I thought I would share the way I work in parts rather than just mentioning them in my posts. It will never be comprehensive because I do things differently in most paintings but there are general techniques I use in every single one.
Any Photoshop (PS from now on) CS version will do but that is the only software I use with a Cintiq 12 tablet. It helps having a nice tablet like this but it is not essential and I used to have the Intuos as well. I would not recommend using a mouse so go get a tablet now if you don't already have one.
There is only one choice when it comes to this and I suggest getting the most expensive version of the wacom you can afford. I have the cintiq 12 and it is awesome. It is pretty expensive mind so the next step down is to get a Wacom Intuos4 Small Pen Tablet which should be pretty affordable for most. If you are on a tight budget you can look at the Bamboo (Small) Pen Tablet with Pen Only which is still good and will do most of what you need.
Setting up PS
This is one of the most important parts to start before you even begin to paint. Like I said before I have a Cintiq which means I draw directly on the screen leaving my main monitor free for whatever I like. Most of the time painting I am zoomed in to it quite a lot, 200% or more so therefore I cannot see the painting overall at all.
Go to PS menu 'Window'->'Arrange'->'New window for xxx.psd' this will pop up another window which works independently of the other one but changes in either get copied to the other window. Now leave this spare window at 100% at all times and move it out of the way so you can keep an eye on it. So what you have is you work on the zoomed in one at all times but keep an eye on the spare window to see what the changes really are doing.
Without this technique you do not know what the zoomed in changes are doing (if anything). If you look at the photo below you will see how I work on my latest supergirl painting.
You may not think this is very important but you would be wrong. I find sketching on PS is pretty hard even when you use a Cintiq and draw directly on it. The way to make it slightly easier is when you start your painting make sure your document is pretty small, we are talking 600x600 or something like that depending on the dimensions. The bigger your document the harder it is to sketch (not sure why really).
So my documents always start off small until I have finished the sketch. Once my sketch is finished and I block in some colour (can do this later but its quicker when it is small) I then resize my image to something quite large, 3000x4000 or around there. If you do not make your image very large when you come to zoom in there will not be enough pixels to get small details in there. Just trust me on this if you try and paint with anything smaller than 2000 pixels you will struggle to get any detail in there.
This is a simple problem to get around though so make sure your document is large before rendering anything at all.
Layers & Brushes
I will not go into too much detail about either of these subjects because I would be here a long time and my goal is just to say how I use them for what I paint.
Layers I keep simple and anything I would like to keep seperate or have the ability to change the colour of in the future I use a new layer for. I would say by the time I finish I have around 10 layers which I merge if I don't need them. Don't have too many or it gets messy.
I only actually use two main brushes and sometimes a few other rough ones depending on what I am painting. I am sure you could use a lot more but for most things you don't need to.
Make sure you keep all of your normal painting layers in "normal" mode and not anything else like multiply because they affect how it is seen over the layer below. You will only want to change this mode when you move on to textures and things like that.
Hard Round Brush
I use this for painting clothing, rocks..anything hard basically. It doesn't get much more complicated other than the flow of the brush is very important.I never really have the flow above 8% which determines how much of the colour comes out depending on how hard you press. So it sort of replicates how hard you press when drawing with a normal graphite pencil
I never ever change opacity because this just changes how see-through the colour is which I find completely useless.
Another important factor when painting with any brush is the size of it. I map my Cintiq tablets buttons to the keys that make the brush smaller and bigger ([ - smaller and ] - bigger) so I can change it quickly. I am constantly changing the size of my brush every second or so.
Soft Round Brush
It goes without saying I use this brush for shading and anything soft. I use this brush for mainly skin and anything else that isn't very sharp. It is very important to use the brush with care because if you don't the painting can look all blurry like you have no edges.
I still use this brush for edges but I make sure it is tiny when I do it and then it acts pretty much the same as the hard brush.
There are no rules to brushes because people use whatever they like but I like to paint everything I do and not use custom brushes because it looks fake if you do not use them well.
Blocking in Colour
Some of you may know this already but if you block some colour in with the hard brush 100% flow so it looks something like this:
And there we go..we have the sketch and locked some colours in so we can start shading over the top of it. Make sure once you are at that point you make your document large before rendering any detail.
There are a few books that I have used since I started painting digitally but this one helped me the most. It has similar techniques to what I still do but they go into more detail and show you step by step how to get to a finished painting.
Check out the Tutorials page for more tips.