Step 1 – Rough Sketch
I made about five rough sketches to see if I came up with anything I liked. I didn’t use any reference; it was just about getting ideas down as fast as I could. As you can see, the dog and the jaguar were very basic and totally off from reality.
Step 2 – Figure Out Animal Anatomy and Placing
I looked at a ton of reference for sighthounds, jaguars, and tamarins. Knowing the personalities of these characters, I decided that the jaguar simply didn’t have enough aggression or anger in his stance, so I pushed that a lot here. I did most of it without reference at first, to try to get an aggressive pose that I liked. Then I went back to reference to tighten him up the best I could. I like to work with the characters first and have the basic drawing for them done before I officially start adding in the plants. That way, I can move the characters around a bit to get the mood and spacing I want.
I use blue lines first, because the blue line signals to my brain that this is rough and it can be messy.
It helps put me in a creative frame of thought. Then I go over with the more official black line. However, if I get stuck at a tricky part, I’ll go in with a bright pink line and work on that until I’m satisfied with it. This again signals to my brain that is time to explore until I find the solution and not be perfect. After that, I’ll continue with my black lines. I knew I wanted them to be making eye contact, and I also knew that I wanted text in the middle so I was playing with that space as well.
Step 3 – Rough in the Jungle
I don’t use a lot of reference in this step. I’m just looking to make the plants enhance the mood and space. I also decided to reduce the number of tamarins from three to one. I felt certain but this stage that the two tamarins on the right would be too distracting.
Step 4 – Rethink Foreground Plants
I looked at step 3 for a long while because I didn’t really like it. The palm plants were too busy and I wanted the focus to be on the dog and the jaguar. I went back to my reference photos of Panama*, and studied the larger leaf plants. I liked those a lot more because I could use them to frame the image nicely.
*These plants were from Gamboa.
Step 5 – Plants by the Jaguar’s feet
I didn’t like the lack of vegetation by the jaguar. There are plants everywhere in the jungle and since the place where the text would sit acts as an opening in the canopy, I assumed that light would get down to the forest floor, and allow smaller plants to grow. It also made sense visually. I always want my jungles/rainforests to appear lush. I rapid-fire looked at a series of low growing plants images to refresh my visual memory and then sketched these out with minimal reference use. Then I use masking to hide the parts of the jaguar that the plants covered. If there’s one thing I have learn about making jungles is that masking is your best friend – draw through, get the shape of everything down, mask out the overlaps.
Step 6 – Draw the Rest of the Entire Jungle…?
Wow, that’s a big jump, huh? I’ll try to avoid those in future tutorials. I continued with the ground cover plants and noticed that I didn’t like the length of the dog’s tail. Then I shortened it. This is common; there’s always a bit of back and forth with these things. One thing that I struggled with here is were plants end and intersect. Leaves shouldn’t just barely touch, that’s awkward spacing. There’s a lot of redrawing leaves and selecting entire plants or leaves to scale them up or down to make it work.
Step 7 – Start to Color the Background
I use Kyle’s Megapack brushes for all my work. They can be found here. Right from the start, I knew I wanted the dog, who appears calm, to have brighter, happier looking colors. I used a lot of cyan near him. The jaguar, who appears upset, I wanted to have more angry colors so I used a lot of dark greens and purples near him.
Step 8 – Color all the Plants!
I have a very basic understanding of color theory but, basically, if your brights are cool, use warm tone in the shadows and vice versa. But experiment with what that means, highlights can be cyan, yellow, pink, green, etc, and shadows can be blue, green, purple, red, etc. Try stuff out on new layers and get rid of the stuff you don’t like and keep the stuff you do. For instance, I like the bits of orange on the leaves on the dog side because it added a bit of realism to them. It could be insect damage.
Step 9 – Color the Animals
Animals are more straight forward than plants, I think. There’s less to think about. I knew I wanted a yellow jaguar, a Geoffroy’s tamarin, and a white dog. Bust out the reference and paint it up.
Step 10 – Should I do something cool? I’m not sure?
This is really common too. I started to color and add in shadows to set the mood. I was being nice and safe, and therefore, super boring.
Step 11 – Screw it. I’m going for it.
I got a new layer and just said “Screw it, I want that jaguar to have an angry forest around him”. I went in with a big brush and started to make his side all shadowy. I also played around with some dappled lights on the big leaves to break up the dark shapes. I messed up many times. I think I repainted this three times before I liked it. But when I was done, I was pleased with it. I had a bright, happy side, and a dark, ominous side, exactly the look I wanted.
Step 12 – Add a Bit of Magic
This is kind important to the story, which you can learn more about here.
Step 13 – Add in the Text and Call it Done!
Thanks so much for reading. I hope this was helpful to you.
This tutorial is a demo created for my new book Seen and Unseen, which is on Patreon. now! All further tutorials can be found on my Patreon. activity feed, which only takes $1.oo a month to unlock, you can also see full illustrations, read the copy early, and win prizes.
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