Rediscover Melanie Delon's invaluable tutorial on creating soft feathers and wings in Photoshop and Painter.
- Melanie Delon
- Melanie is a freelance illustrator based in Paris. Having first discovered the digital arts in 2005, she likes to paint beautiful dreamy fantasy characters.
Painting wings is quite similar to painting hair: the first time you do it seems impossible, but in fact it's not, and there are little tips that can help a lot.
Before I start painting, I always do some photo research; in this case I looked at a lot of bird pictures to understand the feathers and decided what kind of design I wanted. Then I did a little concept sketch to test out a few colours.
When I paint wings, I think of them as a block; I never paint feather by feather, always as a whole element. I add in details later, once the lightning and the shape are okay. Working on them as a block helps to unify the wings and stops you getting too wrapped up in minor details.
Wings can also reflect the character's mood or attitude: you can do this with colour, or by making the wings lighter or heavier. Here, I want to avoid the image coming across very clean and pure: she's not an angel, so her wings will be more like a bird's - a bit dirty and old.
When painting wings and feathers, I usually use two brushes. For the base and the shape of the feathers, I use one that's very smooth and quickly gives me the kind of lightness I want. Then I use a spackled one for adding the details.
Now let's look at how to paint the wings and feathers, step by step.
01 The base
I usually start by doing a basic sketch of the general shape of the wings. I also do a little research on another canvas. I use a large-sized custom brush to work the general look and to set the base of my future wings.
I don't need to go into details, I just choose my colours - which are basically the same as the background - and paint in huge blocks of colour.