Pandora, Marta Dahlig (2D)

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  11 November 2006
Pandora, Marta Dahlig (2D)

Title: Pandora
Name: Marta Dahlig
Country: Poland
Software: Painter, Photoshop

Hello fellow artists,

After a long absence, I can finally show something new. :)
Again 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.

Here are some close-ups:

I really hope you like it, any feedback is truly appreciated!
PS. Check the second post for some walkthrough shots and tiny tips.
  11 November 2006
Hello again
As stated in the main post, 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.

1. Choosing the right colours

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.

2. Blocking the colours

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.

3. Painting the face

What I did first, was taking care of the blending, while enriching the colour palette constantly with new shades: I deepened the shadows by adding some darker violets and gave more life to the cheeks by adding more oranges and pinks to them. As for the brushes, I always apply colours with the Hard round brush with it’s opacity set to pressure (and with a low flow).
For blending and palette enriching I usually use roundish custom brushes with uneven, torn edges.
Now, when the image was all smoothened, I started adding texture. On the skin I painted in some delicate never-to-be-visible veins and skin pores (by painting many many many lighter and darker blobs with my custom speckled brush and some tiny single dots on top of it, one by one, with a plain round brush). I love adding little moles and such, so I couldn’t resist to put in a few, too.
The mouth I shaded by highlighting the puffy areas of each lip and then by painting small dots of different sizes and shapes on the highlighted areas. I used some airbrush on top of the dots, to make them stand out less.

4. Painting the hair

The hair was done with the simplest hard and soft brushes with the opacity set to pressure.
I find it very efficient to first paint the main curves of the hair (with a darker colour), marking the curls and the general shape of the strands. From there on, I gradually switched onto smaller lighter brushes, adding more and more strands. During this process I also kept on changing the brush modes to e.g. colour dodge or soft light while painting separate strands in order to further enrich the colour palette.

What I found is very efficient to do, is to paint some thin strands, then use the blur tool on them and then paint other strands on top of the blurred pile. Too much detail in the hair will kill the realism of it – it’s much more efficient to hint the details instead. And that’s exactly what the blur tool does - it grants the hair a realistic, soft effect, without making it seem overdone.
Also, it was important to ensure that the falls didn’t look too artificial (image 3). I decided to add much more hair strands, some even opposing the direction of the strand’s fall, to make it look a bit messy and natural.

5. Touchups

Well, that was the final stage of painting. I wanted to paint moths coming out of the box, along with the “fairy dust”, but I was afraid they would look too much like butterflies.

I wanted to have a strong sense of danger whilst keeping the mystical and so I decided snakes would be perfect for this occasion.

Achieving the right mood was the main goal of this piece, and so I have to admit I spent a tremendous amount of time just playing with the lighting. Layer modes were extremely helpful in this step; the glows were done using the Overlay, Colour Dodge and Soft Light modes.

Ok, well, that’s about it for now. I hope that, if not a bit helpful, this read wasn’t at least too boring. Thank you all for your time.
  11 November 2006
Holy mother of god this is stunning. Everything is perfect.
  11 November 2006
It's absolutely awesome!! really Marta i'm speechless !! don't know what to say...i was worried about the fact that no word will come out from my mouth...this work's only for viewing and for 5 star rate...not much to speek about xD it's perfect, like you honey <3 good luck here!!
__________________ - my portfolio

  11 November 2006
really astonishing
love the hands!
  11 November 2006
Very beautiful! And thanks for including your work steps!
  11 November 2006
so beautiful image!!i love your detail and lighting

Chronominater Project Concept Demo
  11 November 2006

Hello Marta, just not to say the same (that, Your work is amazingly stunning!) :

I really admire your taste of feeling the light, and Your usage of colours to represent how the light goes through the skin especially on hands. The rest is also done perfectly.

Best regards, Dawid

Pozdrawiam :-)
Dawid Lubryka
  11 November 2006
A wonderful piece! I can tell you put a lot of work into it. I love all the angles in the composition and the light source came out fantastic. Thank you for taking the time to share the process images. It's great to see it all come together and how you solved things along the way.
  11 November 2006

Glad you pop up at my thread,,Happy to have comments from artist of this calibre.

  11 November 2006
Thumbs up Excellent

Wow... I can´t say nothing... top quality work. Really useful you posted the steps creating this artwork. Thanks you.
Not fate but what we make...

John Connor (T2)
  11 November 2006
Wow What I love the most are the hands ! They look so real like if it's a photo lol Awesome work and thanks to share your tips and walkthrough !
Looking forward to see the next
  11 November 2006
WOW. *words fail*
Oh my goodness... This painting makes me so incredibly happy!!! I was wondering what your next painting would be, and this is just... mind-blowing!! It's so *glorious* to look at, the colours are perfect, a wonderful blend of cold and warm tones, and the balance of that is so hard to pull off (well, I can't do it!). The details are absolutely stunning; skin, hands, fabric, intricate box... how did you not go insane painting this?!! It also has a very Greek atmosphere to it, which fits so well with the myth - but, to me, lovely Indian overtones due to that gorgeous fabric, filigree box and stuff... I love that jewel, I can't take my eyes off it. I like shiny things ^.^u
Like those *snakes*! Even in the closeup I couldn't believe they were hand-drawn... Incredible. Bah.
I'm running out of suitably awestruck adjectives... Just, thank you for sharing!! And, ohmy GOD thank you eternally for talking us through the whole process, it was so interesting to see the way you work. It's all so beautiful! My eyes are happy!

Those hands... O_o
(sorry for the not-so-useful comment, I am still in stages of wonder)
  11 November 2006
BlacKeri you never cease to amaze. Awesome work, and I'm always in awe with your characters hands.


  11 November 2006
Beautiful color palette and great job on the hands, they really look alive. The jewel on the box lid seems a little off-center--that's nitpicking though. What a gorgeous painting
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