by Victoria Pavlov

The Creative Process Behind My Fan Art Painting of Okoye

Victoria Pavlov, is an accomplished digital painter who teaches regularly at Photoshop World for KelbyOne and offers online training at Everything Digital. Here she shows off her fan art speed painting of Okoye, from the 2018 film The Black Panther and reveals her creative process behind this portrait. 


I am a big fan of Marvel and super heroes. Painting a super hero is a difficult because we all know our heroes, how they look and their power, so bringing my personality into the painting without “breaking the rules" of superheroes is challenging.

The Black Panther

The Black Panther movie is a fresh, original story with many great characters. I originally started painting the Black Panther character himself, but after seeing the movie I also wanted to paint Okoye. She is such a strong, beautiful character and I wanted to show her warrior side along with her beauty and personality.

I painted Okoye in Adobe Photoshop CC with a Wacom Cintiq 24HD.

Starting Point

I carefully studied the colors and style of her outfit. For my painting I began with a very simple sketch layer, and added two layers with all my color samples on top of that first layer. Because I planned for the portrait to have a black background, I created a new black layer underneath my sketch layer, which helped me to create the right painting values from the beginning. 

Step One

First Stage

I started by painting Okoye’s head. I tend to use a lot of layers in my painting workflow. For example, if I am working on the left eye of my subject and am happy with the result, I will save my work and create a new layer before I start working on my subject’s right eye. Because it’s Adobe Photoshop I can “fix” anything, but I prefer to save time by eliminating as many fixes and possible.

It is very important to bring the right values to a portrait painting so it looks like a 3D object and not a flattened one. The right proportions of light and dark and all the values in between add depth and richness to a painting.  After about 15 hours of painting the head, I was ready to move forward to paint her outfit and the rest of the image. Because this is my personal project and I didn’t have a deadline, I took a break for the rest of my day to do something else.  

Okoye Step Two

Second Stage

Okoye’s outfit has very bright colors and a lot of details. For me it was very important to bring out all the colors without losing any of the details. I spent about 15 hours painting her outfit and created a tremendous amount of layers. I used a lot of shading and highlight layers to bring a 3D dimension look to her necklace and the outfit piece that covered her shoulder. And again, since I had no time frame, I decided to take a break and step away from the painting to have a fresh mind before applying the finishing touches.

Okoye Outfit

Finishing Touches

The final stage of my painting was the finishing touches, which took about 3 to 5 hours. I apply a final brush stroke to add an extra value (adjusting contrast between the light and dark areas).These touches are very important for any painting because they will bring the entire painting to life. 

Final Image

Victoria PavlovVictoria Pavlov was born into a musician family and started practicing music at the age of three. At six she discovered painting and spent all of her time mastering her craft in a painting studio and had her first big exhibit at fourteen. She was introduced to the camera by her uncle and to Photoshop by her teacher. A canvas, a camera, a Wacom tablet and Adobe Photoshop are the tools she uses to create her art. Painting in Adobe Photoshop is the world for her, her language, eyes, and heart. 

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