Making of the Pandora
by Marta Dahlig, Poland

Hello everyone, I have been inspired by mythology – this time by the history of Pandora. (If you are unfamiliar with it, you can check it here: )

My goal was to depict Pandora opening the box, but not yet seeing what truly is hidden inside. I wanted the moment to be mystic, full of magic and mystery.

In this image I have tried extremely hard to improve my technique, especially when it comes to painting skin (colour and texture wise), hair and experimenting with lightsources. Many, many hours spent on this one. Everything painted from scratch, no references used, made in Painter and Photoshop.

I have saved some screenshots throughout painting to compile some sort of a “walkthrough-sharing thoughts on painting characters” hybrid, concentrating on the skin, from colour picking to blending to texturing and hair. It’s not really meant as an educational tool - I just wanted to explain my workflow and share some thoughts on painting several elements of this artwork, but I would be very happy if some of you found it useful.

Choosing the Right Colors

First thing I always do after carefully planning the image’s content is deciding on the colour palette. Even though it’s usually easy to decide what colour themes I want throughout the image, it is quite often tricky to choose interesting, rich shades for the skin tones. I do, however, have a few tricks to help me out in the process should I have any problems. (I do not go through this process every time I paint, but it’s sometimes extremely helpful.)

Okay so: I always pick one main colour – the midtone of the skin (1). Then I make a few strokes with a low opacity brush and pick up some colours which are the mix of the background and my midtone. Now what is extremely important to remember is that skin should be shaded with different hues, not just various brightness variations of one shade. To get some colour variations for the skin, I duplicate the previously made blob a few times and play with the Color Balance tool in Photoshop (I love it to bits <3).

I usually keep enriching the skintone palette further (2a, 2b).

I take the basic colours I got from Step 1 and mix them all together. I sometimes use the “burn tool” on this as well (2a). Now, to get the colours for the skin’s highlights I do something like this (2b): I choose the colour of my desired light (in this case bright yellows and oranges) and using different brush modes (here: colour dodge, overlay, hard light) I combine those colours with my basic skin tones.

Blocking the Colors

Instead of usual line sketching, I blocked out the colours. It doesn’t always look too attractive at first, but it allows me to control the scene from the very beginning. Beside being roughly colour-blocked, image 1 looked extremely boring at this point – there was nothing original about it. My goal was to make the piece interesting through lighting, so I decided to make the box both the focus point and the main light source of the entire piece. I sketched out the box to get a better context for my light and continued with blocking the colours: adding highlights and enriching the skin with further colours from my palette. After I got the rough idea of how the image would look like, I moved on to shading particular elements of the painting.

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