Cyberpunk Shaman Tutorial – Chapter 4
This step is about bringing all our efforts together into a refined image, so far, we have a foundation to build our character in, but we can still pursue further and make a presentation. I find the better the render is, the more people you can present it to, an art director may be able to do fine with just the sketches and a even less resolution composition than this one, however, for portfolio purposes, and to ensure everyone in the team who you will be presenting your work to, will be able to tell what is what, it’s crucial to go the extra step. Art directors usually have a gift to tell if your design works at a crude sketch phase, but level designers, marketing team and others who are not used to deal with art everyday, may need extra clarification.
In this step, we'll try to get to a result close to the sketch we had but also our reference.
Keyshot render setup
In Keyshot, we just drag and drop materials into our character, we don’t need any advanced materials, the ones in Keyshot do just fine, as we’ll add photo textures and paint over most of it, this is just a base for us to color pick and build upon.
In our base render, it’s important to keep the color composition of the materials we originally want, this will help photobash faster, so you can keep the same color scheme.
Base Photoshop setup
Bringing our render to photoshop, we can start doing basic tweaks, here you’ll see I added a new background with a better scale and even a better framing, the dash of orange I painted with a brush to frame our character better, I also took away saturation just a bit of the overall image, as the more saturated the image is, the less realistic it tends to be.
It’s important to work like this, as you’re not married to the Keyshot render, feel free to experiment. The deeper you go, the more likely you’ll find something valuable.
Face photobashing basics
Naturally, I started the composition from the hardest part to get right and also the most fun for me, the face, I already had a good base texture and material from Keyshot, giving me the base colors for the face, so the trick here was to get a photo reference, place it on top of the 3D one, wraping it around enough to match the 3D bone structure and play with opacity until it felt right. There’s no trick, no formula here, just be fearless. The same process was done for the hair, I brought in basic hair photos but painted over them, as I couldn’t find a perfectly matching reference for the hair I wanted.
You can and should experiment with different faces, gather a lot of them and try them out, it’s like casting an actor for a role on your movie.
Clothes and other elements
Bringing in some more hair reference I started to paint over the purple highlights, then moved on to find reference for the spike bands, some of it was very low resolution so the trick I used was to paint over them and add some wear and tear, hiding the low resolution by bringing some elements of value to the composition, the more analog the image is the more believable as well.
By now you should notice the technique is always the same, you bring in photos, play with the opacity, paint over them where it needs some more attention.
Refining the existing elements
As I told you, don’t be glued to Keyshot base render, in here, you see I just played with level adjustments, color balance and other saturation tweaks to change the base robot arm and bio-tech skin on the neck, mostly the colors, as I thought it’d make the composition better.
By bringing these darker values that weren’t present before, you can strengthen your image’s contrast. Darker tones reinforce the existing tones, while white or light ones soften it.
Refining the existing elements
I wasn’t happy with the ear plug, it wasn’t bad, but the spiral one does a repeating visual element with the hair style, they both swirl in the same fashion and movement, so it was a better binding element to our character. For our hologram, I had a lot of images on google open and check what the holograms were looking like, mostly looked at lamps and studied the color transition, temperature, value and how the light behaved, then tried to replicate that in the robotic arm, it’s important to have these references if you want things to be accurate.
A lot of reference was used for the hologram, don’t think this is cheating, as looking at reference for accuracy in your design is never a bad thing.
Bringing elements together
As we build our way up and around the image, we start to see the elements in the composition are mostly taken care of, detail-wise, we didn’t work the lighting yet as I find it to be too distracting and like to work by stages, so after you got all your photo reference refined, photobashed and painted over, you can start to adjust the lights and effects. I also like to add some grain and colored atmosphere, hence why this image is a bit more blue than before.
Our base keyshot render is useful so we don’t lose track of where the lighting is coming from, you can improve the lighting but always respect the original light direction.
Bringing elements together
Final touches can include depth of field by using basic blurs in Photoshop, you can also add grain, rim lights and even your own graphic design, be careful not to do too much, as graphics can also be distracting in a image that shouldn’t be about graphic design!
You can keep adding photos and experiment more, it’s good to second guess yourself and see if you can be surprised with a different outcome.
Adding extra accents
Don’t forget to add small decals and colorful details, don’t go overboard with it but just enough accents can make the eye bounce around the image and make the viewer explore it more.
Framing our image
Make use of blurs to simulate depth of field, also use colors, graphics and vignettes to frame our subject better and specially the image focal point.