Speed Paint Tutorial: My method

Speed Paint Tutorial: My method

This is my general process for pieces such as speed paints, or specific portraiture where likeness
to the reference is important. However similar process are used in a lot of my work.

01: Set up the canvas

This also includes choosing a reference image. Any old thing you like. But something with solid contrast is best. If the image does not have distinct and notable areas of light and shadow it will be a lot harder to make it work.

Quick note: 'Derivative work'
If the reference image is not yours (ie photo not taken by you) then the subsequent illustration is not legally yours to do with as you will, it is considered derivative and impinges on the copyright of the photographer, and only the photographer can pass on those rights. You can still use it for learning, but don't try an pass it off as yours, its 'by the book' illegal and a pretty tacky thing to do generally.

In this case its non derivative, as the photo was taken by me
Now you need to put the ref somewhere that is easy to glance at every few seconds. I tend to put it in the same image file as I am working in. It just makes it easier. (also make sure the canvas is a decent size also, I tend to work around 5000 pix vert as this makes it poster printable)

02: Initial rough

Make it messy, don't try and 'get it right'. Positions lines and perspective will correct themselves as you do each pass as long as you are willing to keep it messy and CHANGE THINGS AS YOU GO. Sorry for the shout, but its the biggest thing artists seem to struggle with. Never try and 'get it right' on the first pass (or second, third etc) you will waste a lot of time, and you still wont, so don't try :) Artists often want to get it right immediately. But a blank page has no frame of reference. Nothing to set scale or proportion against, you need something 'wrong' in there, to start getting things right.

So make the mess, rough it out. This will give you a frame work to tighten things from.

I tend to also use a fairly big brush at this point. The thickness of the lines tends to discourage the addition of 'fine' details which will slow you down at this point.

03: Sketch

Drop the opacity of the rough pass to around 20%. Add new layer on top, and sketch in the prominent features including a few rough indicators of highlight, strong shadow positions.

When done this layer will also be dropped back to about 40% opacity. This will be the top layer until much later in the process (Step 08). All other passes till then take place on a layers under it. This sketch is more accurate and refined, but still don't stress it being 100% right, and be prepared to change bits as you progress. This is not a colouring in book, there is no points for staying in these lines. Its a guide, its there to help only.

04: Flat fill

Pretty simple pass. Make a new layer under the sketch lines. Add large flat colours for all the major areas, ignoring fiddly bits or facial features like lips, eyes at this time. And again don't stress about keeping it neat.

Additional Note: The 'keep it messy thing' I harp on about.

The reason for it is simply to do with time and wasting it. During all the early stages of a painting, you will be wrong, things will need to change. Spending a lot of time getting sharp edges correct straight away becomes a waste when you inevitably need to correct it later and worse then that, it might make you reluctant to make those needed changes due to the effort you have already committed.

Keep it rough, make changes is the mantra till the final passes.

05 and 06: Shadow, Highlight and Blend

Strictly speaking these two are not separate steps, I have just broken them into two so the process is visible, but I general do 5 and 6 at the same time as I 'move' around the image. 5 being the blocking in of strongest highlights, and darkest shadows. 6 being blending them into the solid colours. At this point its all pretty rough.

Chant the mantra. Keep it rough, make changes.

07: The first refine pass

The blends from step 06 are made more accurate and smoother (depending on style you are after of course, sometimes you want painterly course blends, or cell shade etc) You also add the smaller details like eyes near the end of this pass. The reason these details are added late is a time saving one. Once added you have to take a lot more care when adding / blending shadows and highlights around these details so as not to destroy them, so do that stuff first when you can be less painstaking. Still stay away from really fine details like loose strands of hair etc. If you add them now you will just paint over them in the further refine passes and have to re-do. Try to avoid redoing stuff unless you have too.

08: Second refine pass

For the purpose of this tute its also the last refine but you can keep going depending how accurate or smooth and blended etc you want the end product to be. This is done on a new layer that is placed above the sketch lines and part of the refinement in this pass is painting over the visible sketch lines. They should all be painted over by the end of this pass totally masking them. Really play with the fine detail here. Sharp spot highlights, drifting hair strands etc.

09: The finishing touches

Fixing any little bits that scream wrong, adding some ambient colours and rim lights punching up a few values, making the image jump out from the background with bordering. If the project is larger and I have the time, I like to save this pass till the next day, so I can approach the image with fresh eyes and hopefully see any little errors or what it need to make it that little bit extra.

10: Go Live!

Crop that ref out of the image and call it done. Make a web sized version, put it on tumbler and wait for the 3 likes and one re-blog to roll in, bask in the adulation! :P

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All images are copyright Michael Fitzhywel