First time posting here, alarmingly nervous.
Long story short, I have been teaching myself to digitally paint for a couple of years. I started with the 1-layer approach, painting everything clumsily as if the image was a canvas, like how I oil paint. I moved on to the one million layer technique and found it frustrating.
Now, I sit on this technique: Sketch, make a half decent lineart, underpaint in greyscale, then use a multiply layer for color, and an opaque layer for highlights. Background gets its own layer or two as needed.... Problem is, the figure always looks like its disconnected from the image. Is this just a side effect of the selection border I use? It seems like a mask would have the same problem. How would I go about softening the edges? Should I just abandon the idea of using separate layers for figure and background, and render them simultaneously? That would be a little more headachy, but would do better results I imagine...
Work on your shading/coloring in order to blend him in. Look at the leg and tail of the dragon in this example and compare it to yours.
Yeah, I see it. The crisp edged highlights from the light bouncing off the ground around that dragon-chan. AIght,t hat would certainly be a start. I've always found my figures look super hard edged... I think maybe matching the palette a bit more would be wise too, the background of my dragons is kinda mustard-y compared to him.
Yeah I see your problem. The layers you're using to make selections have too hard edges.
In photoshop you can right click a layer and select "Create clipping mask" which will make the layer you're on use the one below it for its alpha.
Notice how my dragon has blurry edges and then when I turn the clipping mask on the purple bits take on the blurryness. You need those soft edges so that your dragon will blend into everything behind it a bit.
Obviously you still also need to study lighting and form so you can paint something really convincing but hopefully this solves your problem.
even just paying more attention to lighting has helped. I've been so used to painting from life that i didn't even consider ambient light, reflections, etc. Plus, I'm not the brightest bulb. That said, with another go, the dragon looks much more at home, seeing as how he;s got some light bouncing on him.
I get masks, but that wouldn't help me with what I'm doing. I should use them more, as that would be the less retarded thing to do, but instead I struggle against my fate. I tend to cut back underpainting with hard erasers. Ill try a softer one to maybe give the edges of the figure/foreground less abrasive qualities.
Thanks for the (fast) advice, gentlemen. I'd buy you beers if you were near me
Don't treat your subject and the background as separate things. Using selections while you're painting something is fine, but everything needs to be integrated properly. I can see bits of green and where your erased the tail over those rocks at the bottom.
Use lighting and a mix of soft and hard edges to separate or integrate your figure into the background as needed. Also be more thoughtful with your colors. All your values look extremely saturated, where as in real life you'd have mostly muted tones. Atm it looks too cartoony.