Q&A: magical effects
Mai Yeoh, Canada
It can be tricky to design and paint magical effects from scratch. This is why there are so many custom brushes out there that have been created to make this process easier. However, if you take the time to understand how different specular effects are supposed to work, you’ll find that drawing your magical effects by hand will make your painting not only more unique, but also more interesting to render.
The first step to making believable magical effects is researching the way that light behaves in different situations. Flames, fireworks, sparking, bioluminescence, water fractals… all of these things make good starting points for light effects. Once you’ve chosen your references, think about how you can combine these effects. It becomes easier to make one effect flow into another if you add direction to your brushstrokes; make a decision about where your magic is moving to and stick to it. This will add realism to your painting.
When it comes to magical effects, blending modes can be helpful, particularly Color Dodge. If you find your picture is looking a bit lifeless, you can create a new layer in Dodge mode and gently add paint with a soft Round brush to increase the saturation of your other layers and give them an ethereal, glowing effect. Remember that the best-looking magical effects always preserve some translucency, so don’t go overboard!