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Terra - Process
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© 2014 - 2019 tsuaii
Process for my Terra painting.

thumbnails — I begin with a small sketch to place what's in my head on canvas. Don't zoom in or worry about details. It's good to do several of these, to explore different ideas and allow your creativity to shine through. If you get too stiff here, the painting's liveliness and spirit may be lost. I wanted this painting to be all about light, so I focused on developing clear values and ignored color. Depending on the approach, though, you may also need to figure out colors in the thumbnail stage.

lines — After I've settled on the idea, I figure out how I'm going to approach the painting from a practical standpoint through a series of line drawings. For me, the most important part of this step is not about what's on the canvas, or making clean lines, but about understanding the scene in my head — spatial relationships, overlapping, perspective, flow. In a way, it's like reverse-engineering the thumbnail and troubleshooting the problem parts. Do as many drafts as it takes — I did Terra's lines in about seven passes.

ambient occlusion — For this piece, I used a painting approach similar to how a 3D program renders in multiple passes. A key part of this process is ambient occlusion (AO) — placing shadows in those niches and crevasses between objects, where light can't easily get to. The steps for Terra are based on a painting process by Artsammich (Sam Nielson).

flat colors — Colors were handled in a separate pass from lighting. However, the solid color of an object will still shift in hue and value depending on the lighting conditions, so that has to be taken into account. In the end, even the flat color stage will appear to have some shading to it.

light sources — Once the flat color and AO layers are combined, it will sort of look like a 3D model, and adding a few light sources will basically bring the painting near completion. The lighting will look correct if the sources are consistent — where objects cast shadows on themselves or other parts of the scene is crucial. I positioned a strong, warm light behind Terra and a cooler fill light in front.

post-production
— My last step is to flatten the image into one layer and render out the remaining details. Color adjustments are made at this point, as well as subsurface scattering for the skin and light bloom/lens flare effects. Since my usual painting style is so opaque and rigid, I lost a bit of the softness present in the earlier stages of the painting, which I regret. Next time, I want more of the AO to show through at the end.
Image size
2700x550px 1.19 MB
IMAGE DETAILS
Software
Adobe Photoshop CS6 (Macintosh)
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Comments
FluffButtArts's avatar
FluffButtArts|Professional General Artist
The AO technique in painting, I never thought of that.  This is immensely helpful, thank you so much for taking the time to make this and sharing.  I can't wait to try these techniques! :)
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cadette100's avatar
cadette100|Hobbyist Digital Artist
interesting love this 
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rotsentu's avatar
rotsentu|Professional Digital Artist
amazing stuff!
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myjerart's avatar
myjerart| Digital Artist
 This is so helpful thank you, but did you have a more "detailed" tutorial about the ambiant occlusion ? And where to place it ?
 Like, did the light affect the ambiant occlusion ( for exemple, Will the ambient occlusion be the same in a sunset atmosphere as in the middle of the day? ) :)
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Buga-Wuga's avatar
Buga-Wuga|Student Digital Artist
Very nice breakdown. It really changed my painting workflow for the better :)
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tsuaii's avatar
tsuaii|Professional
I'm glad it was helpful!
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Cassie-Draws's avatar
Cassie-Draws|Student Digital Artist
Absolutely gorgeous!
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tsuaii's avatar
tsuaii|Professional
Thanks a lot!
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Dante-Liu's avatar
I love this!!I love this!!!I love this!!!
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lostpapers's avatar
Your AO step is really enlighting for me :)
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JosianeFortin's avatar
JosianeFortin|Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm really trying this "ambient occlusion" next time ! Thanks for sharing ! Clap You're really talented !
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Delaving's avatar
Delaving|Hobbyist General Artist
Step 1-7 "Hm, okay I understand how this works"
Step 8, suddenly: magic! :D
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XanderMoore|Hobbyist General Artist
I've never heard of ambient occlusion before, and I have an art degree! Now I'm going to have to try this. Thanks for posting!
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rptw091's avatar
THIS IS BEAUUUUUUUTIFUL!!!! :love:
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Abetwabe's avatar
Abetwabe|Professional General Artist
Beautiful work...... beautiful work..... Do you do the ambient occlusion over the lines layer? And does AO ony involve doing the shadows? Do you bother doing shades of colors when you do the flats layer? Thanks for any information. :)
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tsuaii's avatar
tsuaii|Professional
Yeah I do AO over the lines, and then hide the lines once I'm done with them. AO is just the shadows with a black brush on a monochrome layer — I've found that if you start mixing greys or white into the AO layer, it can mess you up later on if you try to give the AO a slight hue (which I usually do, towards the end)

Adding slight shading to the flat colors is actually really important, but it's something you do after you've' already put down your light sources. Naturally there will be hue shifting as a surface goes into light or shadow, so you have to account for that. Usually once my light layers are down, I go back to my flat color layers and add reds or blues to the shadowed areas.

Hope that helps!
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Abetwabe's avatar
Abetwabe|Professional General Artist
gonna practice with all this very shortly. Thanks for the quick response and great amount of information. I will definitely start doing that more. Adding reds or blues to the shadows too.
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the-Leander's avatar
the-Leander|Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is gorgeous! I may never end up actually getting around to it, but this really inspires me to try a new way of coloring. Seeing peoples' processes is always so wonderful; thanks for sharing yours!
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IvannaMatilla's avatar
IvannaMatilla|Professional Digital Artist
Thank you very much for this. I have one question (in fact, I have more but I don't want to abuse your patience.) What's the meaning of "subsurface scattering"? I read Artsammich 's tutorials, and he mentions the same, but I can't understand what it is. Thank you again!
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tsuaii's avatar
tsuaii|Professional
Subsurface scattering is when light travels inside or through translucent objects. For instance, when you put your hand over a light and you can see a red glow in your skin, that's what we're talking about! Adding it to skin in select spots, usually next to brightly lit areas, really helps bring it to life
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IvannaMatilla's avatar
IvannaMatilla|Professional Digital Artist
Thank you for the swift response! I understand it now.
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tsuaii's avatar
tsuaii|Professional
Anytime!
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RifTheBit's avatar
RifTheBit| Digital Artist
cool :la: 
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JhaoShShin's avatar
Thank you for your kindness to breakdown the secret and let other people to understand this type of brand new coloring technique, thank you very much.

I'm kinda like this type of 2D mixing with 2.5D technique, you've reference and borrow the 3D rendering formula and bring it back to your original work, AO(ambient occlusion) and GI(global illumination) is a very good technology for lighting and coloring, the realism of photography and 3DRender is mixing with the traditional painting, it looks beautiful and real.

So, because I'm zero sense in coloring, I'm gonna just give a quick question for AO to flat color stage.
I'm guessing flat color is basically key color and combining a little shift of color in the shadow and bright area, change hue, saturation, brightness to fit the situation, and then use blend mod to make two piece work with each other, right?

Thank you for your time, very inspiring and helpful tutorial indeed, big appreciate!
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