Designing a cyberpunk shaman: research

Introduction

In this project, we’ll start by breaking it into a few chapters to draw from a rough outline to a finished sculpted character. Drawing and illustrating a character from different levels of detail, we’ll explore a character design from inside out, from what makes it interesting and what breathes character into it (research), and then polish the foundation we have.

The process of research is made up of two parts: image gathering, and text references. While on the PureRef side, we do mood-boarding, we collect a series of images that we will draw inspiration from. Try to only look at real-world images and not concept art, as that's the final product and the bandwidth of the world is larger than your internet browser! Attempt to sort your reference as following: fashion design, silhouettes/body language, icons/motifs, nature and tech.

In mind mapping, we try to divide our subject into branches and explore each of them better. The more you type into each category, the more you'll find out about your character! It's putting the chaos into organization.

mind mapping ideas
Don’t be afraid to collect as many references as possible, the more you like the references you gather, the stronger the “child” you’ll make out of it will be
mood board for design
By dividing the project into these categories, you can focus on each of these at a time, which will enrich your project. The deeper you dig, the more likely you’ll find gold

Figure construction

During this phase, I usually lay out some figures in rough marks, you can use any anatomy book, photo, doesn’t matter. They also don’t need to be super perfect, but it’s a chance to practice your anatomy skills, so do use excuses to study each chance you get, it’ll only empower you in the long run.

figure rough drafts
The use of these figures are just to figure out the clothing and other designs later on, which we’ll overlay next

Rough drawing

The next stage is to get what you have out of your head, your moodboard, and the mind map, into these anatomy figures. By now, if you’ve done a decent amount of research, you should have no shortage of ideas. Don’t be precious at this stage, allow yourself the fun to make mistakes, you can refine these later on, if you happen to like them.

rough drawing and inking
More often than not, I have a preferred design out of the bat, but I do explore others, just in case I happen to like them more

Base detail pass

On this stage, I’m happy with the scribbles I did so I dropped the opacity of the lines down just enough for me to trace them up and thus end up with a refined version. Think of it like tracing a transparent tracing paper with ink.

inking drawing figure design
Tip for tracing a drawing: you can change the colors of the sketch beneath so it becomes easier to tell which one is which. I like to color the lines of the older, unrefined sketch to red, and trace with black ink

Final detail

For presentation, I added another pass of ‘tracing paper’, to get it a bit more refined. You can refine as many times as you want, but I find that if I already have a design explained enough for people to look at and discuss, then it becomes just work for the sake of work.

cyberpunk character design sheet
Using some base values can help silhouette your character from the background!

Bonus mood sketches

This work is a labor of love and since I don’t set myself a time constraint, I like to do a series of mood sketches exploring the character’s personality. I like to think it influences the final result by allowing me to get to know the character better. You don’t need to be dead on accurate with your anatomy, what matters here is the graphic design, the way the lines move, the way they cut into the paper and suggest form, ultimately suggesting character.

moodboard sketches ink weights
Don’t be afraid to try new shapes and lines, this step is about learning to be fearless and precious, avoid using undo feature and also being fearless doing such.

Faster reference gathering

A lot of times you need to work faster in production, so grabbing a few images from your mood board and putting them together to support the one character you choose to bring forward from all the thumbnails, can speed up the process.

moodboarding cyberpunk design
I chose this collection for the thumbnail number two, from here, the detailing and understanding the character will be faster, I know now I want a Wicca to be my cyberpunk mage/shaman class design for a fictional videogame

Anatomy tips

If you’re having trouble getting your anatomy figures right, you can always use the Photoshop rulers to see where the main joints are: elbows, shoulders, pelvis, knee caps, neck, head, soles of the feet. From there it is much easier to fill the blanks after setting these landmarks! You can even link the dots as if it was a stick figure, anyone can draw those!

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