Charlie Sheen Tutorial

Below I'll describe from start to finish the stages I went through to create this Charlie Sheen caricature for Australian FHM magazine. This is more of a step-by-step rather than a tutorial but you should get some idea about my creation process. To cap it off at the end there's an animated gif of the painting.


I started off with a quick caricature of Sheen just to warm up and get familiar with his features so I could sketch him from memory in the next stage.

I only did one initial rough to show the client as I had a clear idea in my head of what I wanted to do, so doing more roughs seemed like shooting myself in the foot. Saying that, I was fully prepared to sketch up more ideas if the art director requested it. Luckily for me though, he liked this idea but asked me to crop in tighter so Sheen's face was more in the centre and there wasn't so much emphasis on his hair.

Above is the cropped rough and below is the approved refined pencil rough going for a better likeness. I knew I was on the right track with the likeness when my six year old saw it and started singing the 'Two and a half men' theme tune.

I forgot to mention, the reason the art director was so quick to approve the first rough was due to an idea I wanted to explore with the Sheen caricature.

The Sheen article in the mag was about Sheen's womanising, drug taking and sometimes violent tendencies (and how he still manages to be a big, bankable star). So, the idea was to have Sheen's facial features made up of a mass of writhing female bodies which shaped to the contours of his face. Being FHM magazine, incorporating women into the pic would have been appropriate (and most likely appreciated by the readership). But, I always stressed to the art director that there was a chance that I wouldn't be able to pull this idea off (and quite obviously I wasn't) and that if I thought doing this would mean sacrificing the Sheen likeness then it would be abandoned (and it was). But here is an indication of how it could have looked if I had more time, more skill, and as the next step will show, better photo reference...

3. REFERENCE...or lack thereof.
There were three reasons why this job was tough enough without the added difficulty of incorporating a sea of women into his face.

The problem was the approved sketch I drew of Sheen wasn't based on an existing photo. I didn't have a) a photo of Sheen with his head at that exact angle, b) with that expression and most of all c) with that dramatic underlighting. If I did have all three of those I probably would have been more confident about doing the women, but I was facing an uphill battle as it was.

I'd gathered a mass of photo ref of Sheen from the internet, some had the expression I wanted but not the angle, and vice versa. So during painting I went back and forth amongst the multiple photos to make sure everything was right with the likeness.

Those with sharp eyes will notice a Kruger caricature of Steve McQueen in amongst the reference. This was there for inspiration.

For lighting I posed a Dazstudio 3D model in Zbrush so I had accurate reference for the sinister underlighting I was after.

I thought about a few different ways of approaching this painting. One was my usual way of doing a detailed shaded pencil to give a good foundation, but I was feeling brave so I decided to start painting right over the top of my approved sketch.

This was all painted in Photoshop. The smudge tool was used to blend the rough sketch lines into the colour, then I just built the detail up from there using Photoshop brushes and my custom texture brushes. The animated gif below should give you a good indication of the painting process.

Hope this was insightful. Any questions let me know. Enjoy!


Blogger Wouter Tulp said...

This is awesome! Great work!

May 1, 2010 at 12:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Especially the animated is so informative, Chris! Great job!
Bernd Ertl

May 1, 2010 at 1:24 AM  
Blogger G said...

Wow Chris, this is an awesome caricature of Charlie Sheen! He is really sinister and slimey looking. I love the process tutorial you posted and kinda wished you could have pulled off all those female figures constructed Sheen's face. From the rough linework, I think you were like 80-90% there but I think the lighting would have been hard to execute on all those bodies. And yes, I do see the phallic symbolised in the final piece and it's quite disturbing once I saw it. You are truly a master.

May 1, 2010 at 5:00 AM  
Blogger Sagan Lacy said...

Aw, I hoped for a moment Kruger had actually done a Sinatra caricature, but that's Steve McQueen instead!

Anyway, I thought for sure you had modeled this face in Zbrush before painting it. You did an excellent job rendering it. And also it's scary as hell.

May 1, 2010 at 9:40 AM  
Blogger pxmolina said...

Awesome job Chris, interesting how the face changes with the minor retouches an the final steps.

May 1, 2010 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger alexis said...

Great post! fully enjoyed this. I love when I can read the steps/trials other artist's go through.

May 1, 2010 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger paintedpreppy said...

Wow, amazing work!

May 1, 2010 at 1:16 PM  
Blogger Chris Wahl said...

Thanks everyone!

Sagan- I thought it was Mcqueen, but when I researched the internet for the painting the first one I came across incorrectly titled it as Sinatra. I always thought the likeness was a bit off. Anyway, I'll change the text in the tutorial. Thanks!

May 1, 2010 at 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anton Emdin said...

Nice work, Chris. I'm sure it woulda still looked awesome with the girls, too. Maybe another project?

May 1, 2010 at 10:22 PM  
Blogger gaurishankar said...

great work.....thanks for sharing.

May 2, 2010 at 1:22 AM  
Blogger Jörn said...

Great picture. And interesting to see your workflow

May 2, 2010 at 2:19 AM  
Blogger Pat Bollin said...

Thanks for keeping this kind of stuff coming, Chris. I know how time consuming it is to make a tut like this. It is appreciated.

May 3, 2010 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger SEILER said...

SO AWESOME!!!!!!!!

May 3, 2010 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger jeffrey white said...

wow!thanks for sharing this with us bro!

i think i actually learned something!!!

May 3, 2010 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger 【#pan】 said...

This is awesome! Great work!

May 4, 2010 at 7:23 AM  
Blogger Mark Heng said...

Killer! And I always love seeing your tutorials.

May 4, 2010 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Nat Karmichael said...

Words cannot express the wonderful work you have done here...

May 6, 2010 at 11:52 PM  
Blogger Mauricio Espinoza said...

Once again, amazing work

May 12, 2010 at 8:22 AM  
Anonymous Carbon6 said...

Thanks for the intersting insight into getting work published in a magazine. Often the story behind the image is as interesting as the image.

Even though they passed on the women in the image, it still works. You conveyed that sleazyness without over stating it. I had to laugh at his "nose" ;). Bravo

May 12, 2010 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Ryan Byrne Art said...

your amazing! thanks for sharing.

May 18, 2010 at 6:04 AM  
Blogger Gulzar said...

Helllo Chris,
This is awesome! Thanks for sharing with us. :)

May 22, 2010 at 4:35 AM  
Blogger Chris Wahl said...

No prob, guys.

June 11, 2010 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger jit said...

Wah! I especially like and appreciate the incorporation of female figures to the face. Extremely brilliant idea, which I have never think of.

One suggestion - if you can include the blogger follower badge on your blog. Easier for the reader to get the latest updates of tehir favourite blogs on teh dashboard. I don't follow many blogs, and only follow good blogs. Yours is one of it, but I couldn't find the badge to follow. Thus this suggestion.:)

June 21, 2010 at 10:09 PM  
Blogger Chris Wahl said...

Thanks Jit!

Not sure how to add the Blogger follower badge (I use the classic template not the new one) bu I'll look into it.

June 29, 2010 at 5:45 AM  
Blogger BROD WONG said...

I really like how you put so much time and effort into research. That definitely paid off. It looks awesome!

August 3, 2010 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Rock Cowles said...

Awesome stuff, as always my friend. Very inspirational!

October 8, 2010 at 8:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



February 16, 2011 at 10:45 PM  
Blogger James said...

This is great work.. how may I contact you about using one of your images?

March 8, 2011 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger Chris Wahl said...

Hi James

My email address is in my profile/contact link but here it is as well-



March 8, 2011 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger Jeff Stahl said...

This is fantastic, thank you so much for sharing your amazing process Chris !

March 9, 2011 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger quakerninja said...

I use daz3D also. It's a great tool, and I can't believe it's still free after all these years. Highly recommend it as part of anyones workflow when dealing with portraits or figure drawing, but like any other tool it's only as good as the hand that wield it. SO you better keep practicing mmkay. Great tutorial thank you.

March 23, 2011 at 8:14 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hi there Chris. Not only is this illustration insane, but the tutorial is great as well. Great job. How long did this take you to do, from the first pre-sketch?


March 23, 2011 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger JP said...

seriously impressive- having a lot of fun with your brushes too, so- many thanks!

April 6, 2011 at 4:20 AM  
Blogger Isabelle said...

Thanks for sharing your process... wow amazing result!!! :) Very impressive!

April 28, 2011 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Jaime Ramirez said...

Absolutely Amazing Work!!! I Love all your varied styles. Also, thanks for sharing your process with us. It is extremely helpful and invaluable.

October 21, 2011 at 12:47 AM  
Blogger Jak Salad said...

Thanks for being so generous with sharing your process, wonderful stuff!

November 26, 2011 at 3:31 AM  
Blogger Arturo Arriaga Mercado said...

Es maravilloso e inspirador el dominio de las técnicas que maneja y además tiene la amabilidad de explicarnos. Felicidades!

May 30, 2013 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Arturo Arriaga Mercado said...

Es maravilloso e inspirador el dominio de las técnicas que maneja y además tiene la amabilidad de explicarnos. Felicidades!

May 30, 2013 at 9:57 AM  

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All artwork © Chris Wahl 2010 unless otherwise stated. All characters are copyright to their respective owners