I then added the background – just a solid and dark color to keep the focus on the character. I added the lights in the background to play with the transparency in her dress and also to add some lighting effects.
Adding a background and lighting sources to the scene
One of the steps where I had the most fun, in my opinion, was adding the first layer of color. I basically created a new layer in Overlay mode; that way I could start adding color fast, and could even make all the color tests that were necessary.
I like putting a lot of emphasis on the skin hues. I normally only use up to five different hues to create the skin color; that can sound like a bit much, but this will define how natural the skin looks. In this case I used pink, yellow, green, blue and gray. Ambient lighting also affects the hues that you can use in the skin.
With the clothes, I still wasn't sure how the lighting would affect the color on the dress so I decided to leave some neutral colors to modify them later.
Working in the first layer of color in Overlay mode
The next step is where everyone's results will vary. I like to feel that the lighting is smooth and natural, that's why I don't need to invest a lot of time adding details.
I don't think it's necessary to add a lot of detail to any single piece. For example, when I make some concepts or character designs for work, I have a deadline to finish the illustration so I have to consider this before I think about adding many details into the illustrations. You need to think about the final result that you want to achieve and what the purpose of your piece is, before you can consider the level of detail that you will want to include.
The first thing that I'm going to need at this point is references – mainly to add lighting to the face. The second thing I need is brushes. For some pieces I use a lot of brushes, but in this case I only used these four pictured. The third brush is the brush that I use to add texture to the skin and for the metal parts.
The four brushes used to create the image
Detailing the face
In most of my illustrations I start with the face – for me it's the most important part of the character. Sometimes managing to make an expression that will convince people that it's a live character with a story can take a lot of time, and many times I can't even achieve that. That's why the face is one of the areas where I spend the most time. I make all the necessary adjustments until I get a convincing result.
A curious detail concerning this piece: the eyes are the only part in the entire illustration that I never touched after adding the lights and shadows. Once I had finished with the face I continued detailing the skin of the character.
Refining the detail on the face – it's one of the key areas that create a convincing character
The next part I focused on was the clothes. In step 03, I added some basic folds, but unfortunately the movement and the falling of the dress didn't seem natural.
First I tried to find some references for the folds but I couldn't find anything useful, so I decided to make them without references. With a little practice it can be easy to add the folds – the real problem is placing the lights, casting the shadows correctly and making sure it looks natural. If you have some experience in lighting it shouldn't be difficult but if not, it's better to use references.
Unfortunately a detail that is not easy to notice is the shoes. In the image here, you can see a close up of the detail on her shoes.
Working out the folds in the clothing fabric and refining the detail on her shoes