09. Back on the ‘above’ layer, start to render the hands and fingernails with the ‘inking opacity’ brush. Use plenty of different shades and pay attention to the shadows in the photo. I’ve made the fingernails longer, but this is personal choice. Vary the colour on the fingernails and remember, fingernails will be reflective in places.

10. Detail the collar on the relevant clipping mask layers, paying close attention to the reference image, before moving to the hair layer. On the ‘hair’ layer, add some dark shadows to the hair still using the ‘inking opacity’ brush. It’s OK if they look strong and out of place as they’ll be mostly obscured shortly; they’re needed to add depth so use them to imply large strands of hair, again focusing on overall form.

11. On the ‘above’ layer, add strands of lighter colour, placing some on top of the dark hair. This should be more detailed – move some strands in different directions and fray some edges. Vary the colours: the more you use, the more authentic it will look.

12. Paste in paint texture.jpg above the ‘clothes’ layer and set the layer to soft light. Cmd/Ctrl + click the ‘clothes’ layer thumbnail (this will highlight all the pixels on that layer) and then add a layer mask to the paint texture (click the circle in square icon in the Layers palette). On the clipping mask linked to the ‘clothes’ layer, use the inking opacity brush to add highlights and reflections to the clothes.

13. Lock the ‘clothes’ layer and on this layer use a light blue spot gradient to add radiosity underneath the clothes highlights. Hit Cmd/Ctrl + V again to paste in the paint texture, and Cmd/Ctrl + T to transform and drag the corners of the box to fill the canvas. Position the layer above the blue background layer and set the layer blending mode to Soft Light.

14. Drag the ‘blends’ layer to the top of the palette and set the blending mode to Overlay. Now add some gradients to enhance the colour in certain areas and make them pop. To avoid the gradients spilling over into surrounding areas, use the Lasso tool (L) to select the relevant areas and apply the gradients on the ‘blends’ layer.

15. Use a low-saturation red over the areas where there would be more natural blood flow such as the nose, cheeks and fingertips, and use purples and browns to make the hair more vibrant. Add some small texture details, such as variation in skin pigment and some small pores with the ‘speckle’ brush. Although the details are subtle, the viewer will pick them up; as a result the skin won’t read as artificial.

16. On the ‘clothes’ clipping mask layer, add some soft blue rim lighting on her clothes (use the ‘inking opacity’ brush) in the same areas as the brown rim lighting in the photo. To finish, paste in photo sheet.jpg above the ‘paint’ layer and set the blending mode to Soft Light. On the ‘above’ layer, add some white messy effects with the ‘Fire brush’. Make any final adjustments.

Who: David and Sarah Cousens run their studio Cool Surface from the south west of England. They have created art for the BBC’s Who Wants to be a Superhero?, and illustrated a series of books for Macmillan Publishing. Their stylized art blends Eastern and Western influences, and has a tendency to include pretty girls.
Contact: CoolSurface.com, CoolSurface.blogspot.com
Software: Adobe Photoshop
Time to complete: 3 hours
On the CD: Files for this tutorial can be found on the cover CD.