I’m pretty happy with this image. It tries to use a few fundamental image composition techniques, like the rule of thirds (character is located in the first and second third of the image), color contrast (warm and happy against cold and lonely) and to maintain a good contrast on the important characters. The intention behind the image was to tell a story.
This first thing I did was to use very mute colours, wanting to set the mood fairly quickly I settled on a very dark green. Then I proceeded to carve out the shapes by creating a layer mask on the sky and simply cutting in with sharp pointy brushes. It got pretty cool, pretty fast.
Jumping ahead a bit, I fleshed out the characters by picking from the character palette and appropriately muting the colours. Then I started to build on the depth of the image, creating layers that grew brighter towards the back and using texture brushes to make the silhouette interesting.
At this point I returned to lighting. I wanted to create an interesting backlight for both characters, and tied it together with an event planned for the game. The lower left would be a festivity from which our two secluded characters have snuck away from. The right would be filled with cool light from the moon, and the soft light from the glowing berries growing around the tree.
Rendered more of the image, reworking areas of the image that were too basic and added in the glowing fruits. It’s coming together nicely.
Final rendition. I added fireworks in the far distance to make the festivities clearer, and made the upper right a bit brighter using a soft fog. I asked for critique from a friend, who helped me to see the flatness of the tree trunk, and redid the lighting from the moon and the festivities.