Hey Zed Heads — Doug here! The other day I decided to crank out a quick zombie head. Since I get a fair amount of e-mails asking for tutorials, I figured I’d write down my steps and post them here for you guys to check out.
(As a note, I use Photoshop CS5 so some of the specific instructions are written for Photoshop users, but the techniques can be applied to whatever digital painting program you decide to use.)
Step 1: Using a basic round brush, throw down some quick line work. Keep it quick and loose.
Step 2: Increase your brush size and block in some of the shadows, thinking of where the light will hit.
Step 3: Start rendering out some of the face.
Step 4: Continue quickly blocking in shapes and rendering the head.
Step 5: Hit the shadowed edge with some burn to round out the face. Start getting some of those granular details in. Burning things makes them look like they’re in shadow, so doing this to the edges pushes them back and adds roundness to the image.
Step 6: Create a new layer. Pick a base color, fill the new layer with it, then select “Multiply” for the layer style. You can begin laying in some of the skin tone here as well.
Step 7: Add a new layer for highlights. Make sure the new layer’s style is “Normal” (not “Multiply”) this time. With a custom round brush that has some grit (texture), draw in your highlights. (If you’re feeling brave, you can just flatten the whole file into one layer instead of making a new layer.)
Step 8: Burn the edges of the head to add more depth: Switch to the Burn tool and increase your brush size so it’s about a third the width of your head. Trace the outline of your head.
You can also use the Dodge tool very lightly on the center of the head to highlight it a bit. Dodging things makes them look like they’re getting hit with direct light, so doing this to the center (preferably an area that’s being hit by light) brings that area forward.
(If you’re having a hard time finding any of these tools, the icon for Dodge looks like a dark magnifying glass, Burn looks like a hand, and Sponge looks like a sponge. They all share the same tool slot, so you might need to click-and-hold on the icon in order to be able to switch between them.)
Step 9: Keep blocking in the head. Start planning your details.
Step 10: Continue with details.
Step 11: Throw on some grime texture. I used a rock wall, which I desaturated and lowered to about 12% opacity. Erase the areas where you don’t want it. Flatten the file and begin working on top of that.
Step 12: I decided to get artsy fartsy and used a dark purple “lighten” layer. If you’d like to do it too, select “Lighten” in your layers dialog box. This will lighten everything that’s darker than the color you’ve selected and filled the layer with. Build your highlights on top of that.
Step 13: Flip your art to see how it looks from the other side. This is like the old trick of seeing it in a mirror — it will help you to notice lots of little bits that you didn’t see before.
Step 14: Now you can decide whether you want to flip your art back to how you originally had it. (I chose not to). Detail and clean up your zombie. Poof! Now you’ve got a zombie head ready for brains!
Overall, I think I spent about an hour on this guy. Maybe in the future I’ll draw another zombie and capture it in real time for you with audio. Of course, that audio will be of me singing pop songs. 😉
Until then, happy painting!
[Emily’s note: If you guys follow Doug’s tutorial, we’d love to see the zombie heads you come up with! Go ahead and post a link to your zombies here, or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to do a future website post showcasing our favorites, so if you’d like your art to appear in our gallery, make sure you provide me with an email address where I can reach you.]