How many layers are you working in?
Not to sound facetious, but as many as necessary. The average on something like this would be at least 6. For things like the translucent minis, they will be on a layer whose entire transparency is set to say, 50%. I'll bring them into the main mini layer to bring them up to full opacity. I'll have a background layer, a layer for things under the minis, the mini layer, a layer for things over the minis, and then the transparent mini layer and finally the grid. The gird is usually a gray line that is set to Multiply. It's easier to read that way.
Do you make your own textures?
Yes, mostly in Photoshop, though I will use Illustrator's built in tools for some effects.
Did you find or make your own hex grid?
Make. It's insanely easy in Illustrator. I make one hex (using the polygon tool), and drag a copy, snapping it to the anchor points to make them line up. Then I'l grab those two and repeat, so I have four, And so on until I have enough. Then I'll do the transparency trick mentioned above.
What tools are you using (both practical and in the application)?
For speedpainting, It's entirely done in Photoshop, using a pressure-sensitive (Wacom) tablet. I have little to no formal training in traditional painting. Lots of graphic art and illustration training, but not traditional painting.
I work on several layers, so that I can control colors and control over-paints more easily. Dan's illustration probably had around twenty layers.
While I understand that time would vary by artist, how much time do you allow yourself on average?For a speedpaint, 30-60 minutes. For a finished piece, a couple of days.
Let me see if I can find and post the working proofs I sent to Dan, but:
I got a description from Dan and worked out details, composition, etc through email. I then produced one or two thumbnail sketches, scanned them and sent them to Dan for approval. Once we ironed out those details, I produced a finished sketch. This was done by using a digital camera to work out the details of the pose. I'll work from the digital photo (or several photos in mosaic) I may directly trace portions of the photos to capture anatomical difficulties like hands with convincing detail. That figure is actually from a photo of me, heavily altered in proportion and detail. I'll post another piece after this from several years ago to show just how far I can extend this technique. This final sketch is done on either computer entirely, or roughed out on computer, printed, placed on a light box and finished onto clean paper.
Once all that is done and approved, I begin the painting proper. I rough out large areas of color, the coat on one layer, the flesh on another and so on. I will modify these with very basic highlights and shadows. I don't pay attention to edges yet. Once I have the blocks roughed out, I will erase back to the edge, to give a crisp shape. (The pencil sketch is on a translucent layer above everything, set to multiply.)
Then I will lock in the transparency so that further overpaint is impossible. I will frequently turn this on and off per layer as needed throughout the process. Then begins the work with a variety of tools, such as brush and smear tools, to create the detail, shadows, highlights, etc. Basically I keep working and refining as I go. I may adjust color on a per-layer basis, or put an adjustment layer over the whole thing. I tend to work in higher saturation than is natural, so often I will desaturate a bit at different stages.
I'll send updates to Dan as I go, to make sure we are one the same track. Eventually, it's finished. I flatten the painting (collapse the layers and re-save to make the file smaller. Dan's in its uncollapsed state at full resolution was 237MB. The version I sent to him was 56MB.