Over the last few weeks, I've had a few very helpful portfolio reviews. The general consensus was my style deviations were nice, but I should do more of each. I decided that each time I do a new painting, I'll do three of them, in the same style and world. I first heard of this technique from master concept artist Feng Zhu. When he works on a piece, he simply divides his canvas into three parts and jumps from one to the other in order to increase his productivity.
I used a fantastic pencil brush on Photoshop created by Andantonius on Deviant Art. I've found most success using this brush with a dark color, a small size and the pencil tool instead of the brush tool. After doing the color studies, I finalized the line work for all the characters with a dark brown pencil tool. I then selected areas with the lasso tool to fill with a gradient based on the colors from my studies. I colored my lines next, command clicking on the line layer to select only the lines, and then repainting them with colors analogous to their fills.
Next I filled in highlights and shadow using a few different layer styles, mainly overlay, color dodge and hard light. I selected the fills for the characters and blurred the highlights inside of them, so they would be soft but still have a hard edge on the outline. I also applied some photo texture patterns to the character's clothing.
After the characters were completed, I moved onto the background, filling in the remaining details. I applied a similar technique for highlights as I did for the characters, but only added one or two textures. For my finishing touches, I added final glows and shadows created by the different sources of light. In the party scene, I added a dark gradient to the background to separate it from the characters. For each piece, I added an overlay of texture on the whole image, as well as a gradient fill adjustment layer to unify and adjust the color.
I'll definitely have to get used to this technique. It worked out really well for the beginning stages of the paintings, but as I progressed, I only wanted to finish one at a time. Maybe next time, I'll figure out a better balance.
Make sure to check out Feng Zhu's work, he also has some great video tutorials that you can find here.
Another always great resource is traditional painter James Gurney. I learned most everything I know about realism from his incredible book, Color and Light. Seriously, buy it, it's worth more than four years in art school. He also has an informative blog that he updates regularly.