Everything always starts with the drawing. Nothing fancy as far as tools, just a range of sharp pencils ranging typically from H-4B. I build up all my forms and shadows with crosshatching. Nearer the end I will go back and sharpen up outlines and areas that require a bit more emphasis. I take this and scan it, usually in several pieces. The scans are then assembled in Photoshop and any imperfections are painted into one background color as opposed to simply erasing them. From here I adjust my levels a bit. Then layer the layer into Multiply. Original drawing is 13in x 15in.

Background Layer

I keep a folder of high resolution scans just for backgrounds. I find the texture adds a good feel and helps to unify the image. I will also add one more layer above this which is a flat color layer. Once I get a color combination I like I will merge them. This is very much like painting traditionally over a textured surface, then adding a wash or imprimatura. Very few of my layers will ever end up being 100%.

Color Flats

I add a new layer labelled Flats. At this stage, I begin blocking areas of large color as well as separating different objects and pieces. In this case, I only have a few of them - - face, facial hair and clothing. This serves as both a both a color base for the next layer and an easier way for me to make selections to the different pieces. Brush settings are very simple. Hard with both opacity and flow set to 100%


Here is where the real fun starts and the piece starts to show signs of life! I will build up gradual layers of shading using a few different types of brushes. I really only keep it to a single color for this entire layer. Typically a near black or sepia. I also keep my brushes fairly basic with a standard soft round being my main workhorse. I don't rely on pressure for my tablet but do adjust the opacity and flow. Starting opacity is usually 5-15% with a flow of around 65%. These numbers will increase as I go, but it is rare for me to ever go beyond 50%. Careful build up is a lot more important than just a mass of dark. Finally, I will switch to harder brushes near the end and use them to cut out areas of shadow and build up harder the pieces of the painting that require harder edges.

Color Blends

The shaded layer is where I start building up the forms, while the color blend layer is where I finish building forms and start bringing more color into play. I do use a similar approach as with the shades layer in regards to how I handle brush opacity and flow (lighter to darker). The difference is I adjust my colors as opposed to using the same dark color of the shaded layer.

Highlights And Finish

Up until this point, all the layers have been below the original drawing one. This is the one which breaks the pattern by becoming the very top of the layering order. The highlight layer is probably the least working of all the layers. It is here I look for all those small parts of the piece that are needed to bring out the final forms and bring a piece together. For portraits, it's almost a guarantee I use this layer to finish off the eyes. Here I blend in a bit of the green-grey that are his pupils and pop in the final reflections.