The pic was done for the project World of Mushrooms. The idea was to design an interesting concept of a mushroom warrior without making him look too cartoony. I always start with the line art. It helps me pick design iterations. Working with shapes gets messy pretty fast. Lines help me find the right shape; it’s faster to create several designs for the same object. I tend to leave the lines loose, because I switch to coloring the concept rather fast. The concept will naturally undergo some changes, so there is no point achieving extra fine lines.
Step 1: The shape language I was going for was balanced shapes that would help achieve contrast between them. It is crucial to search for an iconic and interesting shape from the very start.
Step 2: For the second step I tried to solve the color issues as soon as possible. Created the under painting by going through several color variations. I needed to find the value variations that would help me enhance the idea of contrast further.
Step 3: I started the actual painting process using all kinds of brushes that I have in my set. It was trial and error because I didn’t have any particular texture brush in mind. I gave the mushroom some form by imagining the light source and working from it. In this case it was an overcast day from the top, which in my opinion wouldn’t create any high contrast shadows. It is not like I really had to imagine all of that but it sort of comes naturally when you are thinking about the light and form. I didn’t use any references for this one, but I imagined that the mushroom would have different shapes. You could divide the whole character into basic shapes and render them first and then go from there. Naturally rounder shapes would be easier to render with a soft brush. I thought the legs were not looking right because I had the weapon and the top of the mushroom much darker.
Step 4: I thought I would change the material on its legs to balance it out a bit. I really like the texture on this painting so I just cropped it out of the picture and pasted it on the legs in the overlay mode with a little bit of over painting to make it follow the tube shape of the legs.
I fixed the balance of shapes between the top middle and the bottom by adding smaller shapes where needed. After that I just kept experimenting with the brushes.
I thought I would break up the uniform texture of the mushroom by creating sort of like stretch marks that would be completely different in texture because they are smoother and they reflect light more, thus they are much brighter than the rest of the skin. The mushroom had has some scars from the battle that are painted based on the principle described above. For the weapon I thought it should be some kind of hard wood.
Haven’t figured the eyes at this point yet and also decided not to go with the nose or the mouth to make it more evil. I thought that the mushroom belonged to a dark fantasy style rather than a standard cartoon. At this stage I was trying to add more points of interest for the viewer, such as folds in the armpit, the mushroom dick and so on.
Step 5: The 5th step is a pre-final. I refine the shape of the mushroom hat. Decided to give it rougher edges to try and make it look more aggressive. I didn’t feel like painting the ground so I just pasted some from a photo and overpainted it like usual. I also added the pig pet for this guy which also has some mushrooms growing on it, indicating that the mushroom has infected it and is not in control. I thought that the pig would be spreading the spores and infecting others.
I will now take a moment to describe the technique I used to enhance the texture on the mushroom hat. The idea is making the center part look used and worn out. I made a hole in the middle by erasing that part , created a new layer under the main layer and painted a new material there conforming to the shape of the hat. I then duplicated the main layer and made it darker so that in the end it looked like there is some value to the texture in that part. I tend to do all kinds of tricks with textures while painting.
I made the eyes look like spheres inserted into the sockets with multiple layers of skin around it showing through. Added some darker variations to the skin and made the legs look tougher, as if they are made from a different material. Overall I continued to add more details describing the backstory of the character.
Step 6: For the final changed my mind about the mushroom hat texture and added some particles in the air and some noise to help bring the picture together. I feel like digital painting leaves a very distinctive mark so the noise helps imitate the photo real look. I create a new gray layer, apply the noise, overlay it and drop the opacity until I am satisfied with the result. I add the final touches like more spores on the pig and just try to make all the strokes less noticeable, to help sell the realism.
IMHO it helps to do a fine rendering of one detail of the picture and set it as a standard for you render. Otherwise you could keep working on the same one picture for eternity.