This tutorial will explain how I was able to make this piece. There’s nothing special about the process of making it. It was just a product of right and correct composition, color and lighting, with the exception of additional elements such as the usage of custom brush textures.
The inspiration behind this character was the Ifugaos people, who are indigenous to the Philippines. They are most found in the southern part of Benguet, which is located in the Cordilleras of north Luzon. I have always found them fascinating because of the uniqueness of their costumes and the play of colors that surround them, which makes them stand out from the rest of the Filipino people.
In the same way that they have taught me what it is to have a sense of individualism, I have drawn inspiration from them to create a unique image that differs from the usual fantasy and/or sci-fi inspired works and allows me to stand out as an artist and show to the rest of my fellow Filipinos and the world that I do not solely rely on western or international art. I know where my roots are and as a Filipino I’m proud to be able to give life to a painting/portrait of a Filipino.
I find beauty in realistic art that reflects the facets of truth by being based on a character that is grounded in culture and history. In my case that would be going back to the “lost” culture of my ancestors. Here lies a warrior who has stood amidst violence to fight for his tribe – to be their protector, their survivor and their hero against evildoers and subjugators.
The first thing I did was to find a photo reference on the internet that would fit with the idea I had in mind and with how I planned on accomplishing it using the available resources I had. I am also very fond of collecting photos because I see the potential in them to serve as references for future pieces of art. While searching for references, I was lucky enough to talk to a friend who is also a photographer and who has pictures of beautiful subjects such as the one of the man in the painting. It was after finding this image that I was able to start composing a sketch (Fig.01).
This is where I started to make my background. I hid my sketch on a different layer. I wanted a simple and abstract background, which became possible through the use of custom brushes that helped me to develop watercolor effects shaped like clouds and smoke etc. These were the brushes that I used to make the background (Fig.02).
After fixing the background, I added my sketch on a separate layer. I created another layer where I painted my base color. I used custom brushes for the feathers on the headdress (Fig.03).
I worked on the image using the Standard brush, but with added texture in its settings. I then started painting the body, choosing a dark tone. My style of painting flows from dark to light, which is based on my experience as a traditional painter (Fig.04).
I made sure that I was working on a separate layer so as to avoid any mistakes and make sure that I could easily fix any changes if needed. I started shading and adding details, tone and highlights, still using the Standard brush with added texture (Fig.05).
I followed this by adding details to the head. I also started painting highlights at this stage. I started setting shady and/or dark lighting. I wanted the setting to look like a war has just ended and everything’s dark and chaotic. To this end, I added a little bright area with red hues and smoke to indicate a village on fire in the background (Fig.06).
After detailing the face I started detailing the rest of the body, including the accessories and ornaments worn by the warrior. I also added details to the skin because I wanted it to look fresh from war, which means looking a bit dirty, sweaty and bloody. I used the splatter custom brush I’d used to create the background earlier again, just adjusting the opacity to suit the feel and look of the image. In Fig.07, you’ll notice my generous amount of brown hues and this is solely because I feel the color has a certain classicism and dramatic effect. I also took the warrior’s outfit into consideration, which is like most Filipino costumes with rich brown and red hues.
I started detailing the image at this point, along with the accessories and weapons which I based on my references. I used a custom brush for the grass and added lighting from the left side (Fig.08).
The image here is almost complete. I just added a tattoo to make the subject more interesting. I decided to add a tattoo because most of our male ancestors use tattoos to symbolize their bravery and their stature in life (Fig.09).
This is what my workflow looks like. I made the tattoo manually and on a separate layer using a Standard brush with a hard edge and Pen Pressure enabled. I always use separate layers so that if there will be additional changes, I can easily go back to the layer containing the area I need to modify (Fig.10).
I used a custom brush for the grass in this image. I had three different grass layers. The first layer has a motion blur coming from the bottom of the image. The second layer doesn’t have a motion blur, but has more lighting. In adding the lighting, I enabled the lock transparency so as to not cause unnecessary changes to the background and simply to add lighting to the grass alone. The third layer of grass is darker because it acts as a foreground and it also has the motion blur effect to show some sort of wind motion in this out-of-focus camera perspective (Fig.11).
After finishing the warrior and the grass, I added some effects to the surrounding area such as leaves that are being blown by the wind, which are in motion blur as wel,l and I added some embers to show the existence of fire (Fig.12).
Finally, I added lighting to the background and retouched the highlights a little. I used Color Dodge for the highlights and adjusted the contrast for final touches (Fig.13).
I hope that this tutorial has been helpful and has inspired you a little. This is how I usually create my art pieces. How a person creates art is surely a subjective process and my way might be different from others. What’s important is that we remember that the proper usage of composition, lighting and color is strongly important when considering an artwork a masterpiece.
About the Author
Ferdinand Dumago Ladera is a well acclaimed artist born in Iligan, the city of waterfalls, situated in the southeastern part of the Philippines. He has captured the attention of art enthusiasts with his signature style of “dream brought to life” digital painting.
Ferdinand was trained and received a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts at FEATI University in Manila, Philippines. He has a diverse background as a fine artist, graphic designer, and photographer.
He specializes in fantasy and sci-fi illustration.