First off, I'd like to say that I like the concept very much. There aren't a lot of pieces around with music as the main theme yet it inspires us all in so many ways.
I like the idea of pink smoke coming out of box. However, I see that you have used that same brush twice and flipped it. This makes the smoke not look natural. I'm not sure if you were going for a more fractal smoke but for me, it would have been better if it were some natural smoke brushes instead, not ending so abruptly unnaturally at the top. The background is too pink behind the smoke. If it is emitting light, the glow should be stronger at the source from where it starts at the box and kind of be lighter towards the top. Keeping the background it's original color would have been a better idea. Also, you could paint light pink streaks to add contour and light of the smoke glow to model like there is on the guitar top. That could esp. go on her legs since that is the closest to smoke.
The model is cropped nicely. However, the edges are too sharp for the overall picture. If you see in photographs, no images are too sharp, there is always atleast a tiny bit of softness or blur at the edges in everything. I suggest that while cropping, depending on the size, you apply a feather of 1px on large images and about 0.5 in small images. It will make them blend better. Also, after cropping, look closely to see if there you accidentally got the background too. Then you can use an eraser to erase the mistakes. The shadow of the model could also be better.
The transition to gray scale is a good idea. It would have been executed better if you would have used a brush on mask on low opacity and flow and gradually made the transition from color to grayscale. This goes for all the gradual blending. Be it background or anything else.
In addition to everything, you paint white and black and set it on overlay for overall dramatic light.
I hope this critique helps you. Your work is heading in a good direction and I wish you good luck with it.
Renu - I'm sorry it took me a while to respond. Thanks for taking the time to critique this for me, your comments and tips are very helpful!
The original BG was pink [link] - maybe I should change the color of the smoke? Also, I'm completely clueless about flow and how to use it - any advice?
Since the original background was pink, you can try the smoke in a different color. Maybe white or blue-ish or something?
For the direction, notice how the smoke is coming out of her mouth in this [link] Look through photos of smoke to see how it comes out of something horizontal and rises up vertically to understand the shape and direction. You can use liquify or warp to change the flow accordingly. Try different brushes/stock images for stock and see that the pattern isn't repeating and is very random, or it looks less convincing.
Hope this helps. Please ask if you need any more help.
Thanks! I'll try changing the color and that tip about looking at photos of smoke is great! I can't believe I didn't think of that lol
Umm...I do have a question you might be able to answer. I'm trying to save money to buy a tablet. What do you think is a good (and relatively cheap, $100 or less) tablet for beginners?
I use Wacom bamboo and I believe it's below $100.
That's what I was looking into getting. I'm kind of stuck though - if you don't mind, which of the following do you think would be a better choice? The Capture Pen & Touch or the Create Pen & Touch (double the surface area but also double the cost). I don't know how important surface are is as I've never had a tablet