Okay, so 'tutorial' is overstating this a bit. There will be no 'set your brush to 45 percent opacity' in this post. This is more like a quick tour of my thought process as I'm working, which I hope will be helpful to people with some photoshop skills who just aren't sure quite how this 'painting' thing works.
When I get a good art idea, it tends to be because two previously unrelated ideas ran into each other.
In this case, a friend sent me a link to the winner of this year's The Longsword Competition At the World Invitational Tournament. In passing, my friend added that she would like to have a set of that armor for her very own.
Bingo bongo, time to draw my friend in medieval armor.
I had an armor reference, now I needed a pose reference. Enter google, and the nice people at The Medieval European Martial Arts Guild, who have large images of classical european martial forms linked to from their site. I chose one of the forms, and got to work on a 'blueline' sketch.
Doing the first sketch in blue makes it easier to pick out the lines I actually want in black later. Also at this stage I began collecting my pallet. Each major color needs at least three (dark, medium, light) constituent colors, although apparently my natural inclination is to choose four. Keep the number of shades to a minimum though, or you'll drive yourself nuts.
With the black lines completed, I flipped the image horizontally, so that I can see the perspective and proportion mistakes I made in the original sketch.
Egad. It's always worse than anticipated.
Once the perspective was suitably unfucked, I trimmed down some of the too thick lines and fixed the face up a bit.
Then, it was time to flip her back the other way and lay down some colors pulled from my reference images. The first layer of color is at full opacity, just trying to vaguely cover large areas. Detail comes later.
Now that I had color mostly in place, I needed to complicate it a bit. With a combo of the eyedropper tool and a fuzzy brush at half opacity I turned blocks of color into shades of color. Here it is about half-way along, top almost done but the bottom untouched.
Not too shabby. I took away the lines for a second just to make sure it was going well.
Then I put the lines back and trimmed the color to fit.
Of course, it's at this point (too late) that I realize I've got a few lingering structural issues. The thigh armor plates leave an awkward gap under the belt, and the draping around the backside is... subtly wrong. Also the blade isn't consistent enough, and the skin needs some evening out.
With that about done, it's time to start on the background. I thought putting her in a woodland would be nice. Also since I was planning on fuzzing it out, I thought woods would be recognizable without being too much detail. First, lay out the basic blocking, and put in a row of trunks.
Aaand not enough trunks. So I just copied the layer and scaled it up to make a second closer row of trees at a higher saturation. Then I went and found the 'leaf' brush and went to town.
And Stage 2:
And now enough guassian blur to make things look less obviously drawn in with a pre-set pen. Some blurring was done with a brush, so that nearer leaves will be marginally less fuzzy.
Now for some style: cutting to a frame.
Time for the really fun part. Texture! I went and found a metal texture, cut it to fit, and used the overlay function. It pumps up the contrast a bit too, which I kind of like.
Texture for everyone!
The background gets some texture too, just a little even canvassing to separate it yet further from the figure.
Background needed a little more separation, so I desaturated it a bit. The last step is to add a bit of key light glow, which helps the figure become more three dimensional. Then it's time to stop fussing, and call it done.