This is a tutorial on basic steps I follow when producing a portrait on Java draw, especially for times when a reference is hard to come by. I hope to help people draw more realistic portraits from imagination.
For those of you who aren't too familiar with the Java tool, here's a quick run down (as well as some info on lineart).
Tablet users: When you save your work in progress for later your tablet applet will sometimes (usually) stop working. I don't mind this myself but some people might prefer the extra paintbrush tip control.
The buttons are easy to understand. I will only use Pen and Airbrush though (eraser and undo goes without saying, spam them, they are there). Pen tool is more precise than airbrush but harder-edged. It also has a more solid opacity to begin with.
The brush you select can be free draw (which we will use), straight lines or paths (which we will ignore). The Brushes panel has a lot of options for brush width, opacity etc. If this is your first time using Java tool (I doubt it), play around with it some first. In general once I start painting I lower the opacity to no more than 70 unless I need solid colour (sharp lighting for example).
There are two erasers, we will usually use the one on the right which has soft erase edges.
Remember also that by putting your cursor over an area and clicking the right mouse key you automatically select the colour there (useful for going back to a previous colour).
USE LAYERS. Never EVER draw your lineart onto Layer 1. Not that this is critical since you can move the layers around but it's good to get into the habit, the why will be clear in a moment. Click the little + at the bottom of the layers toolkit to add a new layer, use - to kill a layer. Click the little solid black dot to make the layer invisible, you can also play around with layer mode and opacity (more on that later in the tutorial).
Undo is found on the bottom left (if your main tool bar is on the left). The colour wheel is very easy to use and shouldn't give anyone a hard time.
As you can see, my lineart is not neat at all for this. You don't have to do it like me, I only do this for 'painted' illustrations where the colours will hide the lineart anyway. I tend to use very clean lineart for manga illustrations.
It's easiest if your subject occupies a good chunk of the canvas (also draws the eye better). When drawing drafts I like to separate foreground and background onto different layers so I can make them invisible if I want.
Next step is... "doodle crazily on my lineart!?"
Relax, she might look like alien spawn at the moment but it's just me highlighting how I view her in terms of shadows and light. I've broken it down to 4 strengths for the time being. The pink which is the medium or base skin tone, the red indicates patches that receive light. Yellow is where the light is sharp and reflective. Blue is to indicate definite shadows.
There is no real shortcut to learning this step except to look at people and photos, and to think about your lighting direction. If the light is coming from the bottom for example, we would reverse the positions of blue and red blobs on her face.
I don't actually draw this step on the painting, instead I use appropriate shades to key in the areas, but you can feel free to draw a face-map if you wish to guide yourself through the basic skin tone.
I find it easiest to paint realistic shadows and have the person fit into their environment if I at least give the background a simple treatment first. This is why I said not to draw on layer 1 (you can always move it, just drag and drop). The colours on this image are done on the single layer underneath the lineart.
You can see even with this basic layer I've keyed in a few lighting spots around the image. Notably her nose, cheeks and the lanterns. I've also darkened the sky to suggest night. The brush I used to give her the base skintone was around 50 opacity and drawn over the purple/blue haze of the night (so she preserves some of the background colour).
This is to help with the luminosity and translucency that comes with human skin which is difficult to emulate.
The proper keying in of light/dark patches on the girl's face begins. The process starts out fairly roughly, with just four colours used i the overall palette (giving her a rather unhealthy jaundiced look).
At this point I was still using the pen on 1 opacity and about 10+ thickness to block out the colours I needed. I switched over to airbrush to fill the 'cracks' between the lineart and the base skin layer so that no background can be seen.
Airbrush can tolerate a higher opacity, but bear in mind drawing over the same area can make it too dark when using the tool. Small, light, circular strokes work well for the cheeks.
Always refer back to the existing palette before making a new colour at this stage. It's very easy to use a colour that's too warm or cool because it was chosen on a similar but not identical portion of the colour wheel.
Turn the blending option on your Airbrush up to about 1/3 of the bar. Remember to make a new layer now when you're about to smooth out the face and add blush. If you haven't already, make sure this layer is above the lineart (previous layers can be above or below depending on how confident you are when you can't see the lineart).
If you've covered your lineart, use your lighting keys to show you important features you might have buried (nasal crease, lips etc).
Smooth out the rest of the face with airbrush. Use a lighter colour than the base skintone and eventually it will merge in and make her face look soft. You may need to use the airbrush at very low opacity and do tiny circles. Add the blush VERY carefully, you will want the airbrush size to be fairly large and the opacity to be low. It's best if the blush can be done in very few strokes (or you can again do little circles).
I know there's a blend/blur tool, but I always feel images lose the 'painted' quality when softened that way (looks more like Gaussian/photo blur). Adding the blush in light strokes also increases the layers on her skin, making it more translucent and soft.
Remember also to re-emphasize any shadows lost in the process. Add the stronger lighting intended in the original plans (on the nose, on the lips, near the chin, under the eyes).
The shadows are blended in again with the airbrush. The palette is now merely representative. You will find yourself using the colour picker a lot. It is a useful tool for finding the colour that can bridge two or three others to help them blend.
I find it easiest to do the blending by picking a colour that is about in between the two I want to blend then using the airbrush at low opacity (less than 10) to go over the area. Since the opacity is low, the merging happens seamlessly of its own accord without me having to choose all the colours in between.
I don't use the Layer mode Multiply for shadows at this point for one reason: Multiply desaturates as it darkens, screen saturates as it lightens. These two functions of Layers can destroy the colour balance in the image when I don't even know what the background looks like.
I generally add the hair at this step to make sure the colours I chose work fine. Lighter hair make people look dark, darker hair make people look pale, so bear that in mind when drawing (or sometimes your character will look sallow or too red just because of hair colour).
Next I added the basic colours for clothing. Note it uses the same technique as for her skin. A midtone is blobbed on in about the right outline, then a brighter red is used for preliminary lighting and a darker red is used for shadows. These are not final, since the background lanterns haven't come into play yet.
I noticed her face was too dark for the scarf and her cheeks were too thin for the 'cute' look I wanted, so I used the airbrush and rounded out her cheeks a bit more and blended out some of the shadows from her jaw (leaving these for the actual shadow layer).
I know her hair will be lit though, so I've given it the shine: Make a new layer. Use a Soft thick airbrush at low opacity (15ish or more depending on how heavy you want the lighting to be), one stroke across the hair where it shines.
I chose to keep the shine dull since it's a smokey/steamy night street with lantern lights. I also gave the lighting on the left a red hue. You can do the lighting after the next step if you're not certain about hue and strength. Remember that lights and reflections will not always be white or yellow.
I then used a 1 width 50 opacity Pen to draw in fine lines over the shine, then tidied up the lines and shine to match with the soft eraser (otherwise you'd see the lines sticking all over her head and past her fringe like straw).
Note on palettes: You can keep one if you like, but the colour picker tool makes it largely unnecessary. If you're having trouble envisioning your finished piece or the lighting/shadow keys aren't enough, feel free to just dab colours onto a separate layer you won't draw on (remember to select the right layer though and keep dragging the palette to the top or it will get buried).
At this point I moved onto the background because I was near finished with the girl's face and needed the lighting/shadow elements in play.
The image I've provided is the sequence in which I produced the 'props'. The snack was drawn rather simply as red beads, I then added 1px yellow dots to simulate the spotted peel of the haw haw berry. A low opacity airbrush was used to give the Tanghulu its signature slab of hardened sugar. Pen was used on low opacity with white paint to add lighting detail to make it shine. Sharp lighting is best used for glassy/crystalline surfaces since it makes them sparkle.
The lantern will be an introduction to Layer Modes:
In the Layer toolkit, the Layers usually display as Normal mode. In the second lantern strip, the layer I was drawing on had its properties changed to Screen. This meant when I drew on the base layer, it lightened and brightened the colours, making it look like a glowing lantern. Use airbrush if you want a diffused glow.
The next new layer was made and changed to Multiply mode, which darkens whatever is beneath it. I used it to add detail to the lantern and reduce the glow where appropriate (otherwise the lantern has no structure and is a glowing ball).
Now I can return to the girl and finish her off.
I added a few simple flowers to her hair, they are literally 10 strokes each, the trick is to make sure the petal edges are a lighter tone so that they look like they are standing out.
Back onto the girl's face: With a new Screen mode Layer, I first add the ambient light that gives her her rosy glow in the lantern light. I chose a rather bright and light reddish orange for this and used a low opacity soft airbrush. You might still find the screen effect too strong, erase with soft eraser where you want to preserve shadows and midtones.
Next a Multiply Mode Layer was added and I used a light bluish gray (since her shadows come from her surroundings too) airbrush to give her final shadows. This layer is very carefully done but follows still the general lighting key laid out at the start of the drawing. Definitely use low opacity here, I was using 1 for large parts of it. Erase shadows where they encroach on sharp light areas (nose tip, chin, right cheek).
The key is understanding where the light falls and what shadows it casts, but not going overboard. Soft brush, low opacity is still your friend.
Blob in the background and from this point on keep to using the airbrush. One way to mke drawings look more realistic is to blur the background as if it's out of focus.
The easiest way to do this is to draw it blurry to begin with. Soft airbrush is a good way to guarantee that. Try not to get too lost int he detail with backgrounds, there are occasions where a detailed background is grand but portraits in general require the opposite.
The colours are meant to be festive, so I've kept them vibrant. Since there's a lot of red already I balanced it by making the hanging lanterns red (done the same way the big ones were).
Add shadow and light to the background (not as much detail as foreground of course) and erase your original line art (I keep some around the hair and in semi-transluscent objects to give them a more solid feel.
You can just delete the original lineart layer if you want, at least the foreground should be entirely covered (except for the odd sketch line). Backgrounds tend to evolve so don't worry if you erase a whole chunk that didn't end up figuring into the painting.
I also like to drag perspective in and out in my drawings, and China is full of skyscrapers it was a natural (and relatively easy) choice.
Now you're done! Pretty much. She just had a few more clean-ups and a jade pendant added before I posted her. You can see the complete version by following the link at the top of the page ^_^/
Hope the Tutorial was useful to some people, feel free to message me with any questions or friend requests or whatever!