For this picture I drew a slightly more detailed sketch than I customarily create, although I still felt the need to alter the composition after "painting." The sketch was begun with (real) pencil and paper, then finished in Painter using a custom brush that pretty closely mimics my pencil work.
2. Tone and Rough Values
To begin the underpainting I tone the "canvas" with a large brush that using the Buildup method, on a Gel layer. This gives a unique value / saturation curve, essentially making the middle values the most saturated, and moving out to white and black (no saturation) on either end of the value scale. This is very much like how watercolors or translucent oil paints operate.
I use a layer mask to erase pigment, because painting over with white would spoil the aforementioned saturation curve. The goal here is to establish some kind of key color for the image, and begin to set up the basic value relationships. I don't overtly think in terms of just three values, though in practice that seems to be what happens.
3. Final Values
This is as far as I take the value study - just enough to indicate all the basic relationships, and more importantly to break up the canvas into texture and shapes so I feel like I'm looking into a space vs. staring at a flat surface. It's always remarkable to me how much you can read from the image even at this crude stage.
Notice how I'm flip flopping the value relationship between the underside of the mushroom and the foliage behind it. In step 2 the underside of mushroom is darker than the foliage... in step 3 this is reversed, and later in step 5 it goes back again! As with all picture making issues, this is not about imitating nature, nor trying to gauge what the scene might look like in real life, but about consciously setting up the relationships that are going to make your picture read the way you want.
3a. Completed Underpainting
This stage shows the value study from step 3 with the sketch overlaid and colorized slightly. To do this I make a new layer that is completely filled with my colorization color (in this case a dark green), add a layer mask to this layer, then invert the sketch (so the lines are white and the "paper" is black), then copy it into the layer mask. I then tweak the main color using Hue/Saturation, and I also play with the opacity of the layer and the levels of the mask (to apparently sharpen or dull the line work).
5. Refining Local Colors
Here I've begun to pull out a lot of the green, while still keeping enough to tie the picture together. At this stage you get a pretty good idea what the final picture, including color scheme, will look like.
For this picture I wanted to create kind of a confusing panoply of colors, shapes and patterns, and also (as usual) to include unrelated objects that have similar forms and patterns (such as the caterpillar vs. the large leaf, the hookah bowl and tray vs. the flowers, etc.).
6. Modeling the Forms
For this entire image I used a single custom bristle brush, with a fair amount of bleed, varying only the size. Also uncharacteristically for me, brush size was not tied to stylus pressure, so each mark is of a uniform width. At 50% zoom I work over all the forms in the picture at this stage.
7. Developing Details
I continue to work the whole picture, advancing the level of detail pretty evenly across the board. However, as usual I do save the important details (such as Alice's face) for later in the picture, so I have things in the picture to relate it to. I'm now working at 50% zoom, which is as far in as I go for a picture like this.
I modified the carpet in step 6 to introduce still more color and pattern into the picture. Here I bring it up to the same level of detail as everything else.
8. Compositional Adjustments
Now that I'm in the home stretch I make last minute changes to Alice's head direction, sleeves and leggings, and also replace some of the larger flowers with daffodils because their forms more closely resemble the hookah bowl and tray.
9. Final Details
Here I bring the newly introduced daffodils up to snuff, and give the focal points some specialattention as well.
10. Final Adjustments
I finish up Alice's face and hair, leaving it pretty loose and rough. One final change to the position of the caterpillar's eyes and, voila!!