December 4, 2014

Advanced Digital Painting

Tips for Painting a Portrait of a Woman

Krisztian Tejfel - Female Portrait Digital Oil PaintingKrisztiàn Tejfel is a Hungarian painter and photographer. He mostly paints women's portrait, often leaving his creations with the look of a "work unfinished". He is educated in traditional painting and began exploring digital painting a few years ago. His female portraits are characterised by their melancholic look with a pinch of surrealism.  

In the blog post below, Tejfel offers tips on each element of the portrait as well as insights on his digital painting workflow. Watch the full video to see the entire painting process.

The Sketch

Like every painting, this portrait also begins with a sketch – you can use a photo for reference, for example. For the sketch layer I set the blending mode to “multiply”, which will make the picture more transparent. As a result, you can see the underlying layer better.

Krisztian Tejfel - Female Portrait Digital Oil Painting


Now block the sketch with a medium colour tone, which you can take with the pipet from the face. I use a large wet acrylic brush for the face, which gently blurs the layers of paint – and is very similar to the conventional acrylic technique. Usually, I set the opacity to 85 per cent, so the individual paint layers won’t completely overlap. This way, all brush strokes will be visible and we can avoid the otherwise rather sterile computer graphic effect.

Facial Features

Start out by roughly working on the eyes, the nose and the mouth with a smaller brush and the opacity mentioned above. These elements are the most important parts of the portrait as they can convey the most emotion. It doesn’t matter how well a picture is painted if it fails to evoke emotions from the viewer!

Krisztian Tejfel - Female Portrait Digital Oil Painting

The Lips

From Painter I switch to Photoshop to draw the lips with a chalk brush while making use of the ProPen’s pressure sensitivity. I love this brush: It is the brush I use for most of my works. The touch strip at the back of Cintiq make it extremely easy to change the brush size while painting. The details of the lips are very important: I form their tiny grooves and dents with a small brush and a few different shades. The best thing is to pick the colour of the lips with the pipet, then create the tiny cracks with lines a few shades darker or lighter, which will provide texture and depth in one of the most expressive parts of the face.

Krisztian Tejfel - Female Portrait Digital Oil Painting

The Nose

Change to a smaller brush for the nose and form highlights with small, but powerful lines. These tiny lines are very important when forming skin texture. They will make the portrait look more realistic.

Neck and Ears

Unless you want to, don’t pay too much attention to forming the neck and ears. Just apply rough brush strokes ...

Krisztian Tejfel - Female Portrait Digital Oil Painting

The Eyes

In my portrait, the eye is mostly covered by eyelashes, for which I create many small dynamic lines. To get the shape dynamics, it is useful to switch to the size jitter, because it makes the end of the lines get narrower with decreasing pen pressure. A basic round brush is perfect – no need for fancy customised brushes.

Krisztian Tejfel - Female Portrait Digital Oil Painting

The Clothes

In Painter, I draw the clothes roughly with my finger – a technique I use a lot in conventional paintings, too. It is great that Cintiq lets you do this in a digital painting as well. I don’t focus on the clothes too much though so as not to distract from the essence of the portrait: the face. Therefore, I choose a simple shirt with a laced collar, set the opacity control of the brush to “pen pressure” and develop the clothes with large strokes. To develop the collar, you can use a 2B pencil instead of the acrylic brush. The pencil is very useful to elaborate the lace. Since the Wacom ProPen is tilt-sensitive, it behaves just like a conventional pencil when shading.

The Hair

Before working on the hair, you may want to create a new layer over the face and the neck. With an acrylic brush, first sketch the hair with two or three shades (lighter and darker) – a very important step, as the hair colour will be visible in the final result. Back in Photoshop, set the brush texture depth to 16 per cent, since it is perfect for painting the hair. Its airy feel helps to avoid sterility. However, you can use any image or pattern as texture under the brush tab. It’s important to work with many different brushes and depths to make the hair look authentic. At last, I draw in some lighter hairs, which gives the hair a particular shine.

Krisztian Tejfel - Female Portrait Digital Oil Painting

Shading and Shadows

It is very important to draw shades and shadows – around the hair, for example. If you don’t draw shades here, the hair will look like a wig. You can paint the shades on the hair layer itself or under the hair with a larger brush.

Flower for the Hair

To draw a simple, but intense flower, first sketch it quickly, then tend to the darker and lighter parts. You can use a basic chalk brush for this and set the brush texture to 2. When creating the flower on a separate layer, you don’t have to mind the outlines, because in the next step you can simply flip the pen and erase the excess parts.

Krisztian Tejfel - Female Portrait Digital Oil Painting


Now choose a frame and background for the picture. For the portrait, I pick an oval frame to create an archaic feel. To enhance the vintage look even more, I rub out parts of the clothes and hair layers to make it seem like the image is scratched or faded. Then I apply some final details, such as a tear smudge – by picking up the eyeshade colour with the pipet and a chalk brush to blur the shade. Finally, I give the face some single freckles and break the simplicity of the flower by painting a few lines that make it look like the flower is melting or leaking.

Choosing the Canvas

One more thing: I always paint on canvas. Which means I either start by painting on a canvas texture or give the picture a canvas pattern during post processing. If you want to, you can apply your own textures, as it’s not difficult to photograph them, but of course the internet is also full of legal textures to choose from.

Krisztian Tejfel - Female Portrait Digital Oil Painting

Wait and See

If you have some time left, it is extremely helpful to leave the painting to rest for a day or more. Once you return from a distance, you will see errors better and know what needs to be changed to complete the picture.

Krisztian Tejfel - Female Portrait Digital Oil Painting

Cintiq best resembles traditional painting techniques, and it can be rotated, tilted and touch-controlled, just as needed. With the latest Photoshop update I can finally make use of another great advantage of the Cintiq touch display: the touch-controlled zoom and rotation of the image. This feature greatly contributes to speeding up the work.

Basic Settings: Adjusting Cintiq

One of the main advantages of Cintiq 22 HD touch is that you can assign custom commands to each of the different buttons. When fine-tuned, the device can be used without a mouse or keyboard, which helps avoid distractions from work.

Krisztian Tejfel - Female Portrait Digital Oil Painting

Habitually, I set the eraser at the top of the ProPen, and the right click at the bottom; “Alt” is the pipet. For quick access to brush size, I use the touch strip at the back of the display – a mode that saves a lot of time. My top buttons then are set to “Undo”, “Save”, “Tab”, and “Alt”. Being left-handed, I use my right hand to adjust brush size etc. while painting, so I set my ExpressKeys on the right side of the screen to “Hand”, zoom, and brush panel. I usually paint in Photoshop, but Painter 2015 is a fine update: It is more stable and the brushes are good as well.

Watch the full video tutorial: Painting a Female Portrait with Cintiq 22HDtouch



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Cintiq 22HD touch


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