This is the process on how I created this picture, so you can use the methods and your own knowledge to create a gorgeous piece! I would love to see art inspired by my tutorials, so if you do, let me know!
Please note that I never merge the layers with the background, until the end. On this tutorial, I'll work on the foreground first and then on the background. So I will need the clouds and the sky color to be in separated layers.
(1) To prepare the canvas, I set the background on a semi-dark blueish-gray. (2) Then, I use a pale yellow brush, and really thin lines to make the sketch. Since clouds have many different forms, I feel free to draw curves of all kinds just so I can visualise where I'll paint. I add a light source as well, in form of a star.
(3) The second layer will be the darker spots. I use a dark brownish-red to fill the sketch. I am using a basic soft brush, since it will make it easier to simulate the cloud texture. (4) Next layer is about the lighted parts of the clouds. Since the light source comes from above, the central area will be brighter than on the borders of the canvas. So I am using a pale yellow, as the star will be white-ish. (5) New layer, I choose orange, a bright tone, to remark the cloud forms and create a feeling of warmth and calmness. (6) I add extra light on the central area, reinforcing the power of the star.
(7) It's time to start blending. For this, I merge the three layers of colors. With the Finger Tip brush I patiently start making waves and circles or even spirals. This will make the clouds look more detailed, even if later on (8) I use the normal Blend brush to soften the forms. What used to be nonsense of thick lines is now imitating some mystic clouds.
(9) I duplicate the layer, and set the one above as "Multiply". This will darken the one below, so I use a soft eraser to clear the central area and other smaller spots where I want the light to shine. (10) Again, I duplicate the base layer, I place it above the Multiply one, and set it as "Lighten". Contrary to the one before, I soft erase the borders and the places I want the shade on. Since I feel like this layer is too bright, I lower the transparency to <70%. (11) I merge the layers again, and make sure I saved my progress. Then, I put a >20% Gaussian blur filter on the layer. This will make it look really blurry, but it's part of the plan.
(12) Now I choose a sharp brush to color some spots. From pale to dark, the color wheel is set on the red-orange area, while I pick low saturation tones. (13) Again, when I finish, I use the Finger Tip brush, but this time I only create somewhat linear waves. I feel free to merge the two layers.
(14) Using still a low saturation orange tonality, on a new layer, I take the Soft brush again and paint some areas where the clouds will not receive direct light but will also not be dark. Then I set the layer as "Overlay". (15) New layer, once again, and slightly paint the central area, where the clouds end, to make it look like they're glowing.
(16) It's time to paint the star. Using a symmetric ruler of 16 arms, I draw the body and rays. (17) As I am painting, I notice that the star fits better on the corner where there's no clouds, so I place it there. I blur the rays, and set the layer as "Add Glow". (18) I add two circles outside the main rays, to reforce the light source, (19) and I blur them as well.
(20) Now that the light is ready, the background must obey the mighty rules of shading. Choosing a lighter and darker tones from the original background, I set one of the blurred out circles as a meeting point. (21) Now it's ready to be blended as well.
(22) To add some ethereality, it's the turn of the mystic rainbow to appear. I don't really paint it minding any lines, since (23) it is blurred, again. This time, I convert the layer to Screen, and set it as <50% transparency. (24) I add more light on the central area, with the soft brush and a "Glow" layer.
(25) I merge all the visible layers, and I duplicate the resting one. To make it look like the clouds are really glowing and soft, I put a >30% Gaussian blur filter on it, as I transform the layer to Lighten. (26) With an Overlay new layer, I add some random droplets to create the illusion of a magical place. (27) Then I use two different gradient layers to set the colors to my liking, without losing saturation nor contrast, as it also makes the final piece look more compact.
(28) To finish, I retouch the tone curve so everything gets the correct values.
(29) Signature and watermark. Result of the piece.
Hope you liked this tutorial! If so, let me know what could I explain next. These tutorials are more simplistic, compared to the ones I plan to share on Patreon. Detailed ones, such as deep anatomy, and complex pieces will be shared there.