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ainting hands often causes serious trouble to both professional and amateur artists. The complexity of their build, especially in realism, puts them among the hardest parts of a human body to render properly. When painting realistic hands, two key factors are needed to achieve satisfying results: a thorough knowledge of anatomy, and creative choice of skin tones. Both of these factors have to be perfectly balanced – even the best technique won’t help if you make serious anatomical
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  ainting hands often causes serious trouble to both professional and amateur artists. The complexity of their build, especially in realism, puts them among the hardest parts of a human body to render properly. When painting realistic hands, two key factors are needed to achieve satisfying results: a thorough knowledge of anatomy, and creative choice of skin tones.Both of these factors have to be perfectly balanced – even the best technique won’t help if you make serious anatomical mistakes; but the knowledge of anatomy alone, not supported by appropriate colour choices, won’t ever  yield a realistic result either. Even though both of these elements can only truly be mastered with time, Learn the basic anatomy rules and discover techniques that will make painting hands easier than ever, with Marta Dahlig PAINTING REALISTIC HANDS there are some rules and tricks that, once known, will dramatically improve the working process and make an artist’s life much easier.In this workshop I will try to explain and describe those methods, as well as share some tips and hints that might further speed up and ease the hard process of rendering hands. To use the workshop to its fullest, you should own and have a basic knowledge of professional painting software such as Painter and Photoshop and have a tablet available to use. The walkthrough image was completed using Photoshop with some help from Painter, but for your comfort the brush tips will be described for both of these programs simultaneously throughout the  whole painting process. P 82  Workshops Marta Dahlig COUNTRY: Poland CLIENTS:  Complex Arts, PosterLounge, BallisticBorn in 1985, Marta Dahlig is a young and talented artist who has been working with Painter for years. She’s a freelance illustrator. www.marta-dahlig.com  DVD Assets   The files you need are on your DVD. F ILES:  The Oracle 1-5.psd SOFTWARE:  Photoshop CS2, Painter X ( demos )   Double views Photoshop offers a wonderful option that dramatically improves the workflow – the ability to open your file in a new window (Window> Arrange>New view for). This way, if you keep your main window zoomed in and the extra one zoomed out, you can see how the changes you apply on full view look like on a smaller version. PROSECRETS Photoshop and Painter  1 Sketching It is easiest to paint hands that already have a context, so think of an interesting pose, create a new file and quickly sketch out a character. When it comes to realistic hand renditions, using references is essential to get things right. Doing live anatomical studies turned out, in my experience, to be much better than simply looking at a photo. Of course, if  you do not have the chance to get anyone to model for you in real time, study your own hand under different lightings and gather as many reference photos of your desired pose as you can. Now, try sketching out the hands with a desired shade. Don’t pick anything too light or dark – choose a midtone, which  you will later be adding shadows and highlights to. 2 Light source issues Every painting needs a well-defined light source and if you haven’t  C h a n g i n g  s c r e e n  m o d e s  ( P a i n t e r )    [ F ] ( P C  a nd  M a c )  T h i s  s h o r t c u t  l e t s  y o u d i s p l a y  y o u r  a r t w o r k  w i t h o u t  a n y  t o o l b a r s  b l o c k i n g  t h e  v i e w.   April 2007   88  Quick technique Painting realistic hands 83 decided where you want to place yours, now is the time to do so. This choice will determine the look and the mood of your final image, but most of all – the difficulty level of colour handling. For the image, I chose a simple light source in front, above the character. It’s quite easy to handle but still rather interesting.Once you chose the light placement and colour, add some shadows and highlights accordingly. Remember to always vary the hue of your highlights and shadows away from your midtone.  To add to my dark beige midtone I picked some desaturated violet and blue shadows and green highlights. It doesn’t really matter what brushes you use for this step, so just pick something that you feel the most comfortable with. 4 Adding depth Keep enriching the colour palette and add contrast by applying some bolder shadows and highlights. After you achieve a colour mix that you are content  with, proceed to the next step. 5 Shading and defining the shape  Push the anatomy of the hand further, by defining its outlines. When doing so remember that a finger is a not a straight stick, but consists of several bones and so its thickness varies, being highest around the proximal and distal joints – that is the first and second bending of the finger. While defining the shape, remember to start blending the existing skin tones to build up a basic texture.  There are many good ways to do so: you can use very low Opacity (two to eight per cent) Hard Round brushes in Photoshop or create a Spackled brush and use it with high transparency to get the transitions between your shadows and midtones smooth. If you work in Painter, your task is simple: choose the Blender tool from the Tinting set – it’s easy, fast and gives a grainy texture. 3 Further colour blocking Enrich the skintone palette by mixing your midtone with the background or clothing colours for interesting results. You can also use Photoshop’s Colour Balance tool to help  you out. There are no real rules for this stage but there is one thing to keep in mind: the tips and the joints of human fingers are always more pink than the rest of the hand. This minor detail is extremely important for achieving a realistic effect, so try to apply some red in those places. From this part onwards I used a customised Photoshop brush,  which resembles a typical Hard Round one, but with pressure dependant opacity and slightly ragged edges. The Photoshop default Hard Round and Painter’s Basic Round brush from the Tinting set are great for those steps as well. Working on inner and outer sides of hands is a bit different, and as a result I am going to split the workflow in two. 6 Forgotten secrets  This stage and the next consist of a few steps that are the key to achieving a realistic result. They are all very easy to April 2007    89   Workshops File Resolutions It’s often much better to sacrifice some computer speed in order to work with bigger files (at least 2,000x3,000px) as they enable quality printing and bring the use of textured brushes to its fullest. Besides, if you ever open a tiny file just to doodle but end up with a beautiful result, you will most likely find yourself regretting. Don’t take up the risk and turn creating larger files into a habit! PROSECRETS   File Resolutions It’s often much better to sacrifice some computer speed in order to work with bigger files (at least 2,000x3,000px) as they enable quality printing and bring the use of textured brushes to its fullest. Besides, if you ever open a tiny file just to doodle but end up with a beautiful result, you will most likely find yourself regretting it. Don’t take up the risk and turn creating larger files into a habit! PROSECRETS  Workshops 7 Veins and pores Smoothen up the wrinkles you sketched in the previous step by running over them with a pinkish transparent brush. You can also add some smaller  wrinkles to accompany the bigger ones. In some hand positions, where all the fingers are pushed slightly against the outer palm, you can see the spaces between metacarpophalangeal joints show. They look like holes in a hand, so take an Airbrush of a darker shade and make some colour blobs just below the each finger, in the middle. If you feel  your hand doesn’t have enough texture  yet, pick a Spackled brush in Photoshop or Painter’s Variable Splatter from the  Airbrush set (both on a very low Opacity), create a new layer and set its mode to Soft Light. Now, run the brush over the hand, sometimes switching the colours with the Eyedropper tool. If you do this long enough you will achieve a realistic pore-like texture. Also, remember to add a few trails of veins (with a transparent darker shade). perform but, for some reason, they often seem to be forgotten. First, take care of the nails: if your light source is bright enough, make them look polished by decorating the plaque with a thin bright highlight applied with a low opacity brush. With the same brush selected, run along the outer edge of the nail to underline its length. Remember, that fingernails are not flat, and so their plaque will be darker on both its sides,  where they are less convex than the flesh surrounding the nail. Human joints are covered with excess skin to enable them to bend without stretching the skin. In the position I chose, this skin is loose, forming some  wrinkles around the joints. To depict this, take a low opacity Hard Round/Basic Round brush with a colour darker than  your midtone and make circular, curvy lines around the proximal joints and a few straighter lines on the distal joints. 8   Understanding the inner side  The hand’s inner side is much more pink than the outer, so enrich the palette accordingly as soon as you start defining the shape. Add some pink to the tips of the fingers and along their whole length. If you notice too late that your nearly done fingers are lacking this colour, you can always add it later on a separate layer  with its mode set to Colour. 9 Issues with joints  As I mentioned earlier, rather than being just one single object, each finger on the hand consists of a few bones and so, when a finger is bent, each of these parts becomes very convex, with the extra flesh required for straightening the hand, being squeezed between the joints (the red marks). To depict this, make these parts thicker and add some shadows at the flexions too. 10 Wrinkles It’s tiny details time again! As the inner hand is much softer, it forms a lot of wrinkles when bent inwards, which is especially visible on the palm and thumb. Study the pose you chose for your hand and then on a separate layer apply some darker low opacity lines in appropriate places. 11 Smooth transitions Smoothen up the transitions between the lines and surrounding flesh for a natural look with a pink transparent Hard Round brush. 12 Final touches  And we’re done! Take one final look at your image and consider whether  you want to change anything. Myself, I decided to add a small additional light source to make things a bit more interesting. Adding such small light sources can dramatically improve any image and since it’s very simple (you just run with an airbrush tool over the already finished body), there’s no reason not to experiment. Have fun! April 2007   90
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