I've changed my standard process since the last time I wrote about it, although mostly in fairly subtle ways. I'm still primarily using Corel Painter for digital art, but after a brief forray into trying to ditch the lines and go full painting, I realized that the linework stage is actually the one I often enjoy the most, so I've focused on that more again.
I start with an idea, but I have no good way of explaining that part of the process: it just happens. There's a thing I want to draw, and I see it in my head, so I set about trying to make it. Sometimes I try thumbnailing for a big project, but mostly I jump straight into the sketch.
I gather any reference I'm going to use before I get into the sketch. What exactly this is depends on the drawing in question; most commonly it consists of character reference (previous drawings, screenshots, stock image of someone who looks similar in a key way), expression reference, and armor/clothing reference. I usually keep it open on the right side of my monitor and shrink my Painter window so I can see it, but sometimes I also put it on a mostly transparent layer in the image. The second is usually so check proportions, or if I run out of room on the side of my monitor (which is not huge).
On the relatively rare occasions when I do a detailed background I also gather reference for that, but I don't have any screenshots which show such a case. For landscape reference I'll prioritize referencing my own photographs, but if I don't have something that works, I'll again look at free stock images.
My sketches tend to be fairly detailed, and they're often the stage where I'm happiest with where I'm going. I think this is because I spent so many years effectively just sketching, so I'm more comfortable with that than the rest of the process.
A few samples:
The first sample also shows what my work space is like in Painter. I zoomed out to take that screenshot, but I usually work zoomed moderately far out at the sketch stage, whereas I zoom in quite a bit more after that.
I find working on lines to be pleasant and calming, and this is also where things start to come together, so it's usually my favorite stage of the process. I try not to overdo it, though, or I find I have to erase some things when I get to the final rendering stages.
I usually start with faces. I'm not sure why; probably it's because almost everything I draw is character focused, and so getting the character looking right is my first priority. But if the face is working, I can feel good about maybe taking a bit longer figuring other things out.
I normally work at round 150% zoom at this stage. I try not to go in too far and get lost in little details that aren't going to be visible in the finished image, which is a risk for me with digital art, so I set myself a rule that I don't zoom in further than 150% unless I need to. So far I haven't needed to.
This is also where I end up changing things, if that happens. Sometimes (rarely) I have to redo the sketch at this point, but more commonly I just treat the sketch as more of a loose guide when I'm making alterations.
Some more examples from various points in the process:
I always finish this stage completely before I go on to color, although there have been times where I have to go back and make edits - usually erasing bits of shading that end up getting in the way, or lines that I find I didn't need after all.
I like to get all of the color down in a general way before I go into any sort of shading or highlighting or nuance. I have the canvas background fairly light while I'm working on the first two stages so I can see the lines clearly, and sometimes that does mean I also need to adjust the linework a bit darker (although usually not).
Sometimes I get all the color in, start working the next stage, and realize something went wrong with the basic colors. I'm by far the least used to the post linkework part of the process still, so there's more experimenting.
Once I've got all that hammered out I move on to the details, or I guess the rendering stage. Shading, highlights, all that good stuff.
I've changed what I do in this stage the most, of late, because this is the part of the process I feel that I'm most still learning how to do (I'm still learning how to do the rest of it better, of course, but this is something I didn't do much at all until a few years ago). I again usually start with the face, in this case because that's likely to be the focal point and I want it to be the most detailed.
I find I typically end up using about three darker/cooler shades for shadows and three lighter/warmer for highlights, but obviously that depends on what the material is and the lighting and all that. I've been leaving most of the details to the linework but trying to reinforce them with color.
For most drawings, the only thing left to be done after coloring is saving, and then creating web versions with my URL and all. But sometimes I decide to do something different, like add in a texture overall; if something like that is happening, it's the final step before saving.
I generally use a multiply layer at something like 25% opacity for textures, but sometimes I use a normal layer with a slightly lower opacity as well. It depends on the image and texture in question. (Usually, if I use one, it'll be a paper texture like in the above case.)