Creating the Celeritas - Chapter 1
This article is designed to show the general workflow for developing ideas and designs for a spaceship. In a normal commercial project the contextual requirements would be the starting points for the design. In this case I was given completely free reign, with no requirements other than make a "cool" space ship.
With this in mind, I tried to just explore lots of different shapes and design options.
I started by first going completely crazy with thumbnail sketches (Fig.01). This stage can happen in a sketchbook or directly into Photoshop, but in the end it always goes into Photoshop, meaning that if you have sketched it on paper it should be scanned in.
In these early stages there are a few techniques that can be very useful in Photoshop to help you to create interesting concepts that you may not have thought of. For example taking elements from photos, and then cropping and reshaping them, is a great way to obtain original and interesting features.
Another great way of exploring your concepts in Photoshop is by flipping the contents of the layers on their horizontal and vertical orientations. Again this can sometimes open up a fresh idea that you may not have intended. The Flip tool is one that is used regularly to generate new and original concepts, but this can also be used together with our cropped and adjusted designs. You can see all of these techniques and how the can be used to create a previously color of concept in Fig.02.
This is perhaps something that 3D artists may be familiar with, as the same principle applies to 3D techniques. Many of you will take some basic geometry and play with modifiers such as Stretch, Taper, Bend, Twist and Spherize to generate something original (Fig.03). It is the same principle in Photoshop.
Again you can do the same in 3D as you would in Photoshop. You can put some of the geometry together into certain configurations, and you will find that all sorts of ideas can take shape very quickly!
In Fig.03 you will see that by only using cylinders and spheres you can generate ideas such as these in a matter of minutes. With time and experimentations, interesting shapes can come about really quickly!
If you go back now to the thumbnails that I've been playing with in Photoshop we can look at the designs and check to see if they fulfil basic design requirements. Firstly, does the design stand out as recognisable on the very first viewing? This should be clear even on the thumbnail. Is the design clear and understandable, even from a distance? Consistent forms: does the design have a consistency in the language of the shapes... or if it doesn't have consistency, does the contrast of different shape language contribute to the design, or make it look silly?
With these specifications in mind I found designs 20, 25 and 27 the most interesting visually! This is a very quick and easy process that can be done in Photoshop without even touching any 3D programs.
We use several ways of approaching the next stages at the concept design studio I work for, Karakter. In this instance I have utilized 3D. This is in order to show that it is not just 2D artists who can be involved with the design process.
The thumbnail stage shows important design elements and is a great way to create concepts quickly and is all in all a great starting point. However it does have a downfall; it cannot show depth or volume! A few very rough 3D blockouts of my favourite designs allowed me to see the potential of the 2D designs in 3D space (Fig.04). There are several reasons why this is a really beneficial method of working.
Firstly, the designer gets the opportunity to understand the proportions from all angles. Sometimes a profile view can look great in 2D, but won't make sense when viewed from a variety of angles. By doing a 3D mock up version, it allows the designer to connect all the elements of the concept together into a cohesive design.
From the blockouts I felt that design 27 was the most interesting visually. I took the basic Ambient Occlusion render and then focused on getting together a selection of reference. Collecting references is very important when getting a feel for the aesthetic of the design, and providing a direction for development. 3DTotal have great texture and reference library which can be found at: http://freetextures.3dtotal.com.
The references are there to give ideas for materials, construction methods, technology, colors! All the little bits and pieces that will make a design come together. These references can be used in Photoshop at the concept stage, as they can be cropped, warped and adjusted to help develop ideas.
Orthographic projections can then be taken of the design to give the modeler a rough but accurate base for a model (Fig.05)! This step allows the concept artist to guarantee that the modeling stage will have solid foundations, which is very important as every concept artist wants to see his concept developed to its full potential.
Then using a mixture of hand painting and photo overlays I attempted to breathe a little life into the design (Fig.06)! The concept is generally kept rough as good modelers can often bring their own interpretations to a design, which are more informed when working with a developed model. At the end of this process you will have a great base to work from (Fig.07)!
To see more by Mike Hill, check out Photoshop for 3D Artists