Making Of 'Hansel & Gretel'
This is my great pleasure to discuss about the creation process for my latest work "Hansel and Gretel". This image is originally created for the Steampunk Challenge hosted by CG Society. Right from the beginning, I had the intention of making a whimsical image which can remind us certain magic moments that the old folklores and fairy tales have brought us during our childhood. Hansel and Gretel has been one of my favorite bedtime stories: I can still remember how I was imagining those two little kids walking through the forest to arrive at the witch's house which is deliciously decorated with all kind of confections. I want to recreate that feel of wonder that I have experienced longtime ago with the proper visual language.
Stage of conceptualization
I have to admit that I take pleasure in the stage of conceptualization the most during the creation process. That is where all the fun ideas come into my mind and I take the time to explore the potential of each of them. I had the clear direction of doing some stylized complex structures right from the start. Therefore I started to study different silhouettes of the dwellings while trying out how to integrate pipes, screws and other mechanics details into the structures. (Fig01- 04)
In addition, it was the opportunity to explore different stylized characters since I want the witch's village to be populated with various workers, guards and habitants. I didn't only make quick pencil gesture drawings to explore diverse attitudes and body proportions, but I also took this occasion to incorporate Alchemy to my work pipeline. I first heard of Alchemy during Andrew Jones's presentation at Adapt 2008. It is a compact and handy software with which you can generate random and interesting shapes to start a design. It enhances greatly the brainstorming process as it allows "happy accidents" to happen freely on the blank canvas. (Fig05)
After the warm-up with Alchemy, I continued with a set of more elaborated colors sketches for the characters. (Fig06)
Despite the factor that digital tools can speed up the creation of an artwork, I still enjoy using some traditional media such as pencil, pen and sketchbook paper. I could very well build the basic blocking of the village in a 3D software package, but I decided to use a simple pen for the line drawings. First, I established a very light perspective grid for my elements to follow. Then I separated the buildings into three different layers in order to design them accurately. When I was inking my pencil lines and enjoying the little noise that the pen tip is making against the paper, I felt almost I am doing a visual meditation savoring the intimate relationship that I share with these drawing tools.
(Fig07 - 09)
Color testing, mood researching
There is a tight correlation between the color palette, light and mood that an artwork is trying to convey. I decided to give the impression that the village is lost in deep forest, surrounded by damp air; few sunrays were penetrating through the foliage, however lost its strength because of the fog. Bearing those thoughts in mind, I began to apply large area of colors using a basic round brush in Photoshop with the sole goal of establishing the general color palette to define the mood of the piece. During this creation process, I always try to keep the dimensions of the canvas and the number of layers to the reasonable minimum so the computer could keep up its performance.
(Fig10 - 11)
When I had the big color palette settled, I enlarged my canvas to the final size of the illustration and put together all the layers of line drawings that I created earlier for the dwellings. (Fig12)
Furthermore, I added more colors variations to the roofs tops, however I pay attention to keep them very desaturated so those colors tones can be blended easily into the rest of the illustration. (Fig13)
More the image becomes complex, more it is important to keep a methodic thinking pattern to approach the colors. That is why I keep the diffuse color information in one folder called "color" and the lighting information in another separate folder called "lighting". This way, it becomes much simpler to consider which surfaces are directly hit by the light. Moreover, because of an organized approach, any needed modifications can be more efficiently achieved. For instance, I would be able to change any diffuse color without affecting the lighting information: it allows keeping the overall image consistent. In Figure 14, we can easily compare the difference between the "lighting" folder turned off and on. (Fig14)
In order to populate the village, I have put the characters that I have sketched earlier into the image. I really appreciated my colleague Joel Viegas's inputs on the characters' poses. The different creatures really made the village coming alive. (Fig15 - 16)Â
Finally, there were long hours of detailing all the elements within the painting, such as tightening the colors, rendering the proper materials, finding the right textures, etc. I also did lot of zooming in and out during this stage with the intention of keeping the overall balance of the painting in terms of color, level, and contrast. At this point, I had lot of layers accumulated during the process and it might well slow down the computer's performance. I usually duplicate the file and flatten the layers that I was satisfied with. If in any case, I would need the original separated layers, I always have the previous version safely saved in the project folder. (Fig 17-19)
Fig. 19 - click image to enlarge
I really enjoyed creating those complex and maze-looking structures; this is a design aspect that I am looking forward to explore in my future works. I hope this piece can create a sense of wonder for the viewers and bring back some enchanting moments that we had all experienced during our childhood.
To see more by Donglu Yu, check out Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 5
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 6
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 7
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 8
and Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection