How I Painted “Sky Kingdom” in Paint Tool Sai

Good afternoon interpals,

Today I’ll be breaking down how I created a digital painting
titled “Sky Kingdom” in Paint tool Sai. This illustration is a part of a series 
that quickly summarizes important events in a few stories that I’m
trying to flesh out.

The painting is based upon a comic that myself and someone that
I was very close to a few years back tried to work on together and
never got ‘off the ground’, so to speak.

This will be a really general break down- I won’t go into painting technique specifically, 
I’ll save that for another tutorial!

“I start by doing a really loose sketch of what I’m thinking. This tends to be to get the composition right.”
Step 1: Sketch

I start by doing a really loose sketch of what I’m thinking.
This tends to be to get the composition right, as well as to make sure that the poses and characters look ‘right’ in the scene.

I wanted to show the motion of the flight, the destination, but also the faces of all of the characters (I love drawing eyes), so I had to mix up the poses a bit. I positioned the girl looking back at the fox friend, and everyone else’s face such that they could be seen at least in profile in the shot.

Once I’m content with the overall look of the scene, I move onto the next step.

Brush Settings for this section:
Brush tool – Bristle – Slight paper texture – medium size.

“I try to focus on focal points in the image; her face, the fox friend’s face, and the prominent tower on the floating island in the distance.”
Step 2: Messy Inks

After I’ve gotten the basic composition down, 
I want to make sure that I’m sure about the position of all of the elements in the painting.
I use a slightly more precise inking brush to do a messy version of the inks.

I do this by lowering the opacity of the first sketch layer to about 25% and drawing on the next layer, using the sketch as a guide.

I try to focus on focal points in the image; her face, the fox friend’s face, and the prominent tower on the floating island in the distance.

At this point, I’m trying to be very mindful of conveying a lot of information in the finished painting.
For example, you can make out the faces and personalities of each character
the mood of the scene is happy and whimsical, and it is obvious by the prominence of
the tower that this is where they are going.

Once I’m happy with the details, I move on.

Brush settings for this step:
I use the brush tool set to “middle round” at about 7px wide. I use a dark color for the lines.

“I use very thin lines, I find that it makes them appear more natural and realistic next to the painting later.”
Step 3: Inking

Now I make the first sketch layer invisible, and reduce the messy inks layer to 30% opacity
so that I can begin working on the final line art. 

I want to make sure that this line art is as clean as possible, and I want to avoid having broken lines between sections that will be different colors. I will explain the reasoning behind this in greater detail in a later post.

I use very thin lines, I find that it makes them appear more natural and realistic next to the painting later.

Starting with a very thin line, about 5 or 6pt, I line all of the small details.
One all of the lines are complete, I go around the very edge of each character, as well as the important details of the characters using a thicker line- about 8pt. This makes the lines appear more clean and also helps the characters “pop” out of the background.

It’s worth noting that when I line initially I use a dark shade of the character’s overall body color for the lines, and change this later. Since the sky will be very vivid blue, I want to make the characters generally quite warm so that they contrast the background well, so I use mostly dark pinks and warm browns for the lines.

Once everything is looking good, I move on.

Brush Settings for this Step:
I use the brush tool set to “Middle round”, Smoothness 4, 6-8Pt.

“I use fairly loose painterly brushes, and a 100% blending watercolor brush to blend the shadows in the clouds and the gradient of the sky overall.”
Step 4: Background Rendering

Once my lines are solid, I create a new layer behind them and begin rendering the background.

I generally do this by blotting out the general colors– in this case, blues and white for the clouds and the shapes of a distant floating island in greens and purples. Afterwards I go into each area and add shadows and detail.

I use fairly loose painterly brushes, and a 100% blending watercolor brush to blend the shadows in the clouds and the gradient of the sky overall. I’ll go into painting technique more in a future tutorial.

Brush Settings for this Step:
1) Brush Tool – Bristle, blending varies, usually between 20-75%, Paper texture 20-85%
2) Watercolor tool – for blending – 100% blending – 75% paper texture – size varies.

“I want the islands to appear distant but still have a certain ‘richness’ to them.
In the foliage of the island, I use very vivid greens and try to include a moderate amount of detail.”
Step 4.5: Final Background Detailing

I create a new layer, and using the second sketch as reference trace the island shape.
I then use my usual painting tools to detail and shade the pieces of the island.
I also make any other finishing touches to the background as necessary.

I want the islands to appear distant but still have a certain ‘richness’ to them.
In the foliage of the island, I use very vivid greens and try to include a moderate amount of detail.

Brush Settings for this Step: 
Same as 4.

“Once my basic light/shadow and colors are set up, I go more precisely into detailed areas like the girl’s hair and the stripes on fox friend’s back. “
Step 5: Character Rendering and Final Touches

Once the background is good to go, I start rendering the foreground characters.

I won’t get too into my painting process, but I start by filling in each distinctive color, and then adding detail and shadow in stages

Balancing the colors and making sure that the lighting makes sense is one of the harder parts of the painting process. Assuming that my lines are fairly well set up, I use the magic wand tool on the lines layer to select each section that I’d like to paint into, and then paint on a lower layer. This prevents the need to avoid going outside of the lines.

Once my basic light/shadow and colors are set up, I go more precisely into detailed areas like the girl’s hair and the stripes on fox friend’s back. 

Finally, once I am at the final stages, I add highlights to the eyes, hair, fox’s eyes and dragon’s eyes.

I also create a mask layer and change the color of some of the lines to better blend into the painted colors.

In this case, I opened the final file up in Photoshop to add some slightly Gaussian blur to the island and to parts of the dragon to suggest movement. I also add some fogginess in front of the dragon to suggest that he is flying through clouds. 

Step 6: Done!

Here’s the final painting, I hope you found this tutorial helpful!
I’ll go more precisely into my painting process for a future tutorial.

Thanks for reading, and have a magical evening, or whatever time of day it is where you are!

Don’t forget to find me online elsewhere!

0 thoughts on “How I Painted “Sky Kingdom” in Paint Tool Sai”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *