The painting above is a two page spread from, "The Story of Christmas," a pop up book published in December 2008. The creation of the art followed a typical procedure in which I was given a manuscript to read along with some basic direction and notes letting me know what the art director would like to have me include. I then submitted roughs which developed into tighter pencil drawings. When the pencils were approved painting began. This demo is typical of the painting steps used throughout the entire project.

With a tight pencil approved, scanned and imported into Photoshop and floated as a separate Multiply layer, I fill the base layer with a light tan color and swing the file into Painter. The monochromatic underpainting then begins, using Airbrush and Digital Watercolor brushes with a warm brown hue. Both of these brushes, (Digital Airbrush set to "Buildup" mode), create tones that are transparent, resulting in deeper shadows and some nice subtle texture. I'm not drawing any selections or masks before I paint, preferring to keep all the edges soft for now. When I have the basic values down I switch over to a blue color and continue to reinforce the shadow areas until I have the center of interest dialed in.

Now I begin to work with an Acrylic brush variant, set to a low opacity, and lay in the night sky and background that we see through the open door and window. I indicate some other village buildings and scrubby grass. With the night sky in place I have a better sense of how much darker I can go with the shadow areas inside the manger and around all of the figures and I deepen these shadows as I add more color.

I see several areas that need correction either in terms of drawing or composition. (Ah, the advantages of digital painting). I raise the chicken and rooster sitting on the window frame along with the donkey's head. The neck of the ox is too thin and he gets a makeover along with the duck and goose. I don't care for the dark shape below Joseph's waist so I bring his knee up to fill the space and redirect the viewer's eye back into the center of the scene.

At this point I move the painting back into Photoshop and begin the part of the painting process I enjoy most, bringing up the values in the areas of the painting where the light is falling on objects. While the shadows are kept transparent to achieve greater depth, the light areas are painted opaquely to give more solidity. In this case, the figures are lit with a warm, overhead light source so my color choices need to reflect that warmth. Nearly all of the painting I do from this stage on is completed with two brushes. Both of them are stock Photoshop sable variants with only minor tweaks in the brush engine to add varying degrees of texture.

I finish the painting by reinforcing and sharpening edges. When complete I convert the file from my working mode of RGB to CMYK and make any necessary color adjustments before uploading the art to my ftp site for client download.