1: Basic sketch of the frame and composition; also acts as a ‘colour grid’ so that the base colours of the actual painting will not go too off-kilter.
2: Blocked in the shape of the composition with a basic copy+flip trick and pinpointed the hot/cold areas of the landscape with specific colours. Rough sketches of the trees and the foothills have been made to give the composition some verticality, as well as establish the water-line of the lake.
3: Using a separate layer the shapes of the foreground/background trees have been blocked in using a binary colour. The background trees play a critical part in this composition, as they separate the hot and cold “areas” of the landscape. Shadows have also been drawn in the water’s reflection (I did not use a copy+paste trick here, simply to make it look more ‘painterly’.)
4: By building up layers underneath the outlines and trees, while also futzing with the hues and saturation, I establish the foundation of the composition for further details and alterations. It is important that the base colour of the water matches the colour of the sky. I set the ‘background trees’ layer as a clipping group to check its values against the sky. It is also here that I decide to give the landscape a “diorama” effect by drawing a root in front of the hypothetical canvas.
5: By tinkering with hues and the saturation even more, I manage to make the colours give off a “plum autumn” vibe, which compliments the greener vibe of the sky and the more amber, intense colours of the sunset. It is here I start to make the composition resemble the Macalania Woods, by using references for the tree details and the crystals.
6a: What really makes a painting in this style come to life is the sheer volume of colours which all blend into each other to give off the illusion of depth, distance and realism. Simply “dabbing” with a brush can create ripples, leaves and concentrated light sources.
6b: Here is a close-up of the trees that are appearing brighter due to the sun; the technique that I used here is to make a separate layer on top of the base tree shape, create strokes, and then colour this layer and the base tree layer appropriately based on the theory of colour, using the ‘Preserve Opacity’ option, to create this ‘highlight/shadow’ effect. This is the technique that I rely on to make all of the little details that go into the composition.
7: Using a multitude of ‘base layers’ and ‘detail layers,’ I am able to build up this composition to a near-complete stage. The advantage to using the technique mentioned above is that you have almost complete control over what colours are used. This is put to practice in the screenshot above; the middle of the composition is warmer, while the top and bottom are colder. This makes sense as the sun is located in the middle of the canvas.
8: I add the finishing FFX flourishes to finally mark this painting as complete!