Designing a cyberpunk shaman: research
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!