Monday, April 26, 2010

Digital Painting: Phoenix Rising

I finally finished my first 100% digital painting! "Phoenix Rising" as I call it was done following a tutorial by Kirk Nelson. The tutorial titled "Beginner's guide to digital painting" was to take about 5 hours and have 14 layers. I, however, took three times as long to complete my painting and had about ten more layers! I left steps out and added my own steps in which truly resulted in a final image unique to me. Although I have done digital painting before in small amounts on several of my digital creations, this was the first time the entire image was created by painting digitally with just my Wacom tablet, pen and Photoshop CS3.  From this tutorial, I learned how to use the Dynamic Brush engine to create the fire, which, was probably the hardest part of the image for me.  Here are the basic steps that I took to get to this final piece of art:
Sketching and Blocking in the color:

Starting with a grey background, the first step is just laying in different colors from the palette which ranged from black for the shadows, reddish brown and orange all the way to white for the highlights. I used just a regular brush in various sizes to block in the color and outline the Phoenix. I still applied my traditional art technique of painting light over works for both oil and digital!
Next I will begin to give the Phoenix more shape by using white for highlights and black for the shadows. I used the smudge tool to blend in the hard lines:

I created a custom feather brush and began to paint in the feathers.  This was just a little time consuming!
Next, I created a Gradient layer just above the background layer and set the colors to purple and black and dragged the gradient across the canvas:

I created a custom brush in the brushes palette for the sparks as well as using a glitter photoshop brush by RedheadStock from DeviantArt and added them around the Phoenix:

Now it was time to paint the flames. I created a layer just beneath the sparks layer and using the Layer Styles control box, enabled the Outer Glow style and the Inner Glow style.  Using a bright orange I began to create general shapes of the flames surrounding the Phoenix and then switched to the Smudge tool to pull the flames out of the orange paint:

Repeating the same steps above, I change the Inner Glow color to red and the paint color to black and begin creating the dark red flames:

I added a fire "glow" to parts of the flames by selecting different sections, filling with red and then using Gaussian Blur filter to turn the hard-edged shape into a soft glow.  Adding the light trails was done by repeating the steps for the flames but just changing the color of the glow and the strength of the smudge tool:

Finally, I added a warming filter to really pump up the oranges and used the sharpening filter to bring out the details of the feathers and Viola! A mythical creature comes to life!

Now that I have learned the basics of digital painting from sketch, I think I would like to take the Mythical Beasts encyclopedia that I have and pick another creature of legend to paint on my own without a tutorial.  It will be interesting to see if I can remember everything I learned from creating the Phoenix. Perhaps at the next Digital Art Day at Lita's I will attempt to do a Pegasus! Stay tuned!


Doug said...

Remarkable! I thought it was an oil but a digital is incredible! Well done you!!!!

Laura said...

Thanks Doug!
I was happy with the way it turned out. I should try one in oil!

Tim ONeill said...

Laura-nicely done. I love your color palette and the saturation.


Laura said...

Thanks Tim! I really appreciate the comment! I signed up for the magazine! I'm excited to get the first issue!

Lita said...

It's so cool to see it in all it's stages ... and then to see the final AWESOME-NESS in the result! You so out-did yourself!!! Congrats on getting it done! =)

Laura said...

Thank you! I can't wait for our next digital art day!

Taylyn said...

This is amazing! I've been looking for a picture of a phoenix to base my tattoo off of, which is actually how I found this. Yay for Google :P

Anyway I was wondering if it would be okay if I used this picture to show my tattoo artist the general gist of what I want my tattoo to look like? :)

Laura said...

Hi Taylyn!
Absolutely! And when it's done and on your body, do share with me at and I'll post it on the blog!

Taylyn said...

Will do :D It might not be for a few months but I'll definitely send you some pics when it's finished.

Thank you!