2. Base Painting

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[1] Overall base painting

Once I’ve finished the rough lines, I move on to the base painting. The base painting lays out the main colors for the illustration.


I typically paint on a single layer moving from background to foreground, and I rarely make big changes after painting.

Because of this, it’s important to decide the colors at an earlier stage in the base painting.

Sometimes I also add some rough texture at the base painting stage.


The base painting sets the first impression of the illustration, so I consider this to be the most important stage.


First, I create a new “Coloring” layer under the “Color” layer that I made at the draft stage. From now on I’ll paint everything on this layer.


I start by roughly painting with the Round Brush in colors picked up from the “colors” layer.

At this point, I don’t care if the colors go out of the lines. Instead, I add the colors while thinking about what I want the finished piece to look like.

If I decide to go a different way from my concept sketch, I layer it on top so that I can get closer to the image in my head.


In this illustration, I decided to paint a wide plain to emphasize the distance between the city and the bridge.

Then, I paint the shadows of the clouds over the trees in the middle to make the silhouettes of the city and bridge stand out.


[2] Clouds

The clouds are the furthest background element, so I sometimes paint them first to check the overall look of the painting.

I decide to paint them fully now before the rest of the base painting.


Using the Strong Airbrush at around 40% opacity, I gradually paint in more detail over the base colors.

I use the shadow colors painted on the sketch to form the shapes of the clouds, then paint in a slightly yellow-toned white for the tops of the clouds.

I build up the color using lots of small strokes and create a thick effect, blending with the shadow color that I painted first.

By using slightly different hues (a blue tone for the bottom and a yellow tone for the top), I can create a natural effect.


The clouds are casting shadows on the elements in the foreground, so I decide to add more clouds than in the sketch.

Thinking about the perspective, I emphasize the horizontal lines of the further clouds and use more random shapes for the foreground clouds.


[3] Layer mask

Before I continue with the rest of the base painting, I create a layer mask so I can hide any of the draft lines that are in the way.


I select the “draft lines” layer and click the “Create layer mask” icon on the [Layer] palette.


If I use an eraser tool while selecting the layer mask, I can hide parts of the draft lines. However, because it’s just a mask, the lines aren’t erased from the actual layer.

I often use layer masks to lighten or erase parts of the lines that get in the way.

This time I’ll use layer masks to erase the draft lines and the sketch as I paint.


Note: Read the following article to learn more about how to use layer masks.


[4] Continuing the base painting

■ Distant mountains to the city


I go back to the base painting. Using the Round Brush at around 60% opacity, I gradually add base colors moving from the distant mountains to the city.

For the mountains, I paint the parts close to the ridge more clearly, and use a foggy effect for the parts that are closer to the earth.

The mountains are in the far distance, so I don’t add much detail and simply clarify the silhouette.


For the city, I paint just enough to distinguish the rooftops, walls, and trees in the bright areas. In the darker areas, I only paint the rooftops to create a more hazy effect.


Hint: Blending color

If the colors aren’t blending together well, I use the eyedropper tool on the overlapping area to pick up a color between the two.

① I pick up the overlapping color by holding the Alt key and clicking the canvas.

② Then, I undo the stroke (shortcut: Ctrl + Z).

③ I repaint the stroke with the new color. Because it has part of the lower color mixed in, it blends much better than before.


You can also make detailed adjustments to the color in the Color Palette before repainting, such as increasing the saturation.


I add some fog around the base of the city to create a sense of distance.


I use my Strong Airbrush with opacity lowered to around 40% and gradually layer up the fog.

The mountains in the background aren’t such an important element, so I just draw enough detail to give a sense of the atmosphere. If necessary, I’ll add more detail later.

I didn’t add much detail yet, but the mountains are almost totally finished.



■ Foreground elements


Once I’ve finished painting the fog, I go back to the Round Brush and paint the foreground.

The bridge is the main element of the foreground, so I lay down some more detailed colors at the base painting stage, such as the shadows on the ground and the color of the surrounding landscape. I apply some variation in color too.



I want the base of the riverbed to be slightly visible, so I paint a brown color in the close foreground.



To create a natural gradient, I use the Strong Airbrush to paint, then repeatedly pick up the mixed color and paint again with the new color.

I add some color around the reflection of the bridge to express the surface of the water and the running water.



Finally, I paint the plants in the foreground to emphasize the volume, then check the look of the whole illustration so far.

I check that the saturation and contrast gets higher in the foreground in line with the principles of aerial perspective, and check that the eye is drawn to the main elements.

If necessary, I add more detail. I finalize the impression of the illustration at this stage. Once I’ve finished some slight adjustments, the base painting is done.

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