Fishing for memories

Why such strange idea? Well, girl from the picture is heroine of my story (one of many, actually) and in the middle of writing new chapter I kind of wanted to see this scene. Urge was so strong, that I started sketching right away. I drew Arte behore, couple of times I suppose, but I think she still can't show her as I see her. Something is still missing. Well, maybe next time. I am still happy how this one turned out, even though it was a lot of work. Well, see for yourself!

If you have any questions or comments - feel free to write!

At first I just make a messy sketch. I am just trying to define what I want to draw. It didn't help much but at least you can see a cat and more or less how girl is positioned. Then I switch this layer to 5% opacity and on new one on top I sketch this drawing for real. As you can see I don't really care about the background for now, I know what is going to be there but I don't even try to draw it, it would just make the whole sketch messy. Then, using many separate layers, I pick the color palette. I decided to move towards more saturated colors, lot's of turquoise and blue and many different contrasting colors for fish, her hair and ribbons. How I made ribbons so flowy? I used hard brush, drew some lines and then used a filter - "motion blur". For those interested in the story - those ribbons are memories. Hence the title ;)

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This face was a real struggle... As you probably noticed, I am just starting with facial expressions and such, I didn't expect wonders from myself but on the second hand - I wanted her to look great. It took me few days to draw this face. It was hard because after a while even a crappy face starts to look good because you stared at it for too long! So I had to take a long break from the drawing and when I opened it again I painted the face again. And again. And again. And even if it looked good in the close up, it was terrible when zoomed out. Well, you can imagine how frustrating this was.

What is worth mentioning when you draw an underwater face - light here comes from the bottom. So I draw light where I would usually draw the shadow: bottom part of the cheeks, bottom lids, place under the eyebrows, chin line, upper lip. Skin is a bit more pale than I would normally paint, light is blueish and shadow is more purple. Notice that I added orange shine from her hair which will be heavily lit.

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After this long fight I finally give up and leave the face as it is. At least it doesn't scare me anymore. Arte is way too cute on this picture but I guess I can live with that. There were too many experiments anyway! I add some hair around her head to see how it will look like and finally leave the face as satisfactory. It's not worth it to draw the detail, I might destroy something... I start working on her clothes now. I draw the general shape and folds with hard brush and then use smudge tool to create a flowy fabric. It's kind of tricky, sometimes works itself out the first time, sometimes I have to take some fabric and play with it a little to be able to imagine how it would look. I leave light on the upper part but draw a dark shadow on the bottom. This shadow is created by her legs and it helps to move her head and chest to the front - bright elements will pop out from the picture more than dark ones.

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As you can see I sketched her legs once again. I didn't like the previous version too much but there was no other reason for that change. I sketched them again on the separate layer and started coloring. I tried to use colors from the face but sometimes used darker tones to create deeper shadows. Her belly and tights are mostly in shadow, on the feet and lower leg there is a lot of light. I use soft brush most of the time and later on have to erase edges with a hard eraser. Well it's not pretty right now but I will come back to it later on. For now I just want to get rid of the sketch so I paint as much as I need to be able to throw it away.

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Kitten was first heavily smudged so that sketch blended with the colors I gave him on the very beginning. I want to see if he looks okay and has a proper shape. I don't want a black spot here and it's easy to do with a black cat... I added some light on his head and back (coming from the above) and also on tips of his paws and a bit to the belly (light from the bottom). That should do it! Later on I also removed those dark shadows from Arte's shirt, to make him pop out more from light background. As for the detail - I draw it with hard brush first and then use smudge tool to blend it all together and create some fur. Well it's still pretty messy but being so small it has to endure. All this detail will turn into pixels anyway, when I resize the image later.

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Now time to do her hair. As you can see I am trying to divide it to some blocks before I start painting detail. I want to see how it flows, I don't like the thought of a random mass of hair, it just doesn't work that way. Hair always form locks, this is not a shampoo commercial. I use smudge tool for that, a very strong one. Sometimes I add new colors with a hard brush or just use burn and dodge tools. They are not good for skin but work just fine for things like this. When hair looks good, like on the second picture, I start to add detail. Those will be just random floating lines of hair. Bright ones, sometimes a bit blurry. You can blur them with "motion blur" filter.

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Then I fix her legs and add sleeves to the shirt. Careful not to destroy what I have already painted, I add new layer under the leg and with 100% opacity brush I fill in all the holes. When you paint with soft brush it sometimes happens that something is semi transparent. I am trying to avoid that here ;) Then I merge those two layers and add some detail to her feet. To blend all shadows and light together, I use smudge tool and soft brush with low opacity. Lights on the lower leg and tight are striped a bit, to create the "underwater fancy light effect". Sleeves are less tricky to do since they are white - I just draw them with hard brush and then use smudge tool to give them a proper shape and blend shadows and lights together. On the close up you can see how messy it is :D

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Layer with quickly sketched ribbons is moved to top and I start adding more defined parts to it. I do it with a hard brush and then of course blend everything with smudge tool. It doesn't take much time to create those ribbons. what is left then is adding shadows or lights so that they blend nicely with everything else. Dodge and burn tools are fine for that task. It's helpful to zoom out while adding light to those ribbons, that way you can see better what works and what doesn't. Also thing worth remembering - ribbons cast shadows too, as you can see on her leg.

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Finally I start working on the background. Really, after all this struggle with her face I wasn't scared of anything anymore. I just wanted to finish this drawing :D At first I just pick some random photoshop brush with some texture and with low opacity I start scribbling on the background layer. You can see from pictures below how I drew that huge skeleton, added some rocks and then repositioned everything a little for the better composition.

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I add more colors, to make it less blue and more something else but also add some blue shade on the character to make her blend with the surrounding more. Before that small touch up she looked like pasted onto the background and I didn't like it. On the separate layers I add bubbles and plan how my fish schools will look like and where to place them. I move them around and see what looks best. Bubbles are easy to do, you just take hard brush, make lots of dots in various sizes, lower the opacity and use "motion blur" filter. And that's it! You can play with brush setting to add scattering and create lots of bubbles faster, more about brush settings HERE. And on the separate layer I paint fish. One. And very ugly too.

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Then that ugly fish is copied many times, stretched, resized, recolored, rotated and miracles happen, I tell you, as from this one fish I suddenly have many! And in ten minutes too :D Background still doesn't look convincing so I spend more time on drawing rocks. I also use sharpening tool to gain some additional detail. Filter works well too. Last thing is "motion blur" filter once again, to create an illusion of motion for the background. Same thing with the fish, but more gently.

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Last thing - hands. I don't know why I left them like this for so long. I suppose I just don't like painting hands. Luckily for me those were very easy since there is a lot of light in the upper part and hands are very small, covered with ribbons. I just sketched some lights with the hard brush on what already was there and used smudge tool for blending. Final touch was adjusting contrasts and saturation. And that's it, it's done :)

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Well, I hope you like it! :D