Here are the basic steps I use when creating a black and white digital painting in Photoshop:

Step 1: Create the sketch

This is the most important part of the process. Without a good sketch, the final product will never look right no matter how good of a painter you are.

Digital Painting Step 1


Step 2: Add a background

First, set the sketch layer’s blending mode to multiply. Then, create a new layer and place it below the sketch layer. Fill that layer with gray. Finally, choose a slightly lighter shade of gray and use the gradient tool to create a subtle gradient from the top-right corner to the bottom left corner.

Digital Painting Step 2

Step 3: Start rendering the shadows and highlights

I use a soft edged brush for this part of the process. I work quickly, blocking in the major shadows and highlights. Don’t be too concerned about details at this point.

Digital Painting Step 3

Step 4: Paint in the shadows and highlights for the finer details

Now, start painting in the eyes and other small details.

Digital Painting Step 4

Step 5: Add in more detail and smooth the highlights

This is where the painting really begins to come to life! Zoom in on the eyes and paint in the fine details, including the shadow cast over the iris from the upper eyelid, as well as the all important highlights which should slightly overlap both the pupil and the iris. Add in the darkest shadows, such as the area below the jawline, and the lightest highlights.

Digital Painting Step 5

Step 6: Finalize all the little details

Here I added some finishing touches, such as the bright highlights on the nose and lower lip, as well as darkened up the bottom of the upper lip. Also, the shirt was a little dull, so I lightened it up and added some contrast around the wrinkles. Finally, I added a subtle texture to the background to make it more interesting.

Digital Painting Step 6

Done!