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This is a tutorial in which I show how to paint a human ear using Krita 2.9.11. I will use no fancy brushes for this grayscale painting, just an airbrush and a simple pencil for sketching. So let’s paint!

Krita and brushes

Krita is an open source program for creating concept art, matte painting, illustration and comics. you can download it here.

After opening Krita you add a new image, for this tutorial I will choose a size of 1200 x 1200 pixels and a resolution of 300 dpi. As background color I choose a mid gray value to avoid too high or too low contrast between my painting and the background color:

New Krita project

Cretae a new Krita project

Now you can see the available brushes in the Brushes docker like this one (I added a lot of 3rd party brushes, you can focus on the 2 brushes that I surrounded with a red square here):

Airbrush and pencil in Krita

Airbrush and pencil in Krita

As I said we will use only two brushes to keep it simple: A pencil for sketching and an airbrush to paint in the different grayscale values. I don’t want to use color for this tutorial because I want you to paint just with values in order to learn how to add shadow and light areas. In a later tutorial I will show how to add color to the grayscale image we produce here.


You can google for reference images to look at while painting. For a reference of a human ear I have several books about anatomy and bodyparts that I use for painting. Don’t copy a reference image to a separate layer and paint over it because you want to enhance your sketching skills. You will make the best improvements when you place your reference beside your image you are working on and try to sketch it.


For sketching I add a new layer and call it „Sketch“. Then I choose the pencil brush you can see below and sketch the lines of the ear of my reference. I don’t care for good strokes at this time cause the sketch will only be used as a guide, I will loose the lineart I paint here anyway in the end.

Ear sketch with Pencil

Ear sketch with Pencil

Adding values

Now comes the funpart of adding gray values. Add a new layer below your lineart layer and select the airbrush. With an opacity of 90% paint over the full area to add your basecolor of the ear. Choose a lighter value than your background color. After that add a new layer over the sketch-layer and paint in shadows and light. Also use the airbrush here but lower the opacity to about 50% (play around with this). Select a dark value for the shadows first and paint in the dark areas. After that use a value of almost white and paint the lighter areas:

Ear with air brush in Krita

Ear with air brush in Krita

When you start doing this, it will be hard to get a result like the one above. But keep on practicing with low opacity and constantly use the Alt-Key to grab color you already used in your image to paint nice transitions between values. This needs a lot of training to get the desired results, but don’t give up!

Adding details

In the end you can add a last layer for details above all layers. The sketch layer can be removed or hidden. Here you can see some details I added for the inner ear, some small hairs I painted in with the Airbrush of small size (6px) and white color.

Inner ear details

Inner ear details

I hope this tutorial gives you some good ideas on how to start painting digitally with Krita. Try to paint each day, use references to sketch and paint and you will become better and better.

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