Massimo Porcella reveals his techniques to create quick atmospheric fantasy scenes, as he shares the process he used to create his image, Maleficent's lair.
A simple Idea
The very first step is sketching: quickly sketch your idea on the canvas with a soft edge brush, then, when you're starting to see the general composition and structure of the painting, use a hard edge brush with a flat point to define the shapes.
I first create a background using a soft brush
Shapes and a little texturing
Once the first sketch is complete, I start to build and place the scenario's elements using shapes (tree shapes in this case). To help visualize the final image I also use sky textures in Softlight and put some ruin shapes here and there to create a solid base to work on and also to have a first glimpse of mood.
I begin to build up the shapes
Lights and mood
Here's the point where I start to work massively on the concept: I add in many details to define all the materials and structures that form the whole scene.
Using Photoshop blending layer set to Color Dodge, I begin painting all the zones that are lightened, creating a sort of luminous glow. Once I am done with it, I desaturate and uniform all the midtones of the painting to define the general mood using the Curves tool.
I use the Curve tool to create mood
More lights, contrast and balancing the scene
Now it's time to accentuate the lights and to add further contrast to the painting to give it a darker look. I also add elements into the foreground to balance the whole composition and give more depth.
Balancing out the composition
Let's move on to the creation of the character (Maleficent in this case), I painted in the shape at the centre of the image, with surrounding elements such as the crow and some flying leaves.
I want Maleficent to be the main focal point of the scene, so I create a spotlight that hits and lightens her, like it would be in a theatre. This helps to define the character's silhouette and to give it more body I paint in some backlight.
At this final point, I just check if the whole scene is well balanced, and I add some darker tree branches in the foreground, this helps add depth and frame the image.