AH! :3 Well, I’m feeling chatty, so if you’re not looking for how to paint pictures like me, you can skip to the brush settings part and read how to use them like I do, but if you want to learn how to make a painting how I do it, go ahead and read all of this.

First of all as you know I have a solid color laid down as well as a rough somewhat darker but not black outline/guideline (this will go into hard shadows later on when blending). When you’re doing the guidelines, do it on a higher clean layer like you would lineart. This way you can duplicate the layer, so if you make a mistake you’ll have the outlines to start over if needed, or to refer to if you lose touch with the original lines with all your blending.  For safety! After all, some people aren’t used to using one layer to paint something. Once you have two layers of lineart, you’ll want to merge one down with a layer filled with a 100% color, and hide the other emergency lineart layer underneath that where you’ll have it stored for later just in case. Once you have your solid layer with background color and guidelines, opacity lock. You’re not going to want to use your eraser tool on this layer. Period. To touch up a color, you’re going to have to use the color you’re trying to revert your mistake stroke back to.

The painting part comes in with use of the marker tool (well, mostly!)

Here’s what some rough paintin’ looks like for me!

Now there are two ways to lay down color.

The method I recommend is as seen at the top of the picture on the nose and near the eyes. Apply the color directly to the most highlighted areas with a pen tool (I just call it hard lights). Then go in with your marker tool (settings seen to the left) and start blending from there. Blending with the marker tool is a constant pulling and pushing of colors. You drag the light out, drag the dark in, go all in between on the edges; it’s a constant battle until you reach just the right color.
And example of my blending from hard light is on the cheek area. You can see that I had laid down the original color and pulled it out and pushed it back in and everything in between.
I usually use this method for areas I want to draw a lot of attention to (like the face etc), because it tends to be the better way to show off bold colors.

Another method is going right in with your marker tool and sort of sawing in one place with a pretty good amount of pressure until the color you’re using is the right amount of brightness (it might take quite a few scribbles because the settings are meant for blending, not hard coloring) and then blending from there with your marker tool. I use this on spots that are a little more shaded or a little more vague; places I don’t want to draw too much attention to. I used this method on the neck, side of the muzzle and the top of the head here. This method isn’t as quick or lazy as the hard lighting method above, but it gets a nice effect I think.

If you blend it to your heart’s content and the colors look nice but are a bit rough and choppy and you can see evidence of all of your strokes and the leftovers (like the cheek on the example above) feel free to get a small blending tool and smooth it out a little bit, very gently and with strokes at a time (like you would the marker tool). BUT don’t depend on the blending tool too much for your painting! You want to do most of the blending with your marker tool, so that it looks like a painting and not airbrushing. Being able to see a few strokes is kind of neat, don’t you think?

If there are small areas of markings that would suck to paint in along with all the other colors (for example, Bina’s neck spots or shoulder spots) don’t sweat it until you’re at the very end and all the colors have been blended into lights and shadows and nice and refined. Then you’re free to go mess it all up with–

–what’s known affectionately as the Brush tool!

The kinds of motions you’re going want to use are very gentle, short, quick flicks, if you’re trying to fill multiple spots, and just ease the color down into place. It gives the illusion of having been painted in and also helps it with looking shaded when it goes into shadow. This is great for like freckles, spots, patches. But only use it for small details like that (if you’re doing large marking areas like a different color underbelly or paws or just whatever, you’ll want to go ahead and just paint that in with the other large areas.)
Now, if you’re painting in a marking onto an already-shaded area and you’re using a color darker than your character’s base color but lighter than the shadows you have (for example, Balbina has neck patches darker than her main color, but the shadows on her base are going to be darker than the patch) then you’re going to want to make a darker version of the marking you’re putting in for the shadowy areas. Again, be gentle and patient. Lighter colors (like Bina’s shoulder freckles and lighter neck patches) should go right into lighter or darker areas just fine; just be sure to be more gentle when it comes to the shadows so you can see them but they don’t stick out like they’re glowing (unless they are actually glowing markings, haha)

There are some areas you want to give the illusion of fading to the back (for example, if a leg or ear or something that is not in the foreground) and you can give that illusion by getting a large airbrush, and using the same color as the one it’s resting on (for example, that red-violet Bina’s on) gently tap in the color on that area. It makes it look somewhat faded back and will lessen the attention on that area. Do this after you’ve shaded though, so that it looks more natural.

Sometimes you have the entire thing painted, and you realize you could have some areas darker, like perhaps the underbelly, or your character’s head would cast more of a shadow on the neck, or maybe the tail should have darker color on the underside, anything to that effect. If you want to make your shading more dramatic, use your big airbrush in a darker shading color (I would use a darker violet for the Bina painting, and gently tap in some dark shadows in the appropriated areas (and don’t overdo it, remember this is a painting). If you like how that looks as is, leave it there, but if you feel like it could use some blending or brush strokes to look more painted, you can go in with the marker tool and gently set those in better.

Oh and my airbrush settings are:

(Of course the size can be changed to whatever you need, but usually it’s pretty big. And remember to be gentle!) 

I like to add hard highlights on the darkest edges (secondary lighting) when I’m finished with my painting. What I do is grab a lighter color, any color that would look good with the painting or have to do with the character even (anything as long as it doesn’t clash) and, using the Brush tool on a small size, add that secondary highlighting on the edges where the picture is shaded (so if the main light source is the left of the whole painting, I would do the secondary lighting on all the right edges where it’s shaded darker. This can really make it pop.

You can apply most of these skills to just painting in shading on a linearted picture too.

I hope this was somewhat helpful, bahaha. And remember this is definitely not the RIGHT way to do it since there is no right way (actually this might be a little more complicated than some people’s ways of producing nice paintings) but this is how I do it.