"Try again" by Jay Faircloth <anaphiel@earthlink.net> Copyright © 2001

Jay Faircloth writes:
The piece was done 100% in Photoshop 5.5 with a Wacom tablet on a PowerMac G4. I worked in very high resolution (3300x5100 pixels). A reference sketch to block in the figure and the shadows was done first using the airbrush tool and referred to throughout the process.

I worked on each distinct part of the picture on a separate layer. This to me is the best feature of Photoshop and the most important technique to master. For example, I have layers with just the Marine's head, just the tunic, just the back plate, etc. This allowed me to treat each piece of the work like it's own painting and not have to worry about messing up the rest of the picture if I made a mistake. It also gives me a lot of flexibility with the piece. I have a version of the right arm holing the MA-75, a version of the head with a helmet, two different terminal screens, etc. and can mix-and match elements to get the look I want. Even the background shadow effect is on a different layer, so I can alter the whole look and mood of the image with one click of the mouse.

For hard-edged geometric shapes I used the pen tool to create the outline first, for the softer natural shapes I drew the shape with the lasso tool or just brushed it in by hand. I have a weird technique of filling areas in with the cloud feature, tinkering with levels adjustments and unsharp masking to lay down base color and texture and suggest shadows. I then choose a soft airbrush, set the brush mode to multiply, and add shadows. Then I switch over to screen mode and add highlights and lighten shadows if needed. I've started to work first in shades of black and white to make it easier for me to get the shadow and light tones down, then I overlay the final color in a separate layer. The armor elements were done this way, and the worn look is in part a happy result of how the overlay blending method works. When I got the overall effect I wanted, I went on to the next element. To me it's important to get the shapes down, rough in the color, light and shadow, and make sure that everything works together before I go on to adding details. I kept zooming the view back and forth between 100% and "fit on screen" to make sure that everything tied together.

I then went back to add details like the scratches on the armor, rivets, signs and logos etc. I used a lot of natural media brushes to get the rough, uneven textures, and mostly kept to multiply and screen modes when painting.

Some specific techniques I used on this piece:

The walls were painted in by hand at first, but I wasn't happy with the look of the upper walls and didn't want to add a lot of detail, so I overlaid some concrete textures I found on the web somewhere. The effect was really subtle, but that extra little bit of irregular, streaky texture really made the piece better.

The lettering was done in Photoshop and applied using Overlay mode. This lets some of the background show through and really lends a nice weathered look. This same technique was used to get the rust on the terminal and the grime on the screen as well as the red and white warning stripes.

The floor started off as a square filled with alternating bands of black and white. I then added noise and grain, and added additional layers over it with clouds for variation and color, level adjustment layers, etc. until I had a dirty, rusty, shiny, corrugated metal kind of look, then used the perspective and skew transforms to get it in the right position at the correct angle. This was really just random tinkering and experimentation, but I know how to get the effect now. The walls were done the same way, starting off as flat rectangles and then transformed to the proper angle.

Once I had the piece "done" I zoomed out to se the whole image, then created a new layer set to multiply mode, took out the largest airbrush, and applied shadows to the image as a whole to get better consistency and mood. Whenever I goofed I just went back over the area with white until I got the look I wanted.

I used the Texturizer filter very sparingly (and wasn't all that happy with the result). One good hint for this filter: apply the filter to a layer above the layer you want it to effect, and use the blending modes and opacity to get the look you want, and apply layer masking to apply the texture to only the areas of the underlying image that should express the texture.

If anyone has any specific questions (or job offers!) they may email me at anaphiel@earthlink.net. Serious enquiries only, please!

Jay Faircloth