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Hello all I hope this is the correct place to ask this question! If not please tell me and I'll remove.
Lately I've been playing alot of DotA2. Now I was looking at some of their promotional art and I really love the style of less is more they have. For example, in this image here
I like the way it has the look of alot going on but in closer expection you can see singular brush strokes and everytime I attempt this style I fail and it turns out very soft, or innaccurate.
Thank you for any helpful comments!
I am somewhat new to digital painting, and although I can't point as good as these examples, I do know what he is doing. I need to research this topic more but I believe it is called brush economy using a few strokes to communicate a lot of information. My suggestion would just be to try to use bigger brush strokes in the right areas.
Here's what I think
In general, to be able to do a reduced style you need to be really, really, REALLY good at anatomy and values and... pretty much everything. Why? Because there is no secret formula to this, or a special brush setting that will guarantee you this result. (Yes, there is a certain technique behind it, just like with anything else, but that's not my point.) You have to know what you want to paint and what you leave out, and you have to know how to convey that information. It looks quite random at first sight, but if you have a closer look you can see that they have chosen to only do the most necessary brush strokes to convey the most important information, and underneath all that is solid anatomy and consistent lighting. If you don't have the basics down, you will end up doing way more brush strokes than this dude.
I can't offer you better advice than that since I have no idea at what level you are artistically, so I just assumed that you're a beginner. I'm sorry if you're a pro and just asked for this dude's brush settings or how to use photoshop or something, if that's case I can't help you.
You paint like this by understanding the form really well, so you know what you can simplify away and what is absolutely necessary for conveying the impression. You basically do a very quick but very good underpainting, and then add the crucial detailing in some places, leaving the rest unfinished. The key is being able to establish the composition and values very early, and then understand which places to detail.
In short, learn to paint well in general, then reduce your painting to the bare minimum.
I'm guessing this was first painted as a black silhouette first and by alternating between 100% hard brush and eraser to carve out the shapes.
"the skillful huntsman" is a great book that cover the making of this concept art style.
its very suggestive, I love the new Dota 2 art Valve have this similar style with TF2 concept stuff, too. It keeps you focused, understanding the form and such but its also quick. Big brush work and playing with shapes/forms would help I presume
Enrigo is right. These almost certainly started as black silhouettes, then he or she laid out the values in black and white, and finally colored the big one with a separate layer (color mode).
Also I think there is a bit of either layer adjustment or dodge/burn to get the glow in the eyes.
I think he or she is using standard rounded brush, with half opacity and full flow. With a separate palette for color-picking that has since been removed. That is, if this is at all made in photoshop.
Although it seems like it could also be via Painter. (I.e. he used painter for the b/w phase.) The smoothing (angle of strokes) seems very "Painter" or maybe he just has a fancy wacom. But really I am not sure about the stroke technique.
Enrigo and Funkyskull are right. This looks like it was painting as a greyscale 5 values silhouette. He probably used a hard brush with pressure sensitivity at high opacity. He tightened it up with an eraser for edge control. Then with a combination of multiply and overlay adjustment layers he washed the colors.