Mythos: Cap, Step by Step, Part 4

Friday, August 8, 2008

The final panel on this page is probably the most difficult, so I have saved it for the end. In this post, we'll go through the underpainting process that lays the foundation for the color stage. Gathered above is my army of reference that helps to ground the composition in reality. In this case, my main inspiration was an extension of the Capitoline Museum in Rome that was housed in an old power plant.

I limit myself to one color, a dark grey gouache that creates a nice warm undertone. I rarely use it at full strength because I want to keep the paper absorbent for the subsequent color layer. I am treating it like watercolor, so the paint acts more like a stain than an appreciable layer. Bold strokes do not necessarily have to be thick.

Moving around the composition, I plug in the details of each area. I've already done most of the composition work, so I can concentrate on details without sacrificing the bigger picture.

The "colder" greys are a result of using white gouache to correct mistakes or add details. I don't use acrylic in this stage because there is a risk of creating a layer of "plastic" that won't accept color in the same way as untouched paper. This is just a personal preference, but I think it's much easier when the painting absorbs the color, rather than keeping it on top.

Speaking of which, let's add some color to the previous panel. Using both acrylic and gouache, sometimes mixing them directly, I paint over the underpainting. Since my underpainting is a stain — meaning it's essentially part of the paper — I don't have to worry about it washing out with the addition of water or paint. There will be trace amounts coming up with each pass, but, if anything, this will help to unify the overarching color scheme.

As a general rule, the more detail I've put into something monochromatically, the thinner the color overlay. I don't want to repaint anything, simply add a new dimension. Therefore, I keep the paint thin enough to reveal the underpainting, but thick enough to achieve the desired color. Opaque strokes are reserved for corrections and special effects, such as highlights. One of the toughest tasks is matching opaque and transparent passes of color, so I consciously try to limit when and where I use opaque color.

One place where I thought opaque paint was needed was the woman's dress, which is a deep red illuminated by a warm light. Some scarlet Acryla Gouache did the trick.

Believe it or not, we're still not quite done. Hopefully, I can wrap this up in one or two more posts. Have a great weekend!

Update: Part 5


  1. Awesome to see your process Paolo. So how thin are you diluting the gray's for your initial monochrome pass?

    Thanks for showing your process, learning a ton. And congrats on the Spiderman gig, can't wait to see it!

  2. Brian,

    It's gets pretty thin. The brightest areas of the painting are just the white of the paper showing through, so it's mostly water there if anything at all. Normally, you wouldn't want to dilute your binder that much (oil paint is a good example), but in this case it's staining the paper, which acts as it's own binder.

    Also, I tend not to use it full strength either. Gouache that has caked up on top of the paper will come off just as easily.

  3. Awesome, thanks for the info Paolo. Love that you are so willing to share technique.

    Keep up the fantastic work. Mythos kicked butt and I'm sure Spidey will as well!


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