Sunday, October 7, 2012

Concept Art Creation & Tips

Development for this year's game has already begun with my group Scorching South Studios. We have already began preliminary game design ideas as well as concept art for the models we're going to create. Each of us had to do concept art for either a character or several props, each of them all needed orthographic views for Front, Side and Top as well as a perspective drawing.

In this post I'll detail my process for creating the various views as well as some tips on how to make life easier in photoshop for making concept art in this style. Here I draw one of the "pirate" characters in our game, Violet Blackwood.

Here is a link to a description of our PIRATE GAME


First we begin with our outline of the shape of the body. Since this is concept art we don't necessarily have to make it like a painting. A good step for beginners and experts a like is to draw a stick figure and figure out where the joints are. This gives a basic idea of our proportions. Make sure to use references if you don't know your anatomy, there are plenty of guides out there so I won't be covering how to do anatomy. Not to mention I still have some ways to go to fully understand anatomy.

Here I am simply drawing only half of the pose since this is a front pose and we can use an easy trick to make things easier and more accurate.

We can select the layer our pose was on and simply make a copy of it and flip it around. Voila the full pose in half the time and matching the other side.

From there it's all up to your design ideas for what you want the character to look like. Look up references for what you might want and look for inspiration. Figure out who your character is, how they might dress, what kind of expression they might have, etc.

Since we already have a base outline of the shape of the body, we can make changes if we aren't satisfied with a certain copy. Here I have redone some features, just using the base outline I made earlier. I even have a copy of the old outline from the image above in case I want to use it or reference it.

Though it's not necessary, it doesn't hurt to have a display of expressions your character might have in game for reference later on. It also gives you a general idea of the demeanor of your character and how they will act.

The same goes for poses too. They help give an idea of how your character might carry themselves. They dont need to be detailed at all and just help on how you'll want to do animations later. Here I use the stick figure idea I detailed at the beginning, using that as a framework to build the body around.


From there we have to color our character. At this point we only really need to get a basic color to represent the color palette our character might use. It helps give us a sense of the colors of the game because the characters colors should fit with the world.

Here is a neat tip I found to coloring. First off make sure to always have your colors on a different layer than the outline. That way you can color over the lines without worry. 

Also Instead of using the paint brush to color, use the magic wand and select the area you want to color. In this case I choose the right arm shirt portion.

 You can simply use the paint bucket tool to fill it in, but before you do that make sure to use the expand option under "Select" which makes sure the edges around your outline will be filled. This doesn't fill in every single crack but gets rid of 95% of them most of the time. From there you can use the paint brush to fill in the cracks.

I then do that for all the areas in my character. You can use the same duplicate method I described in the outline for colors too for a front pose.

One important thing is to try to keep your colors in different layers. For example the shirt, skin, hair and gloves are all different layers on their own. Each layer is it's own solid color. The reason why I do this?

It allows you to easily change the palette of the character on the fly. Using color overlay we can change the color on the fly to any we want. It's also possible to change colors using hue/saturation but it's not as accurate and not as easy to find the exact color you may want.

As you can see the shirt is now green instead of violet so though it might take a bit longer in adding those layers, if you plan to experiment with different palettes this technique makes it so much easier.

Other poses and proportions

 If you plan to model your character and use these images as templates in maya it's important to keep the right proportions relative to your character. A front pose is different than a side pose so make sure to look up those references.

Make sure to keep proportions in line, using guides. They are very useful and can help keep things relative to each other. So I want the shoulders to line up, or eyes? Use guidelines to make sure they line up right to each other from front pose to side pose. (Note: These guidelines are off because I moved them by accident). 

And go from detail to detail, make sure they line up because things will look different from side to front (obviously). Also it's not always necessary to draw the arms on the side view.

Shading & Highlights

 Shading is very important to help convey for the form of a character. This can end up being the hardest part a lot of the time and there are many ways to shade. Some people prefer realistic shading or have the talent to do so but I go with solid colors. You can still convey a lot of form even with solid color.

Here we have a perspective pose I drew, already coloured in (And the gun is shaded too but ignore it). For my kind of shading there are a few methods to choose from. One is using the exact color you want to be the "shaded" version, which is just a darker version of the color you're shading on. I don't use that anymore because its slow even though it's accurate.

What I do is I use only one layer to represent all my shading and use a black paint tool to fill in the areas I want shaded. The layer that is highlighted I am did all that shading on, and it's all solid black. I lower the opacity of the entire layer to a lower number because 100% would = pure black, unless you want that for comic book look.

The problem with this method right now is that the shading looks so dull, the colors look so bland. This is the exact problem with my technique, however I found a way around it.

Here I took the exact same shading layer and instead of using a "normal" layer, I made it an "overlay" layer. As you can see the colors look more vibrant but it's not really shaded still, it looks too light. But vibrant it is, so whats the solution since none of those work alone?

Put them together. I use a combination of both my overlay at a high percent (75%) for this case, and then the normal layer at a low 30% opacity. This makes it so it combines the darkness of using a normal layer being low opacity with the vibrancy of the overlay version. Now my shading looks a lot more vibrant! I can change the percentage I want for each opacity and experiment to the look I want easily!

From there lighting is similar, instead of using black we obviously use white to represent highlights and shimmers. Once I have filled my layer in with the white I need, I duplicate it and use the type of layer I want. In my case I simply used two "overlay" layers, one at 100% and the other at only 43%. Again it's experiementation to find the amount of color/whiteness you want for the highlights.

Putting it all together

Well it's actually already pretty much all put together since all you need to do is enable your colors, enable your shading layer and your lighting layer. Tadah! We have our outlined, colored, shaded and lit character. These were tips for that whole aspect, actually figuring out the anatomy is a different beast entirely, maybe something I will cover in the future if I can get better at it.

That's pretty much the process I went through to create this concept art assignment for the game. Hoped some of these tips might have helped!

Final Concept Art Sheet

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