When the line art is finished, choose some colours for the skin and background. It’s important that the colours you choose aren’t too saturated in the early stages. Create a new layer named ‘skin’ to paint the colours on – this will give you better control over your image.
Once you’ve chosen the colours, use the HSB sliders to control colour, grab a brush, and paint in the first hints of shadow on the figure. Doing this will help give the illusion of form, and is one of the most important steps in an image. To activate the HSB sliders, click on the icon at the top right-hand corner of the Colors palette and select HSB.
To push the form further, introduce a lighter mid-tone and render according to the light source, which in this case, is coming at a 45-degree angle from the figure. All the colour work here was done manually via the HSB slider. Stress values as opposed to colours – values help bring an image to life, colours always come in second.
To push values even further, introduce some highlights on the face. You have to be more careful here, as you don’t want to over-use highlights. Shadows are always more important than highlights in defining form. Overusing highlights will make your image look plastic and fake, especially in regards to skin. Try adding subtle highlights to the forehead as well as the nose, using a lighter variation of the mid-tone colour.
Once you’re happy with the values, create a colour palette on a new document to help with the painting – you can drag it to the corner of your image as well, which makes things even quicker. Take your time and experiment with your colour palettes – rushing this step will harm the image. In this case, Patsouras chose very pale yellows for the highlights, as well as warmer magenta tones for the shadows.
Softening out the face can help it look more realistic. Using softer-edged brushes, blend in the harsh edges to give the face a softer look. You don’t want to overdo this, however – overusing soft brushes can give your image a plastic, lifeless look, so try to find a good balance. You can easily control the hardness and softness of brushes by right-clicking (
Ctrl + click) anywhere on the image with your brush activated.
Now that the basics of the face are working, we can start detailing. For details Patsouras says he generally uses a very small, hard-edged brush. In this case, bring out details in the hair, eyebrows, and eyes giving it more definition generally.
Continue to work on the detailing, keeping the light source in mind – finish up the hair and refine the face in general. The ‘sketch’ layer is not needed any more, so delete it. Try not to work in too many layers – one for the face and one for the background is enough in this case.
Create a new folder in the Layers palette and name it ‘Textures’. This is where we’ll experiment with textures until we find the best results: always use separate layers so you don’t destroy what you’ve set up so far. Create a new layer in the ‘Textures’ folder and set the blending mode to Soft Light. Open up a photo texture of a rocky surface, courtesy of
cgtextures.com, and apply it to the painting using the Clone Stamp tool. Then completely desaturate it. Applying textures in either Soft Light or Overlay modes could lead to oversaturation – to fix this, select Image > Adjustments > Desaturate.
Create another layer, this time setting the blending mode to Overlay. Use another, stronger stone texture, and apply it again to various parts of the face. You can delete some of the texture as well, using custom brushes to create a more believable effect. To push texturing further, create one final layer and set it to ‘normal’. Apply textures here using custom brushes.
The image is coming along well, but the colours are a bit oversaturated and warm. For a quick fix, use Photoshop’s Color Balance tool (
Image > Adjustments > Color Balance) to apply some warmer shades. Lower the opacity of the ‘Textures’ folder to around 75 per cent, as the textures were somewhat harsh before.
The image is pretty much finished now, but there are one or two final colour changes we can make. The problem is that stone and rocky materials don’t really pick up many colours, and often look desaturated. With that in mind, lower the saturation of the whole image to create a more believable effect.
When you’re happy with the result of this process, you’re done. If you’ve been working using Patsouras’s example, why not try a self-portrait next, or perhaps a group shot?