Introduction - While driving through a scenic road I was in love with all the different shades of greens of the forest nearby the road. It was spring after all and all I saw was “green”! I went home and decided to paint a fairy painting using many variations of greens for my color scheme.
Brushes - Aside from the default PS brush preset, I also used my own custom brushes. I called them “flat bristle” and “knife” because they simulate the look of the traditional tools that I use. I use these two throughout the whole process. I use the “knife” brush to add branches and twigs to my trees. I use the small sharp round edge for details and the soft round edge for blending. And the “bristle” I use for large brush strokes to block in large shapes.
Step 1: I always start my paintings with a sketch, either by pencil scanned into PS or digitally using the stylus and tablet. I used whichever I can grab at the moment. I never clean up my line work since I just painted over it. For this painting I sketched digitally, using a small sharp round brush, set on “pen pressure”.
I sketched the figure first, starting with “stick figure”, adding muscles, and finally drapery. After the figure sketch was finished I started to block in the trees in the background and few small details such as ivy leaves and drooping vines to develop the composition and also to remind me of what I wanted to add later on.
I used the “lasso” tool to select the general shape of the tree, fill the selection with dark brown. Using my “knife” brush I added branches and twigs. Then I made a new layer, set it on “Hard Light”. Using the bristle brush I shaded in the lighter brown to establish the light source on the tree. I also blocked in the dress to help me have a better idea of the form of the figure in the overall layout.
I used a guide to align facial features, such as eyes, nose, and mouth. I made my guide lines red on a separate layer at 50% opacity. This guide is very important when I started painting the face in detail; it helps me keep the facial anatomy in check.
Step 2: After I was happy with the layout, I started to render. Generally I work “outside in”, rendering the background first and saving the facial details for last. I started on the big tree, adding some barks and moss.
Working at 100%, I redefined the facial features and gave some lighting direction to the figure. To keep the edges clean, I used the pen tool and saved my selections as “left arm”, “right arm”, “torso”, etc. These saved selections are very useful for later stages when I started blending and adding shadow to the figure. To make selections from the pen tool, close your path, right click and choose “make selection”, then go to Select > Save Selection, name your selection and click “Save”.
Step 3: Here I started to add texture, such as moss, ivy, vines, and fallen leaves into the background.
For the moss, I created a hand-painted custom brush. Using the small sharp round edge brush, I painted individual little dots and moss. The dots represented the small tiny daisies from afar. Once I am satisfied with the shape I select the moss go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. In Brush Dynamics, set the brush to scattering and pen pressure.
In this small example I added moss on a rock. Using my moss brush I painted the green moss on a separate layer. Create a Layer > Clipping mask for the active layer so that the moss fits cleanly on the rock. Set the Layer Style to Bevel and Emboss at a very slight depth, just enough to give the moss its own dimension on top of the rock. I used this same method for the moss on the tree.
I’ve also lengthened her hair, giving the character a more romantic look. I sketched in the dragonfly wings and a few hummingbirds to see if I’d like to add these elements. I decided not to go with these since they were used before in other paintings… I thought of leaves and thought that they would make a more interesting design for wings. The dragonfly design ended up on her dress :)