TECH-NOIR - Full painting process (Tutorial)

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

Ho there! In this post, I'll walk you through the process for my latest painting inspired by ‘tech noir’, a hybrid genre of fiction, combining film noir and science fiction.

Tech-Noir. Painted in Photoshop & Krita

What I used:

Digital painting software

Drawing tablet

  • XP-Pen artist 15.6

1. First I sketched the outline for the portrait, roughing in the general shape of each feature of the face, then the shadow areas.

2. After, I created my colour palette. I used the colour picker to pull colours that I liked from a reference image matching the theme and spotted them on a new layer above my image so that I can pick from them later as I paint.

3. Then I use these colours to lay down my flat mid-tones using the basic circle round brush with the pressure sensitivity turn off to create a basis for each section of the portrait. Usually, I'll do this for the face, the hair, and the clothes as separate layers. By using a mid-tone as the selected colour for each of these layers you’ll have an easier time determining the values moving forward. If you start with the highlights or darkest tones, for example, you’ll probably have much more difficulty, it can also help to start with a mid-tone background for this reason too.

4. Next, I work on the highlights. For this, I used the lightest red on my palette to bring out the areas where the light touches the skin, mainly on the forehead, the cheekbones and the bridge of the nose.

5. I then used the desaturated blue colour from my colour palette to rough out of the areas where the shadows will fall on the face.

6. Throughout I made sure to clean up the edges of my first layers so that I can be sure that everything looks fine when I turn the sketch layer off at the end.

Once each layer is cleaned up, turn the alpha layer options off so that you are only painting on the painted pixels of the screen. This will help save a bunch of time when painting later on with selected parts of your portrait as you don't have to worry about the edges as much.

7. then went through and added the darkest tones back to my image to bring up the 3D form and give some definition to the features by increasing the tonal contrast.

8. Now that everything is planned out, and I have the rough image blocked in, I can begin refining the entire portrait, adding details as I go.

Using a fine hair brush to I'd add the fine strands of hair to break up some of the large volumes of the hair to make it look more realistic. Real hair doesn't usually lay in one big lump unless you're made of Lego, so break those bits up.

9. I used a large texture brush to break up some of the backgrounds, the brush doesn’t really matter so much, use your best judgement to create a compelling composition, whatever works best for you is usually the right choice. The focus is the portrait, not the background so use something that supports the figure.

10. I used a grain texture stamp to bring some life back to the airbrushed areas of the face. The brush I used is a custom one I created, it's not the most effective but I like the look of it so far. If you wanted a most realistic looking skin you could definitely find a decent brush online if you look hard enough!

11. As this piece was inspired by the tech-noir genre I applied a television screen static across the image using a soft light layer to imitate the technology they used in the 80s to represent their vision of the future.

12. Remove the sketch layer and clean up any rough areas and voila! I like to re-add thin lines to the harder edges around the jaw, lips and nose to bring some definition back after the sketch layer is removed.

If this was helpful for you please let me know! Also, if you followed along I'd love to see, leave me a comment below or email me at

I’ll try to continue writing these, but for now, check out the video below for the timelapse.

Video Process:

Thank you for reading and adios,


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