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Selfridge's Agnes Towler Process

By gapriest
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This is a breakdown of the various stages taken to paint the portrait of Agnes Towler in my Selfridge's series. The entire painting was completed in Manga Studio 5.

1. Sketch: I use a light blue with an expressive brush/pencil. I like light blue because it feels temporary and I don't mind erasing it after inking. I work on a tan ground since monitor white blows my eyes out (I'm prone to photophobia). This piece took a couple sketches to get right.

2. Lines: I've found that a simple line works best when I'm aiming for a painted look. I keep the lines on a layer above the painting since I paint faster when I can see the lines clearly. I use a layer mask to selectively erase the lines while painting.

3. Imprimatura/Stain: I used a Burnt Sienna/intense orange to stain the sketch to provide a vibrant ground for the underpainting. The tan ground still shows through too.

4. Underpainting/Ebauche: Burnt Umber was used to build up the underpainting on a new layer. I start with a low paint density to simulate working with thinned paint.

5-7. Overpainting: I tend to paint forward from the background, creating a new layer for each color. Though conventional wisdom says otherwise, painting traditionally is often a multi-layer process. Especially if you're using a glazing medium such as acrylic paint. Painting each color on a new layer allows me to erase/thin/push around the paint while working. The effect is similar to painting on top of dried paint. This also allows the previous layers, particularly the underpainting, to show through in the final piece.

8. Glazing: I like to paint on layers set to 'soft light' to simulate glazing, which can be difficult to recreate digitally. The effect is subtle in this particular piece but can be quite dramatic in others. I mostly glaze to deepen shadows and add colors, but with digital paint I can 'glaze' highlights as well (which can be seen in her vest/blouse and the lamp).

9. Varnish/Contrast Adjustments: Much like a real varnish can add lustre and depth to a real painting, various contrast adjustments can add a finishing touch to digital paintings. I usually punch up the brightness and contrast a bit but try not to get too carried away. I also use an Unsharp Mask filter to sharpen details and brushstrokes.
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