How to be a Sole Survivor Part Two

Just the other day I posted about what inspired my image called Sole Survivor (the original image is found here on my blog). Today I’m going to explain the how, well I say that, more of the ‘highlights’ of the how. Otherwise it would become a paint-by-numbers tutorial and what would you learn from that other than how to replicate my mistakes?


So to begin with I got inspired, that bit is covered. Where next?

Next was the thumbnail, I say thumbnail it’s an A4 sketch in inks. (Image #1)



I do this with every image I paint; I grab my sketch pad and a couple of pens and just sketch it out. This is a great help as it allows me to think about positioning, what to put in there, does it balance, etc… Once I have it sketched in black ink, I then have a think about lighting and attack it with a grey marker pen to add shadows and other lighting. When I’m happy, I will then render the main character in a 3D program called Poser, I class this as a progression of the sketch, it allows me to figure out the lighting etc.



Lighting sorted, character sketched in 3D, next I work on the background (Image #2).

For this I create a folder in Photoshop and just start painting with a custom airbrush, using lots of layers too. I will say this often, layers and folders are the magic behind Photoshop and a life saver. I mask off areas and painted on the pipes and other bits and bobs as they appeared in the lifeboat from the movie Alien. Once done I added some texture in a top layer and blended it with a rubber tool to give it, well, some texture, Job done.

This is where it will jump around a bit as I’m crap at screen grabbing whilst I paint. However, here goes. I then added some more to the background, namely the computer and the helmet. (Image #3)



More of the same, lots of layers and folders and airbrushing to create this one. To create the reflection in the helmet visor I painted a starscape with a planet and sunrise on a layer, then used the warp tool to bend it into a curve. Finally layering it in ‘screen’ mode and using a rubber tool blended it onto the visor. The computer is a total airbrush effort, except the numbers, I just added them in using a cool font and the text tool.

Next is a huge jump (I’ll try and avoid this in the future, sorry) however it involved the girl. Using the 3D render as a light ref and a base, I airbrush in as much detail as I can, adding the underwear, watch and hair, oddly with an airbrush. Next I tackle the space suit, at this point I hit the wall of, ‘God this image looks a mess, it is never going to come together.’ I tend to hit this wall with all my images, my advice is just to push on, if it looks crap when your done, as I have had in the past many times, you will just have to learn from it and start again. (Image #4)

Lots of airbrushing, hair pulling and teeth grinding later, I have the almost finished picture. (Image #5)



Next I save it and then flatten the whole thing. But I’m not happy; this is where my tweaking stage comes in. I have a play with the levels, colour and saturation until I’m mostly happy. I will even try layering it a few times and playing with some filters and opacities to see what happens. When I finish messing around with settings, I then duplicated the image twice, and using the Photo Filter tool make one image warm and the other cool.

Switching between the two images and the base image and using the rubber tool to blend, I made all of the light areas cool and all of the dark areas warm, as they say it is cold in space. Flatten it down, done, we have the Final Image.



I hope people find this useful; any feedback is great and feel free to ask questions. I promise to remember to screen grab more often so that my next one is more complete shall we say TTFN.

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