Tutorial: Illustrating Stallone in the Expendables - Falkon Digital Ltd

Tutorial: Illustrating Stallone in the Expendables

By Luke on January 22, 2014

Okay quick confession; this isn’t so much of a tutorial as a look at my process for illustrating. It would take too long to go into the nitty gritty details of what I do at each stage, but I think it might be an interesting overview for anyone who enjoys creating digital art.

I actually created this illustration about a year ago, just for fun. I like action films like the Expendables, and movie stars like Stallone have really distinguishing features that are easy to accentuate. Here is the original poster for the film:

Now when I originally started sketching this, I was on a plane to Germany using my iPad experimenting with SketchBook Pro. I had intended on including all 3 stars including Jet Li and Jason Statham, but I ran out of time. Here is the original sketch I created.

Looks bad, right? Well it’s not supposed to be a masterpiece, I was simply focusing on the dimensions and proportions of Stallone. I accentuated certain features like his mouth, his eyebrows, lengthened his head and just generally experimented with what I could get away with while staying relatively true to the original. I later exported this sketch as a jpeg and imported it into Illustrator on my laptop. Using a Wacom tablet and pen I created an outline:

I paid a lot more attention to the details at this point as this is going to be the main visible outline for my illustration. The next stage is to create the base colours; sometimes I do this in Illustrator however in this instance I wanted to use Photoshop. I imported the outline as a smart object onto a new canvas, and started using the select and fill tools to create the main colour base on lower layers. The image below shows the progress with a few extra details.

I get carried away with the colouring, so as you can see I’ve already broken my process and started adding in some of the shading and highlighting. The next image shows the illustration with further shading. Using the original poster as a reference I started casting shadows using the marquee tool and the burn tool.

Next I created a few more subtle highlights using the marquee tool and the dodge tool. These are relatively subtle but serve as a base for the major highlights.

Now the fun bit; no more subtle updates, the next step is to create some strong contrasting shades and highlighting. Again I used the poster as a reference (normally I would decide on the position of a light source) but I didn’t follow it verbatim; I just tried different things and if it worked I kept it, if not then CTRL+Z was my friend.

Finally I did a bit more highlighting on his hair knowing that he is going to look like he’s backlit by the background I was going to add in.

Next I added in the background just simply using the render clouds in Photoshop. I used the brush and burn tools to modify it as required.

Finally I added I added in some finishing touches. I just used a smoke brush for the cigar smoke, and using some brush dynamics and some layer effects (colour overlay and outer glow) I created some of the flying ashes.

So there we have it, a quick overview into what I like to do in my spare time! This particular illustration likely took just over a day to complete spread over a few weeks, working on it when I had the opportunity. I know it’s far from perfect, and looking at it now I can see lots of things that I would change if I did it again, but I’m pretty happy with it.

Hopefully you’ve found this fun or useful. If you enjoyed reading it let me know and I’ll post a few more.

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