Siân Levenson, Wales
The fun thing about painting ghosts is getting to play with supernatural light sources and ambiance in your scene. This is particularly true of any painting set in a tomb, cave or other dark environment.
If you’re trying to paint a ghost rising from a tomb, try to light the tomb or effigy as if it’s the ghost itself that’s illuminating the stone. With this in mind, choose a cool, saturated colour such as green or aqua to act as your source light.
The next stage is to add tendrils of colour trailing from your ghostly figure to the stone effigy on top of the tomb, paying careful attention to the way that you place your brushstrokes. Try to always use your brush in the same direction that your character or object is moving, because this will make the motion in your image much more convincing. I’d advise selecting a Soft brush or the Smudge tool to gently soften the edges of your figure to make them appear incorporeal. Careful use of the Motion Blur filter can also enhance this supernatural effect.
As a final touch you can use a large cloud brush to add an ambient fog to your scene. If you set your layer mode to Color Dodge it’ll immediately become more ethereal. I recommend playing with the Layer Opacity to find the best blend.
Keep your edges soft and use a limited palette to give the impression of a ghostly character. Controlling your light sources will also enhance the scene.
Motion blur, a Cloud brush, the Smudge tool and Color Dodge are all useful tools, but don’t let them obscure your figure entirely!