A ‘god?’ Geez, let’s not get hyperbolic, Theresa!
But anyhow, the “smooth” line art? Oh, well that’s easy enough. The real secret is that the lines aren’t smooth at all! I work in pencil and never bother to ink any of my lines. I just happen to have very tight pencils, and I scan them in at high enough resolution that you can’t really tell. Here’s how it works:
step 0, not shown: I do my roughs in paper, scan them into Photoshop, and rotate and resize and scribble on them more 'til i’m happy with them. You can see these comps earlier in my thread. When I’m all satisfied, I print them out onto a tabloid sized piece of paper.
step 1: I redraw the image on 11x14 Tracing Vellum, placed on top of the tabloid print out. I tend to favor a Staedtler Mars Lumograph 4B pencil, especially for the thicker lines, but I also use a PaperMate American Naturals HB for the thinnner detail lines - We’ve got tons of them in the office, and they feel a softer than the average HB but sharpen well. As you can see, I go for a pretty tight line.
I scan that in at something like 300dpi, so I’m working on a pretty large image. I adjust the levels to remove the greys but I’m not shooting at making the line itself solid black: That removes too much of the character of it. Image #1 is the actual scan at 100% actual pixels. This appears larger than I actually drew it, but once I’ve scanned it into Photoshop, this is it at 100%. This line art layer is set to Multiply and placed on the top layer. Almost everything else will go underneath it.
step 2: Basic color. I color in the skin and everything else in basically solid colors, in a lot of seperate layers beneath the Line Art layer.
step 3: Adding layers for shadows and hilights and depth which go on top of the solid color layers, I get a basic idea of what color things will actually be in the final painting.
step 4: I flatten all those layers together and start detailing… but note that I DON’T flatten the line art layer in there. It always remains seperate. Anyhow, several weeks later, this is what the image looks like with all of the detailing and shading and stuff. Here’ I’ve just gone in and painted everything, with a combination of the brush and airbrush tool. The rim light, as it started out as an experiment, was on a seperate layer.
step 5: This is actually not a seperate step, but I wanted to show what the line art looks like by the end of the process. Two things have happened here: First, I found that there were places that I needed to soften or eliminate the line art. Like on the right side, where his cheek is: It looked too dark to have a solid line there against the ceiling light and the rim light, so I airbrushed some of it out. Secondly, the grey/black line isn’t always the best “color” for the line, so there are places where I use the Hue/Saturation controls (click the checkbox labeled ‘Colorize’) to colorize the lines. A warm color in this case complements the skin much better, and as most of the picture is cool, it helps the warm areas (like the man’s skin and tie and the boss’s skin, which you can see a hint of in the upper right) stand out a bit more. Now the warm lines are working with the skin tones instead of against them.
And that’s pretty much it for how I incorporate the line art!
Hope this is helpful!