Paint Wet Glistening Skin

We are going to apply some techniques to create wet, glistening skin.

Here I’ve picked an image with a strong light source, which is good because it will push the contrast that really make the shimmers and shines glow. A key thing to know about the tutorial before we start getting into any technical applications is the nature of light and skin. The main difference you will see between dry and wet skin is in the level of specularity, or how light travels around an object. The dryer skin is, the more muted and opaque it appears. When skin is wet it becomes more reflective and glossy with bright hotspots of light. The effect is subtle so supplied here is an animated gif to show you a quick side-by-side comparision of the eventual result.

Another thing we will address in this tutorial are the speckles of light that create a shimmering effect on wet skin. The shimmer is created naturally by light reflecting on microscopic beads of moisture found on pores and small follicles on the surface area of the human body. The first thing I’ve done is created 3 new layers in the layers panel above the image named Sheen, Speckles and Hotspots.

We’ll start on the sheen layer and select the lasso tool and draw areas that the light would reflect brightest on. A picture with high contrast will take most of the guesswork out of drawing theses shapes Trace along the lighter areas of skin tone. Hold shift down to draw multiple selections without losing the first.

Use a thick soft paintbrush with white selected and lightly brush the side of the shapes with a brush opacity/flow at around 30%. Use the eraser and smudge tool to smooth out the hard edges and take out any parts that you may think look unnatural.

Now that the sheen is done let’s take a look at the shimmer. To create the speckles of light that reflect off the small wet bumps of skin we are going to select a hard edge brush. Take it down to 1 to 3 pixels width (depending on how large your subject/image is) and boost the flow and opacity back to 100%. Click on the brushes tab on the brush options and click on the Scattering option. A count scatter of 1 is fine and you can adjust the jitter to your taste. If you are using a tablet pen be sure to select the pen pressure option. This effect can still be done with a mouse but may take more trial and error to execute.

We’ve essentially created a custom scatter brush that will paint the glisten on top of the wet sheen. Go in and paint the dots and add more brush strokes on the lighter areas. Application of the dots should feel more intuitive as you brighten the hotter spots of light. I’ve chosen some bright spots on the cheekbones, forehead, chin, shoulders and breasts. There are some areas of shimmer with medium levels of light that I’ve applied to the jawline, neck, ribcage, stomach and arms. For these areas I’ve repeated the same application but with an opacity and flow setting of 80% to accommodate a lower level of intensity shimmer.

Here is a detailed resolution view of some of the newly glistened areas.

Lastly on the top hotspots layer I’ve just put small solid shapes of white in the middle of the clumps of speckles that signify the greatest intensity of specularity. These shapes can be smudged for a more blended and subtle look. This final touch should round the completed effect that we want for painting wet skin on photographs or stylized digital art.

By Mark Rivera

Mark is an animator and ad designer for WebProNews. He has a passion for illustration and 3D art.

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