This illustration was done for the “Historical Romance” genre guide, one of a series of five Genre Guides for the public library.
Illustration for “Historical Romance” Genre Guide, 2006. Digital Image produced with Photoshop.
How it was done
This illustration was fully digital, i.e. sketching and colouring all via Photoshop.
I started with these general requirements from my colleague: “Historical Romance – Victorian, regency era, old-school England/ French society where ladies still wear corsettes and put fake moles on their insipid white faces… full of fluff kind.” My colleague also provided a photo-reference culled from somewhere (I have no idea where is that picture right now… might have deleted it. Anyway it showed a woman in a dress not unlike the one I painted).
First I traced the outline of the woman in the dress from the photo-reference, as a new layer in Photoshop. Once that was done, I tweaked the sketch a little (i.e. adjustments to the position of the head, the body shape, added the umbrella). Then I created another layer over the sketch for filling in the colour.
After some initial experimentation, I settled on using Wet Brushes with varying Opacity settings. Discovered that I really could achieve a watercolour effect this way. But the main shortcoming was that unlike a real watercolour brush, the Photoshop brush setting was rather rigid, i.e. you couldn’t adjust the tip or width of the brush as immediate as a real one.
Once I had the face painted with the desired wet look, I started another new layer for backgrounds. Decided to keep this illustration relatively simple, in typical watercolour style where emphasis is on the whites and negative spaces.
Much time was spent figuring out the brush and opacity settings. Like in my actual watercolour paintings, I have a tendency to overwork the paints, i.e. go over more than one stroke and spoiling the clean look. This was easily corrected though — the great thing about Digital Painting is that you can go clean up or undo the less desirable attempts and try until you get something you want. Of course you sacrifice the feel and texture of paper and layering of real paint.
Finally I cropped an image of a building from another photo-reference (royalty free, of course) and added it as a new layer (to subtly jazz up the overall picture). Painted over with darker purplish colour.