Digital art

Paint feathers and angel wings with Melanie Delon

Melanie Delon angel wings

Rediscover Melanie Delon's invaluable tutorial on creating soft feathers and wings in Photoshop and Painter.


Melanie Delon
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.

Step 1 image

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