All that tweaking I was doing resulted in an overworked image that wasn't nearly as strong as the original was - after several days of it I realized that and made the painful decision to go back to an earlier version. Actually I overworked it again after that and just went back again to another early version for the body - though I'm keeping the terrain (at least so far).
It's stupidly easy to overwork things - to go into detail rendering mode and lose track of the form itself. I went back to this one because here his chest looks mighty, whereas in my overwrought version I had reduced it to looking rather emaciated. Couldn't tell until I compared them directly.
Rough in with big hard opaque brushes!!!
But in better news, I've been looking at a Conceptart thread about learning to paint in Photoshop and have picked up some better habits - for instance blocking in with big hard round brushes set to a high opacity (like 85 - 100%). And then create in-between colors by using a transparent brush with one color over the other, pick it up and use it with a nearly opaque brush, and make your brushes progressively smaller as you go. Then after developing your form roughly in this way (probably farther than I have here actually) you can start to use transparency. That only comes in near the end as a sweetener.
I'm beginning to realize it's necessary in your initial block-in to use your darkest and lightest colors right from the beginning - if you try to build up to them as I tend to do it takes forever and you get too timid about it.
Great Photoshop advice about working size and printing:
For print, most printers print at either 150, 200, or 300 dpi.
-If you're just doing this for a sketch, 72 dpi is fine (since that's what we see at screen res)-150 dpi is fairly standard and to print at 8.5x11" you need to work at around 1300x1700-I personally like to begin around 2000x3000, but sometimes if I know I want to hang this on my wall (like the portrait below) I up it to the point where it'll print at 18x24" (5400x7200)
Secondly, you need to consider which version of photoshop you're using. I find that any version before CS will run smoothly on just about any computer, but if you're using one of the Creative Suite editions, you may want to lower the resolution to decrease lag time.
Another serious point to take into consideration is the power of your computer. Again, if you're doing this for print, you'll want to work at as high a resolution as possible but for sketching and practice (the apples and such) you really need to consider what your computer can HANDLE. I'm writing this while using Photoshop CS3.
-If you have less than a gig of RAM, then it'll be really difficult to work at any resolution higher than 2000x3000, and even then that may lag. One way to counter this is to use brushes with high spacing, as this allows the computer to track fewer instances of the brush.-From 1 gig to 2 gigs of RAM, You can really work up to 7200px per side without trouble, but larger poster sized stuff might cause problems.-Anything higher than 2 gigs of RAM should run smooooooth unless you're using some cracked out 700 px textured brush.
"As for the size, it's always good to work at a higher size than you intend to actually use. If your computer could handle it, then double the size would be great, but even a third greater (3300x5100 pixels. 3300/3 & 5100/3 = 1100x1700. Add it all up and you end up at 14.667x22.667 inches) gives you a bit of extra room to get in close and work with your details without having to worry about being pixel-perfect, as working at your printing res would entail. Then when you're done you can just (in Photoshop) do Image > Image Size and enter in the values you'd like to print at and it'll scale it down for you.
Whichever way you choose, if you want to see what the result will be looking like when printed while you're actually painting, being zoomed at 25% (24 really) is what it ends up looking like at 300dpi. So at 150 it'd be 50% (48%) zoom. (I say the rounded up versions because it's just easier and quicker to get to using the keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+ +/-)"