TUTORIAL - Digital Figure Painting - by Samanthie


Figure Tutorial
Grab the image for the tutorial here; http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?t=269454
Model Photograph 2.

*Please note that the cloth portion of the tutorial has not been completed.

To begin sketch the image either with traditional media or digital. I just did a very basic rough sketch in pencil and scanned it into Photoshop at 300 dpi. Create a new image. My canvas is 2000 x 1500. You can work smaller if you have to but it is alot easier to get in the finer details with a larger canvas. I changed the perspective of the photo to make it easier for me to sketch and paint.

Time to make a quick background. Click on the background layer and floodfill it with black. Add a new layer and using the dropper tool grab a lighter color from the bg area of the photo. You can use another color if you want to. Paint randomly in the center of the background with a large soft brush. Then choose a lighter value of the same color and paint again in the center but a little smaller this time. Once that is done give the image a gaussian blur maxed out at 250. Nice bg but could use just a little texture. Make a new layer. Click on the floodfill tool and choose pattern from the menu on the toolbar. I chose the first pattern in the menu. Floodfill this new layer. Now go to filter/blur/motion blur and use these settings; angle 47, blur at 999 ok. Now blur with gaussian at 32.8 radius ok. Change the layer to soft light. Lower opacity if needed. It just gives a nice subtle texture. Turn off the outline and figure layers and merge visible.


Outline: Add a new layer and name it outline. Choose a brush 2 or 3 size and begin making your outline of your image. Make sure you close your lines so that later you can select the different areas body, hair, and cloth. With the magic wand select the outside of the outline and then go to select/invert so that the outside of the outline image is selected. Go to select/modify/smooth and choose 8 as the value. Save this selection as an alpha channel. It will be of use later on. Do not deselect yet.

Figure: Add a new layer and name it figure. If you have a palette of skin colors you like just use that or you can select colors from the photo. That is what I did. Press Alt on the keyboard and carefully deselect all the areas of hair and cloth so that only the body remains selectd. Begin with a base color of medium brown and flood fill the body portion of the figure. Deselect and using the Lasso tool select the hair portion of the figure. Press the shift key and trace around the cloth areas to select them as well. Choose another dark brown color and floodfill the hair another very dark color of dark brown or black and floodfill the cloth areas. When you are finished filling in the different areas with color you can deselect the image. Don’t worry if the selection left unfilled areas we will take care of that now. Duplicate your figure layer. Duplicate the layer again. Click on the original figure layer. Give this layer a gaussian blur of about 14 radius. Duplicate this layer 3x’s. Turn off the background and outline layers and merge visible. Now you have a solid soft form you cannot see through. Load your alpha selection. Go to select/inverse, then hit the delete key. Deselect. Lower the opacity of the figure layer to about 86% so you can see your outline layer.

Time to add some form to the image. Look at the model in the photo. Get an idea of where the basic lights and darks are. Use the dropper tool and select a darker color from one of the shadow areas. On the figure layer apply the darkest shadows first. Don’t worry about being exactly right but get the shadows into the general areas. Next choose another color a shade or two lighter in value and apply that next to the dark shadows you just placed. Keep going with this until you get to the lightest value. You can do this with about 3 to 5 values. We are not being super critical at this point. I no longer have my original value image but your image may look something like my sample;

Give the image a gaussian blur of 38.1 radius. Enough so the blocky colors blur together. You should be able to make out some form to the image now. See sample below with opacity lowered and outline showing through;

Put layer back to 100% opacity and duplicate layer, turn off bg and outline layers, merge visible. Lower opacity back to 86% Load selection/invert and hit the delete key to clear away some of the blurry edges. If your alpha selection was precise you won’t have much in the way of edges to clean up but if not simply use the smudge tool to move edges back where they should be using your outline layer as a guide.


Figure1: Add a new layer and name it Figure 1. We will use this layer to help define the image. Zoom in close to both the photo and your working image. Focus on the head. Begin by adding some hilites and shadow areas. Add color to the lips, some shadow on the eyelid and add the eye lashes. Paint some hilites and shadow areas on the ear.

Basic Ear

The steps I did for this part of the tutorial are to closer illustrate for you how I did the details for the face and the body overall.
On the new layer add your shades of light and shadow with the paint brush. I used about 3 colors pulled from the photo. When finished give the layer a gaussian blur of 2.9. Now use the smudge tool size 4 at 85% strength. Begin to sculpt the ear into shape. Use the photo as your guide following the pattern of the model’s ear. Follow along with your smudge brush. Add more paint if needed. Use the dodge and burn tool. Adjust the opacity as needed for midtones, shadows and hilites.

Here is a study of the face using the above technique;

Use the same technique for the entire body image as you just used for the ear. When you have added your details turn off the bg layer and outline layer and merge visible.


This is where a nice Median filter can be very useful. Go to Filter/noise/median and use a low setting of 2 and it will help define and smooth edges more. You can experiment and go a ‘little’ higher than 2 to see if the filter can improve the image. Load the alpha selecton and inverse delete to help clear away any random pixels. It’s possible that at this stage your alpha selection may not totally match up with your figure. This is true especially if you’ve had to adjust proportions of the image as I did. You can still continue even if your alpha selection doesn’t really help. You can always make a new alpha selection or get rid of random pixels manually . Here is my image after the light and shadow details were added and then merged with the blurred layer. My background is smudged because I accidently left the use all layers option checked but it works out ok later.:wink:

Before going onto the next step take another look at the photo. There are many colors there. Add a new layer and use the dropper tool to grab some of the colors on the photo. Use the air brush and place some of those same colors onto your image in the same general areas as in the photo. Blur with gaussian blur of 10 or so. Lower the opacity of the layer and turn off bg and outline layers and merge visible again. Remove any stray pixels.

Foot Study 1: Here is just the basic shape of a foot. Add a new layer and paint in the hilites and a few shadows just as you did for the ear. After the basic hilites are added use the smudge brush and push the lights and darks into each other. It’s very much like oil painting if your smudge brush is set correctly. For this image the brush’s opacity was set from about 80 to 95% and hardness mostly at 0 to 3. I used the paint, dodge and burn tools to get the final result. Sometimes the dodge and burn tools sort of ‘thin’ out the areas I’m trying to fill in. If that happens add a bit more paint and continue. Paint, dodge, burn and more paint.:slight_smile:

Foot Study 2:


Mini Tutorial Crease:

Add a new layer and make a line along the stomach as shown. I used brush size 2.0, 0 hardness. Give this line a gaussian blur of 2.

Use the smudge tool at size 10 and begin to pull out and away from the center of the line as shown.

Continue to smudge and rub the outer areas to smooth. You can use the blur tool to help as well. Your image should look similar to this. Turn off bg and outline layers and merge visible.

Add a new layer. Draw a line as shown of a light shade from your palette or from the photo.

Give the line a gaussian blur of 4.0

Use the dodge and burn tools and lower the opacity. The opacity can be from 17 to 70%. You will have to decide what looks right to you. In this tutorial I used a much lighter base so you could see the lines I was drawing. The results may be different from the final render, but this is how I did the crease. Make a line along the upper area of the crease using the burn tool, size 8, opacity 44% (adjust if needed). Make another line on the lower edge along crease using the dodge tool same settings and also adjust as needed. Soften the area. For a more dramatic look duplicate the layer, blur more and use multiply (lower opacity). Also to further enhance the edges you can darken the nearest inward edge of the crease and likewise lighten the lower inward edge of the crease.



I wanted the hair to have the same quality as the figure so I used the same basic technique for it as I did for the body. I didn’t know how it would turn out to be honest but it seems to have worked out ok. I’ll share this technique with you but if you have another way of creating the hair that you prefer then go for it.:o)

Hair Tut:

Zoom in close on the head of the model and also on the head of your image. I will focus on one section of the hair. I did the entire hair section the same way.
Add a new layer and just like the ear and feet paint in the basic hilites and shadows. I only used two colors for this step of the mini-tut. I suggest you use at least three…dark to lightest for the best effect. Don’t worry about placing your hilites and shadows exactly like the model’s hair in the photo. I followed the pattern of her hair very loosely as you can see. Once you complete all of the steps the final results are pretty much random.

Give the layer a gaussian blur of 4.0.

Duplicate the layer and select the one below it. Move this layer down and to the left just slightly…maybe 3 pixels. Put the upper layer on overlay. Turn off bg layer and outline layer, merge visible. Duplicate the layer again and place the duplicated layer on overlay again only this time lower opacity to 44%. Turn off bg layer and outline, merge visible.

Now give the layer a motion blur 140 degrees and 48% strength. Duplicate the layer.


Place the duplicated layer on multiply. If it is too dark lower the opacity. Experiment by duplicating this layer again and choose dodge. You can get some really nice hilites to emerge this way. Play around with the different settings to see what other effects you can come up with. This is basically how I rendered the hair.

This is a closeup of the hair in the final render. Finer details were added with the paint and smudge tools. The light and dark areas were intensified with dodge and burn tools. I used a size 2 brush with lowered opacity on a new layer over the hair to make the crisscrossed hairs. Then simply blurred once and lowered the opacity of the layer just a little and then merged visible.


Defining Edges:

All of the edges of the thigh are currently blurred in the first image. Those edges as well as the ones where the cloth lies against the body need to be more defined. Make a new layer and with the selection tool carefully select the area along the upper thigh and also where the thigh meets the calf as shown.

With the dropper tool grab a color from near the edge…being careful not to grab the bg color. Go to Select/Modify/Smooth and choose 15. If your image is smaller than mine you may have to choose a lower number. Use the airbrush with a large brush and 0 hardness. Begin to spray along the edge of the selection. Change your color as needed as you move along the edge. Once finished there get the dropper tool again and grab the color near the front of the lower edge where the thigh meets the calf and spray along that edge as well again changing colors as needed. When you are finished deselect and cleanup where needed using the eraser tool. Adjust any ‘off’ edges with the smudge brush. If you think you have too sharp of an edge you will need to soften it The blur tool is great for this. When you are finished turn off bg and outline layers and merge visible. Repeat this process wherever you feel your image edges need this extra definition. I chose to leave the bottom of her legs undefined because they appear that way to me in the photo. Note that this is the technique I used to achieve the edges in the final render. The edges in the image shown for this tutorial have not been softened at all. I wanted to show you how the technique actually looks before anything else has been done…like extra softening and smudging.


Top edge of thigh defined.

Both top and inward edges of thigh defined.

Repeat the same steps where you feel the edges need more definition.

Adding hilites to the body:
Duplicate your layer and grab the dodge brush and lower the opacity to about 50 or even less. The brush size will range in size from about 170 to 270 depending on your canvas size and areas you are dodging. Set the brush to hilites and on the duplicated area begin to gently pull out the luminous lights that are also present on the model in the photo. Use the photo as your guide. The dodge brush does take a bit of practice and that is what this duplicated layer is for. Practice until you have your hilites as you want them to be and then lower the opacity of the layer. Turn off bg and outline layer and merge visible. I haven’t finished the cloth portion of the tutorial and I will try to get to it within the next couple of days but if you don’t want to wait there are many cloth tutorials available or you can apply some of the same techniques described in this tutorial.

Thank you and I welcome your questions and comments.

Final Render


*Thank you Rebecca for requesting this tutorial and for your very helpful critiques. Your workshops are wonderful. Thanks also to everyone who offered their help and suggestions with this image.:slight_smile:


thanks for the useful information! :smiley: Great job. U should have post the finished picture.



This tutorial is FANTASTIC, thank you so much for all of the hard work you put into it!!! :bounce: :thumbsup::applause:

I think just tons of people will really enjoy and benefit from this great tut!!! :slight_smile:

Cheers! :slight_smile:



PS, I’m going to put a link on the main WIP forum so people will find this great tut! :thumbsup:



:bounce: Thank you for your wonderful comments Rebecca.:slight_smile:


Deleted post. :slight_smile:


can’t wait to its fixed, must see!!


Looks great!!! Off to advertise this I go! :bounce:

EDIT: Ok, advertised. :slight_smile:

Cheers! :slight_smile:



It’a fixed, awesome stuff:thumbsup:


yeh,great,not to fond of the blur technique,doesn’t gimme that i’m painting feel,but its great for those more digitally influenced people.

great stuff!


Hmm…wonders if NOOB has any artwork to back up them there statements with :wink:



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