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How to Create a Dramatic Digital Painting in Photoshop


In this tutorial, we will show you how to create a dramatic digital painting in Photoshop by showing you how to illustrate an eagle and falcon battling it out in the sky. Let’s get started!

1. Create a Rough Sketch

Step 1

The first step is to create a rough sketch of the whole image. Use Chalk brush

to block out some basic shapes of the eagle and falcon.

Use colors similar to these, its a basic color scheme to start out with, there will be a lot more colors later.

  • 89604a – background color
  • b8a69c – eagle color
  • 7b6568 – falcon highlight color
  • 22202b – falcon shadows color

Step 2

Mark the placement of the eagle’s eye and falcon’s beak. Also add some highlights to eagle’s beak with light yellow color. Then, choose Soft Round Brush and darken the right-bottom corner of the image.

Step 3

Using the same brush and light yellow color, add some highlights to top part of the image as seen below.

Step 4

Now use color similar to 4e362a and put some of it in the middle of the image between the two birds, also add shadow under the eagle with the use of the same brush.

Step 5

Select the Chalk Brush and paint iris, with color like 8e6e45 and then add pupil in the center.

Step 6

In this step, add more detail to the eye of eagle. Also add more strokes with the same color as head using Eyedropper Tool (I) and try to mix some darker colors of brown and gray on eagle’s head. Change the shape of eagle’s eye by painting brush stroke that covers the eye slightly, like on the last image ins this step.

Step 7

Add more dark brown or gray color under the eagle, making it look like it’s casting some shadow below the eagle.

Step 8

At this point, create some rough shapes that separate the background and darker clouds on the floor, use soft brush and color like 41332a to do this.

Step 9

Add some violet hues to the right bottom part of the image, also using Soft Round Brush and color like 2b2533.

Step 10

At this step, smooth the head of both birds by picking the color from head using Eyedropper Tool (I), and then softly place this color until you get this kind of blurred look. On the falcon, use lighter color to add more highlights to his head and eye.
Also add some more shadow under the eagle’s head and using the same color make his beak a bit longer, like on image below.

Step 11

Add yellow color to falcon’s beak, like 866544.

2. Add Details

Step 1

Now select third Featherish Brush, its similar brush to chalk one but its scattered and a bit wider.
Using this brush, paint the feather-looking texture on the eagle, pick the color from eagle’s head, where the color is brightest.

Step 2

Try to experiment with size of the brush by pressing [ or ] on your keyboard, that’s the default shortcut for decreasing and increasing brush size quickly. Also try darker grays and browns to add more depth on the head.

Step 3

Using same brush, add some feathers on falcon’s head.

Step 4

In this step, break the soft gradients that were made with soft brush, by painting abstract textures on the background and below the eagle.

Step 5

Add more detail on eagle’s beak, by painting shadows and highlights, try using various shades of violet and yellow.

Step 6

Click on icon Create new fill or adjustment layer icon, and select Brightness/Contrast position like on the image below. This will create an adjustment layer at the top of your layers list.

Step 7

Set -37 for Brightness and 9 for Contrast to make everything darker, feel free to experiment with these settings.

Step 8

Now, the image is darkened, let’s bring back some highlights. Make sure you’ve selected the adjustment layer that was just created and click the Add Layer Mask icon, like below.

Step 9

Use soft brush and black color, to hide the adjustment layer in selected areas like heads and beaks. Try doing the same with Featherish Brush to add some variations of color on wings and heads.

Step 10

Add more abstract textures in the background, add some saturated colors like blue 303754 and yellow 6d5342. Also add more strokes and textures on both birds.

Step 11

Add highlights above eagle’s eye and on its head.

Step 12

Now add more textures in the background, using Featherish Brush, try bigger size of brush tip.

Step 13

Add more colors in the background, slight shades of purples and violets like below.

Step 14

Pick out some spots and add highlights there, by painting lighter colors like 7f6355 using Soft Round Brush.

Step 15

Paint more highlights on the eagle’s head and beak, use color like d2bfb0.

3. Correcting Proportions

Step 1

Apply Image by selecting Image > Apply Image > OK.

Step 2

Select Liquify filter from Filter > Liquify.

Step 3

Using Forward Warp Tool (W) move some parts of the eagle’s head and beak, take a look at the red arrows below.

Step 4

This is how it should look like after the changes, hit Enter or OK to accept changes.

Step 5

Paint more highlights on eagle’s head and neck. Also cover eagle’s forehead a bit, making it smaller. Use background color for this.

Step 6

Paint some darker strokes with Featherish Brush, to turn down some of the highlights below the eagle.

Step 7

Again, using the Liquify filter, slightly move eagle’s forehead to the left, to correct position of its head.

Step 8

Zoom in to falcon’s beak and using standard Hard Round Brush, paint its beak and slight highlight under its eye.

Step 9

Using Soft Round Brush, paint some glow on eagle’s head and add shadow on its neck, also blend colors on its beak using the same brush.

Step 10

Zoom in to eagle’s eye, soften the hard edges around the eye using Soft Round Brush like below.

Step 11

Add slight shadow on eagle’s eye, using big Soft Round Brush. Also smooth the line where beak and feathers are separated.

Step 12

Change the placement of falcon’s beak and add rough lines marking the eye.

Step 13

Add more small highlighted feather around the eye.

Step 14

Again, add Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer and select.

After that, image should look like this:

Step 15

Go to Filter > Liquify again and make small corrections like below.

Step 16

Add more highlights and small feathers on eagle’s head, using Featherish Brush.

Step 17

Using Chalk Brush, soften and blend feathers on falcon’s head, making hard edges disappear.

Step 18

Also add highlight on its eye:

Step 19

Add dark dot on eagle’s beak where its nose should be. Then click Apply Image in Image menu, then select Dodge Tool (O) and with featherish brush, highlight some of the parts on eagle’s head and beak.

Step 20

Re-paint the beak to make it look like its below falcon’s head, also change the position of its eye so it looks more believable, like on images below:

Step 21

Go to Liquify filter (Command/Ctrl-Shift-X) and move eye of the eagle a bit as below:

Step 22

Some more changes in Liquify Filter, moving beak a little to the left.

4. Adding Colors

Step 1

Add another Adjustment Layer, this time Color Balance and select values as below:

Step 2

After accepting changes in Liquify filter, flip image Image > Flip Image > Flip Horizontally to see if everything looks good, if proportions are off, use liquify filter again.

Step 3

Zoom very closely to eagle’s eye and soften the edges on the right from its eye, it doesn’t change much, but from a distance it looks better.

Step 4

Flatten the image by selecting Apply Image from Image menu and hit OK.

Step 5

Take a look where the highlights are not regular and fill darker spots with Dodge tool (O).

Step 6

Zoom in on the beak of the eagle, also you can flip the canvas by clicking Image > Flip Horizontally and smooth the beak to make it look a bit more solid, cover shattered edges around the beak, with background color.

Step 7

Add another adjustment layer. Color Balance and use these values to bring more red/orange tones to image.

Step 8

Darken the area around the eye, it will add a little depth there.

Step 9

Zoom out and add clouds/feathers under eagle’s wing, use large Featherish Brush for this.

Step 10

Paint some cloudy forms under the eagle, use warm colors like orange and yellow tones.

5. Cloudy Forms and Details

Step 1

On falcon’s side, add more cold tones like this light blue, also put some little brush strokes on the edge between background and floor clouds.

Step 2

Now add the same cloud-like forms above eagle’s head, use lighter yellow tones.

Step 3

This is how it looks after adding first cloud-like forms.

Step 4

Zoom in to falcon’s head and mark some more feathers with lighter violet tones, add shadows on the bottom of its head. Still using Featherish Brush.

Step 5

Paint more highlights on its eye and eyelid.

Step 6

Zoom out and use big Featherish Brush to blend these cloud-like forms, make sure to not cover both birds.

Step 7

Using big Featherish Brush, cover the textures around the eagle, use light color to slightly hide shadows.

Step 8

Paint the reflection on the eye, make it more smooth and put it on the left side.

Step 9

Mark slightly visible second wing of the eagle, it should fade away into the dark area.

Step 10

Add shadows between cloudy forms, use Soft Round Brush.

Step 11

Using the same brush, add more highlights on the top of each clouds.

Step 12

Change the shape of the falcon’s eye, cover the highlight on the eye, also make the beak smoother.

Step 13

Now add more highlights on the place above eagle’s eye, and some shadow under its eye, like below.

Step 14

In this step, add some more small feathers around the eye of eagle, fill out small daker spots on its forehead to smooth out the edges.

Step 15

Add bright yellow color on the very edge of the eagle’s eye, it will make it look more round.

6. Final Touches

Step 1

Again, hit Apply Image from Image menu, and using Burn Tool darken low right corner of the image. It’s best to use big Soft Round Brush for this.

Step 2

Then add more highlights to falcon’s head, using Dodge Tool (O). Also highlight some spots in the background.

Step 3

Using color c6c5e1, paint little glow under falcon’s head. Use Soft Round Brush for this.

Step 4

Using light blue color as 73989b and big Soft Round Brush, paint two strokes on the new layer, basically it will imitate light rays.
After that, change its color using Hue/Saturation menu (Command/Ctrl-U), lower the opacity of this layer and tilt it a bit using Free Transform Tool (Command/Ctrl-T).

Step 5

Choose Apply Image from Image menu and hit OK, then mix and smooth some colors between light rays and clouds.

Step 6

Use small Soft Round brush and 292941 color to paint reflection on the bottom of falcon’s head, and on its eye. Also smooth out some of the edges around the eye, using Brush tool (B) and Eyedropper tool (I).

Step 7

Zoom in to falcon’s beak and paint a little highlight in the center.

Step 8

Apply Image, and go to Liquify Filter, move the head like below.

Step 9

Make falcon’s head a bit longer, using Liquify Filter again.

Step 10

Zoom in on the falcon’s head, and paint small feathers and stripes, using Chalk Brush.

Step 11

Apply Image, and using Dodgle Tool (O) with Highlight setting bring more light to cloud spots below the eagle and above it.

Step 12

On the new layer, paint feathers that fall in front of eagle’s head. Use featherish brush for this, and color like decdc5. Then resize it using Free Transform Tool (Command/Ctrl-T).

Step 13

Close up on the feather, using gray color like 6b6160 smooth out the edges and fill the dark spots in the feathers.

Step 14

Finally add glow on the feathers, using Soft Round Brush.

Conclusion

In this tutorial, we showed you how to create a dramatic digital painting of a eagle and falcon battling it out in the sky. With practice, just about anyone can create a digital painting using the techniques explained in this tutorial. We hope that you learned something from this tutorial and can apply these techniques to your own workflows.

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