Illustration heroic fantasy avec CLIP STUDIO PAINT

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Step 1: Setting up the workspace

I think it's important to prepare your workspace well before you start. In particular to optimize his time and have easy access to his tools. I start by putting the chromatic disc at the top right to be able to choose the colors quickly enough. Below, I put the layers window which will be used a lot. Then I place the properties of the tool below, because they are very important for adjusting the opacity of the brush, etc.

I then place the navigation window on the left, because it is essential to see its drawing on this small thumbnail to appreciate the coherence of the whole. Then I order the secondary tools, so I can choose the brushes. Below, the history, to be able to cancel more easily. I placed the work tools on a small strip stuck to the windows on the left.

Step 2: Keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are very important for working effectively. To modify them, go to the [File] menu at the top, then to [Shortcut settings]. A window opens, I assign my shortcuts to it in the different submenus such as [Options], [Main menu], [Tool] or even [Display the instant palette]. It’s important to assign shortcuts to increase and decrease the brush size, import images, zoom, crop, or export images. I usually put two keys next to each other on the keyboard to adjust the thickness of the brush.

Step 3: Preparatory sketch

I begin this illustration with a first sketch. I wanted to create a castle from my travel photos in Europe and add a touch of fantasy. That's why I added dragons around. This is the "dragon castle", a place where the locals live in peace with these creatures. I made some travel sketches which I scan and import into CLIP STUDIO PAINT. I previously assigned a keyboard shortcut to [Import]> [Image] to save time. I import all my sketches and put all of these layers in a new layer folder called "Sketch".

Step 4: Placement and perspective grid

I add a perspective grid to the sketch of the castle via the [Layer]> [Rule]> [Frame]> [Create perspective rule] menu, then I choose a 2-point perspective. A pixel layer is then created and I convert it to a vector layer, so that I can use the vector eraser afterwards. To do this, I click on the [New Vector Layer] button at the bottom of the [Layer] palette, then I click on the [Ruler] icon of the perspective layer and I move it to the vector layer.

Step 5: Using the perspective vector layer

Now, I select the [Operation] tool and click on the small dots along the perspective lines to move them. The center point moves the horizon line. The points along the lines move the vanishing points. In the [Tool Properties]> [Operation] menu, there are three grid buttons to display the vanishing point grids, as well as a snap button. This allows when activated to draw along the perspective lines with a drawing tool like a pencil.

Step 6: Drawing the castle

Once the sketches have been imported, I create a layer folder called "Drawing" and on a first layer, I start drawing with the [Pencil]> [Drawing pencil] tool. I use a keyboard shortcut to access this tool instantly. I draw the first buildings with the pencil in black. I want to specify that I draw with an XP Pen 22e Pro screen tablet, which allows me to be precise. I go back over the sketches with a very clean drawing and a fine line. Then I create a new layer and draw another building and so on. I name each layer "House 1, 2, 3, etc. By double clicking on their name.

Step 7: Placement of buildings

Now, I place and distribute the buildings previously drawn on the overall sketch, as shown in the screenshot. I then use perspective grids to correct the vanishing lines of certain buildings to make the whole coherent. I also create a layer called "Background" on which I paint with the tool [Painting]> [Oil painting], the whole castle in beige to see where its limits are. Finally, I create color layers below each drawing layer and start painting with the oil paint brush the basic color of each house one by one, because I will then copy them to certain places.

Step 8: Color

With the oil paint tool, I paint each roof in bright blue, the walls in light beige, the beams in red brown and the windows and roof decorations in golden yellow. I add a few nuances on the lighter tiles and bricks on the walls.

I also paint the boats in brown and gold, then the sails in bright red. I don't hesitate to add small nuances of color in red as well as on wood. I also paint the shore all around the castle in orange and brown-green. I also add some trees on a layer called "Trees". I can always change the colors afterwards with correction layers.

Step 9: Finishing the base of the castle

I have to copy some houses. To do this, I select the [Move Layer] tool, I press [Ctrl + Shift] and I click on one of the houses I want to duplicate, which automatically selects its layer. I then select the folder containing the house while holding down the [Alt] button, then I move the house to copy it. I then apply a horizontal symmetry to change its direction by clicking on the menu [Edit]> [Transformation]> [Rotate on the horizontal axis of symmetry].

Step 10: Shadows and lights

I continue by drawing the shadows on the castle. To do this, I create a layer called "Shadows" above the "Castle" folder. I change the combination mode of this layer for [Product] by clicking on the drop-down menu at the top left of the [Layer] palette. Then I choose the oil paint brush, select ultramarine blue, draw an arrow to indicate the direction of the light and I start to paint the shadows meticulously to the right of each building.

I pay attention to the effect of light on the volumes and I don't forget the small windows, doors, etc. In some places, I have to paint a gradient effect, because the light gradually fades. For this, I select the soft gum and I gently erase certain parts of the shade. Finally, I set the opacity of this layer to 80 from the upper right corner of the [Layer] palette.

Step 11: The bottom

I will now create the sky and the lake. You can take inspiration from pictures of the sky like I did with the image of a sunset. With the oil paint brush, I start to paint orange clouds. I sometimes use the [Gouache Mixer] tool to dilute the shades. Painting the sky takes a while. When I'm done, I paint the mountains on the horizon in red and purple. I can use the perspective layer to paint by depth. For the lake, I use certain colors of the sky and I create the reflection of the castle on the water with shades of blue green, then I paint the towers in beige. Finally, I mix the colors a little between them to get a nice effect.

Step 12: Tint settings

I find that the castle does not yet have the right colors. So I create a "Red Tint" layer in [Soft Light] mode and paint areas of the castle to give it red tones. The shadow doesn't seem strong enough and too blue, so I create a layer "Shadows 2" in the [Product] combination mode with an opacity rate of 28 and I paint on the blue shadow with dark brown gray. Finally, I create a correction layer [Hue / Saturation / Brightness] above the "Castle" folder, then I click on the small button at the top of the layer palette [Clipping mask on the lower layer], which transposes the modifications of the correction layer on the folder containing the castle. I set the hue to -2 and the brightness to 15.

Step 13: Continuation of settings

I repeat the process by creating a "Color Balance" layer. There are three buttons at the bottom of the window. I start with the settings for [Halftone]:
[Color level]: 100/0 / -1
[Shadow]: -40 / 14/20
[Highlight]: 53 / -4 / 3


The colors change a little. I complete by making a selection of the roofs of the castle. I bring up the contents of the "Castle" folder by clicking on the little eye on the left while holding down the [Alt] key. Then I go to the menu [Selection area]> [Select the color range]. A menu appears, I set [Color margin error] to 30, then click with the pipette on one of the blue roofs; all roofs are selected. I create a correction layer [Hue / Saturation / Brightness] above the "Castle" folder; the selection of roofs is entered in the correction layer mask. I set the hue to -25, the saturation to -10 and the brightness to -2. Then I activate the button [Clipping mask on the lower layer].

Step 14: The dragons

I now move on to drawing dragons. I take the oil paint brush and start to gently paint the dragons through the clouds on the background. I decided to create dragons with slender bodies like snakes. I use a bluish color to distinguish the dragons from the background. You can use dragons references on the internet to help you.

Finally, I'm going to put the scale textures on the dragons. For this, I get a photo of an iguana with beautiful scales and I import it into the scene. I set the layer mode to [Overlay], then click on the [Edit]> [Transformation]> [Twist] menu to distort the image and apply the iguana scales to the dragon. I apply a layer mask on the photo of the iguana and erase with the eraser the parts of scales that are not useful. I repeat the operation on the rest of the dragon's body.

Step 15: Settings and Effects

I finish by creating a correction layer [Level correction] on top of all the layers. I move the small arrow to the right towards the end of the "mountain" that the graph forms to lighten my too dark image. Finally, I create a layer called "Correction" so that I can paint on top of everything and correct the final details with the [Watercolor brush].

I correct the color of the buildings.

I adjust the dragons and the sky with shades of blue, purple and pink.

I modify the colors towards those of the final result. I completely modify the lake with blue, cyan, red and orange.

I add additional details to the castle such as the sword on the top and purple shades on the shadows. I create a layer "Halo" in [Raw Light] mode on which I paint a beautiful halo on the sword of the summit with [Soft Airbrush].

I finish by adding a final correction layer [Level correction] to contrast the image.

Nicolas Delhelle Digital Artist
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https://www.facebook.com/nicolasdelhelle/ https://www.facebook.com/nicolasdelhelle/

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