Digital Art Masters Volume 7 preview: 'Spacegirl'
Ever since I was a kid I've always been into science fiction and fantasy. I've drawn for as long as I can remember. I would draw when I was bored and would make up characters or copy pictures I liked.
I thought about many professions while I was growing up and during my teens considered fields from engineering through to construction. Finally when I was around seventeen years old I realized that my personal and professional life were bound to be art related, although I still didn't quite know what direction I would take.
Nowadays I work mainly as an illustrator, 3D modeler, concept artist and character designer for commercials, movies and video games, etc.
I usually draw the first sketch on my computer as it's quicker and allows me to try different ideas more efficiently than it would with traditional methods. This is particularly true now that I use a Wacom Cintiq. I haven't tried the larger version, but the one I have (12 inches) is highly recommendable. However, if I find that I have some free time I enjoy drawing on a real notepad with a real pencil.
I don't tend to follow a specific method when painting, although I will try to talk you through my process. Usually I start out with a (pretty blurry) mental picture of what I want to accomplish. This is why I don't draw many sketches and prefer to correct the initial sketch as I go along.
For this illustration I started drawing the basic idea of a girl in a space suit in Photoshop. I hadn't figured out the colors and background or even if I was going to retain the gun. The anatomy wasn't fully finished either. The only thing that was really defined at this point was the pose. In short, this sketch only depicts the general idea that I had in my head (Fig.01).
Instead of starting with grayscale and applying color afterwards, I mostly work with defined colors. To me it's simpler and I believe that in the end, the color mixes are richer that way (Fig.02).
After this I determine the source of light within the scene and start to add lighting to define the depth. I always try to avoid using white to lighten surfaces or black to darken them. In this case the colors are richer because I used orange and yellow to lighten the red suit. Although this isn't applicable in every case, it does depend on the final result you are going for, the scene lighting and the character you are painting (Fig.03).
I added highlights and contrast in some areas such as the hair. I also added some provisional color to the gun, which would be refined later (Fig.04). In Fig.05 you can see how I added some detail to the gun and a pattern across her suit.
Once the figure is more or less defined I then move onto the background. I usually leave this until last because it's the least interesting part and I really don't enjoy doing it. I work on it slowly, mostly using big color blots to define shapes and lighting in a general way. In Fig.06 you can see that at this stage the background and the figure didn't share the same color palette, but I corrected this later.
"If you don't like something, don't try to justify it. Instead, do it again until you're completely satisfied"
As I move forward with the background I find shapes that I like more than others. For example, in the upper left corner of this image I drastically changed the initial shape. It is very important not to get too attached to anything in your illustration. Also, if you don't like something, don't try to justify it. Instead, do it again until you're completely satisfied (Fig.07).
In Fig.08 you can see that I added some more detail to the background and adjusted the color of both the background and the girl using the Color Balance filter in Photoshop. I also introduced the helmet and corrected the girl's proportions using the Liquify filter as they didn't look altogether accurate. As well as these changes I decided to add a rim light around the girl to separate her from the background (Fig.09).
Finally, I added the 1984 logo, some more detail to the girl's suit and a little color correction. As a final step I added a texture layer in order to give the impression of an old, dirty picture (Fig.10).
Most of the time I try not to have too many layers in an illustration and so I usually collapse them when I am satisfied. It's almost like painting in oils or acrylic in a traditional way. I also try to avoid using many color corrections or effects. I've built a great collection of brushes in Photoshop, although I always end up using the same three or four for everything with the brush opacity and Flow settings always at 100%.