The Unknown - Portrait Walkthrough


It's time for another old walkthrough from Patreon! This artwork was drawn back in December of 2016. If you're new here, I've been taking old art tips and advice from my Patreon account and repurposing them for this blog post. I clean things up a little and expand a bit, all to help you guys out! 

This time is Data from Star Trek. I picked a screenshot for reference and I got to work!


1 - Initial sketch. Mapping out where things go. As usual, I do my best to ignore details. Focus on the large shapes. Use straight lines to keep things quick and geometric. (Helps remind me that I'm looking for shapes, not specifics.)

When sketching from reference, it helps to simplify things as best as you can to make things easier to draw. I have a tutorial that helps expand upon this more here.

2 - Refined sketch. Started to break things down, look more at the details, but still keeping my distance. I'm still thinking geometrically. Don't feel rushed in these early stages. The more accurate the sketch, the better the end result, so enjoy the process and have fun with it!


3 - Final sketch. Now I go in and add those curves, little details, etc. It was much easier having done the previous steps, as I didn't have to keep constantly making corrections. Breaking things down into simpler stages can make things much easier in the long run.

4 - Base grey 50% to keep things neutral when adding shadows/highlights. Having a straight white or black background can skew your values and be distracting, so it's best to use neutrals as a base.


5 - Big blurry (slightly transparent) brush, used pure black/white. Don't focus on all the little things, just like with sketching, you're mapping things out. Guiding yourself to the right direction so you can make less adjustments later. Plus, it gives you a palette to work with. (Since I don't color pick off of the reference.)

It can help to zoom out the reference photo to hide all the distracting details. Same can be done with flipping the canvas upside down. Think of each stage as simple to complex. You're building a house, you need to start with the foundations before you can paint the walls and add furniture!

6 - Used a more solid brush, going in and paying more attention to details, watching the reference carefully. I'm not going for an exact match, I want a brushy look, and I also increased the contrast compared to the reference. (The reference was really flat. Hyping up the shadows/highlights creates more interest.) Trying to get some hard edges in there.

7 - Went in with a subtly textured brush to help smoothen and refine things. Not a requirement, you can use whatever brushes you like. Different brushes can create different looks, so play around!

8 - I used the smudge tool for this step, just bluring things out a touch and smoothing out the brush strokes. You don't need the smudge tool for this, you can use whatever methods you like. (For Paint Tool Sai, it's like the water brush tool.)


9 - Forgot to show the step where I added skin texture, but I basically found a scratchy brush, set it to scatter, color picked the light areas and some mid-tones, painted around, then lowered the opacity to make it subtle.

Gradient maps were used to colorize the drawing. I color picked from the reference. Since it was rather flat, getting the colors was pretty easy, there wasn't much adjusting/playing around I had to do. You can see a more detailed look into how I colorize greyscale artworks here!

10 - I put away the reference, now it's time to focus on what I need for my piece. The colors were quite...not good (lol) so adjustment layers! Soft light, color balance, saturation, etc. Since I knew this was gonna be a spacey picture, I aimed for more blue/red.


11 - Added two NASA photos to the background. The blue one was set to screen to help add more color and light to the pink one. They combined nicely :D (NASA photos are public domain, you can learn more about that here!)

12 - Now it's just meshing Data in with the background. Added some smokeyness (just painted in with a brush) coming from his clothes and made him slightly transparent (layer masks) so the stars could pop through here and there. Obviously he's the focus, so I kept most of him in tact.

13 - Added vertical lines (masked out, used a cloudy brush so it has some texture), did final color adjustments, added some smokeyness of the pink/blue so it would all come together :D

And that's it! It was a fun piece to work on. I hope you guys like it, it's still one of my favorites I've drawn.

Hopefully you found some of these tips helpful!

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