All right, here's another collage of in-progress shots, illustrating the working process for my latest painting, from start to finish, along with some comments about each stage. I'll try to make this a little longer and more elaborate than the last, and thus, ideally, more useful... Or so I hope. Here we go:
First of all I had to decide on the reference picture for my painting. There were several others I considered, but in the end I chose this one, since it's a nice and simple close-up. There is no background, or any other distracting elements, so I knew I'd be able to focus on the actual portrait - And I'd get a chance to play around with detailed skin and hair textures some more.
Here is a copy of the original reference image as I found it: [link]
Once I had my reference, I loaded it up in Painter and tweaked its colours/ contrast, sharpened it and generally did what I could to optimize it for my purposes.
When I was satisfied with it, I did a basic line drawing, to nail down the major shapes and proportions, and then finally started painting.
First I blocked in the basic tones and lighting, for the most using fairly big and bold brushes. I work at about 25% or less of the actual full resolution at this point, which makes it easier to focus on the essential elements of the painting. If you lay down a solid foundation, right from the beginning, it just makes the later steps easier. ( image 1 )
I defined some of the shapes and edges some more, then switched to a blender, to soften out any unwanted rough edges and create smoother transitions. The blender I used also had the positive side-effect of creating some basic grainy texture. ( image 2 )
I then switched to a camel hair brush and applied some basic texturing to his hair and beard. ( It may appear obvious enough, but that type of brush is quite effective for creating detailed hair textures, since it allows you to paint multiple fine lines in one brushstroke. )
Then I switched to a chalk brush, and applied more texture to his skin, as well as his clothing. ( image 3 )
These textures add a great deal of realism already, however he still looks rather messy - Time to clean him up a bit. I switched to a smaller brush and re-defined the various edges and shapes, generally adding more detail and contrast. ( image 4 )
After that I switched back to a smaller blender brush, getting rid of any unwanted rough spots and edges. Then I applied yet more detailed, sharper textures, this time paying more attention to detail. ( image 5 )
At this point the major part of the work is done, and it mainly comes down to adding final details and cleaning things up as necessary. This is where I zoom in to define the facial features further, add more subtle skin detail, strands of hair and so on... ( close-up )
Once I'm satisfied with what I got, I usually tweak the colours, contrast etc. one final time, then merge any layers if necessary, and scale the painting down for web use - And that's it. ( final image )
I forgot to mention, for most general purposes I just use a standard round brush. I also try and avoid using many layers, whenever possible. They can come in handy, if you know what you're doing, but generally too many layers just slow down the workflow. ( Or the computer itself, depending on your system. )
And that's about all I can think of, at this time... I tried to keep my comments fairly general, and non-Painter-specific, so hopefully users of other art software will be able to get something out of this. However, feel free to ask, if anyone should have more specific questions - Or in case I forgot something...