!This the work process I PERSONALLY prefer. Working in the concept art industry this is one of the fastest way to achieve a realistic look in a short amount of time. And you know - Time is moooooneeeeey! No one cares how you achieved the final image as long as it looks good!:) !
Step 0 - RESEARCH!
My goal was to create a realistic looking interior design based on True Detective. Overall I spend around 3 hours just collecting reference images and photos that could probably work in my scene. While watching True Detective I made a couple of screencaps so I knew the overall look of the office building.
Online I looked for reference images that matched the mood I was going for as well as images that contained the objects that I planned on putting in the scene.
And YES! The research part (even though not shown in the image) is one of the most important steps. If you're rushing into the painting stage without actually knowing what you're going for you'll end up with a shitty painting.
Step 1 - CREATING A SIMPLE 3D BLOCKMESH
Let's be honest, 3D is awesome. Having the idea already in my head I began blocking out the scene with simple shapes, as well as setting up the lighting.
Some of you might think that you can easily skip this step or construct the scene by hand buuuut it would be way more work and you would still have disadvantages over a person who just used 3D.
Having a blockmesh like this helps you to play around with the composition and the lighting within seconds. You can move stuff around, play with the cameras focal length, change the light situation, and so on...
PS: Companies will love you if you know little 3D!
Step 2 - DETAILING THE BLOCKMESH
This step is not necessary but I usually like to take my blockmesh even a bit further. The chairs were downloaded from Google Warehouse as I already knew I would die painting these by hand and besides that I populated the scene with a few more boxes. I also applied some basic colors onto the objects for the readability. Not really necessary but I prefer it this way.
Step 3 - PHOTOBASHING (I hate this word, sounds so offensive...)
All the time I spend with researching begins to pay off... Finally! I'm projecting photos onto the 3D blockmesh to detail the scene. Some stuff I'm adding in this step wasn't shown in the blockmesh but that's not necessary. Having a perspective grid it's quite easy to put posters, maps or other things onto the wall.
Remember that you're having all the advantages of the 3D still, so you can try out different layer modes to see what works best. Just throwing photos in there on a normal layer isn't going to work (at least not usually, haha).
Take your time with this phase and don't rush. Objects can easily look off if you don't pay attention to the perspective.
Our officer. Mr. Cohle, was composited out of two different photos (as someone already pointed out in the comments of the painting). Been quite lucky in this case as I found him in a pose that fit perfectly for my scene.
IF I wouldn't have found a photos as good as these then I would have posed a guy in Daz3D and then textured him. Takes longer but leads to the same results:)
Step 4 - MORE PHOTOS, ADJUSTING COLORS AND PAINTING STUFF TOGETHER
Well, this step are pretty self-explanatory. I continue doing what I did in step 3 and I also start adjusting the colors. Looking at my reference images for the mood (oh research phase!) I knew that everything in my scene was way to saturated. I was going for this close office feeling.
As I wasn't able to find photos for every object in the scene I began painting some stuff in by hand as well as painting some photos together so it doesn't look as photobashy.
Some clients prefer to have this very clean realistic look but for this piece I wanted to have a mixture of looking photoreal and painterly.
Step 6 - PAINTING TIME!
Ha! The step every artist is waiting for. Just sitting back in your chair, relaxing and painting for hours (not really hours in my case but you get the idea!).
In this step I'm painting all the photos together, adjusting more colors, getting some brushwork in there, doing small lighting tweaks, ...
Everything that looks off gets fixed in this step!
I also darkened the corners a bit and introduced some juicy colors under the painting which shine through just a liiiiiiiiittle bit. Shadow areas got a little bit of blue paint to make the areas cooler and light areas got a little bit warmer colors.
In step 5 I did a really bad job with the evidence photos on the table so I had to redo them.
Don't be afraid to go a few steps back again to fix stuff.
You're working in Photoshop so you're having layers, channels and all that amazing stuff. Use it!
Don't be afraid because some people told you that it's not art anymore.
The result counts in this industry. Not the way you got there:)
Step 7 - ???