Making Of 'Head Hunter'
Hi, I'm Wan Kok and I have been involved in the art industry for almost 12 years now. Throughout my career, I've been exposed to lots of different ways of creating digital artwork for the games industry, post production and publishing companies. These experiences have somehow helped build up my personal way of rendering scenes. In this tutorial, I'm happy to share my techniques with you, and I will walk you through the many steps that I take in the image creation process, from the initial conceptual work through to the final rendering. I'll also include you in some of the artistic decisions that I make along the way!
This tutorial is divided into five main sections: Research and Concept; Preparing your Canvas for Colouring; Colouring; Texturing; Final Touch Ups. These will be summed up in 10 steps. Each step along the way will be accompanied by a screen capture from Photoshop, explaining the tools and methods I used.
As always, it is vital to know what your artistic direction is prior to painting. What kind of style, design element, the canvas size, final output file format, etc. These are essential! If you have not received any brief from your art director, then ask! Alternatively, if this is your personal project then I strongly advise you to plan one out as this will definitely save you time in the end.
Design and Concept Sketches
Design your characters and roughly work out some thumbnails - keep them rough and sketchy. In this stage, let your creative juices flow and sketch as many ideas as you like. If time permits, develop your world! Think of the environment your characters will dwell in and what kind of climate and clothing they might wear. What are their characteristics? Consider these questions and slowly you will start to "feel" your painting. Make it fun! Once you're happy with your design, start planning your layout and try experimenting with various layout designs (Fig.01, Fig.02 and Fig.03).
Prior To Colouring
Once the layout is done, get it scanned. Usually I go with 300dpi, greyscale (some prefer colour scale). I opt for this option because it gives a certain touch to the pencil outline. I usually don't ink my pencil outline. Open the scanned file in Photoshop and make sure the pencil layer is set to "Normal" blending mode.
On top of the pencil layer, open a new layer. Choose the "paint bucket" tool ("G" shortcut key) and fill the whole canvas with a suitable dark colour. Here I go with warm browns for the basic coat. Turn the layer to "Multiply" blending mode so that the underneath layer is still visible. For my own personal liking, I always start colouring the characters first then work on the background later. This way it helps me to judge the colour relations amongst the characters more precisely. At this stage, give your canvas overall flat tones. Do not worry about the detail just yet. I love to work with my brush opacity set to 20-50% and "Flow" set to 68%. It simply builds up the colour nicely this way (Fig.04 and Fig.05).
The Journey Continues
Make full use of the layering function (you can create a new layer by typing Ctrl + Shift + N). This is most advisable as you can always return to that layer and make changes if need be. Bear in mind that the more layers you have, the heavier the file will be, so you will need to balance it out. Merge selected layers by pressing the "Ctrl + E" shortcut keys.
Change the brush sizes by exploring the brush list. Call out your brush (press the "B" shortcut key) and control the diameter using the "]" shortcut key to increase the size, and "[" to decrease. Remember to save your files regularly to back up your work. (Fig.06)
Texture Mapping: Pt1
This is one of the fun parts and the most challenging process. To give the painting a unique, rusted look, I chose a rusted metal texture as my base. Open a new layer, paste the texture in, and set the layer mode to "Multiply". Decide where you want to map the texture. Move and scale the texture to the right size. Make sure the texture size is relative to the painting or else it will look out of place. Delete the areas you do not need (the texture). Once nicely mapped, change the texture's opacity. Adjust the brightness/contrast of the texture and erase the hard edges of the texture using the Eraser tool, or press "E" to call it up. Make sure it looks subtle and merges well with the painting.(Fig.07)
I usually keep on painting one character until it's done. I feel comfortable seeing the characters take shape one by one. This is my preference. As you will notice, I'm moving on to the second character at this stage. As usual, I press Ctrl + Shift + N to create a new layer to paint on. Toggle between "Normal" and "Multiply" for your layer blending mode. For the shadows I go for Multiply; for detail and new colouring work I go for Normal. Try these out and you will get the feel of it! (Fig.08)
Texture Mapping: Pt2
Repeat step five. Important note: subtlety is the keyword here! The texture is here to enhance, not to overpower the whole painting. Do not make it look too strong or introduce too many texture maps as this will make the painting look congested and stifling. Balance is the art here. If you need to, make colour adjustments to the texture map. Various shortcuts can be:
Levels (Ctrl + L)
Curves (Ctrl + M)
Color Balance (Ctrl + B)
Hue/Saturation (Ctrl + U)
Make sure the original textures look "flat" by erasing the lighting and shadows on them before mapping! You can combine the above methods, or choose just one or two. Try them out! (Fig.09)
Decoration and Accessories
A nice painting consists of not only catchy character design work, a focal point and a good layout, but also the introduction of small elements and details. These will definitely spice up your work! Add some supporting characters here and there - make it fun! (Fig.10)
This is where the painting seems to be coming close to an end (but it's actually far from it!). Maintain your patience. I know from experience that when the painting comes close to being finished, it's sometimes tempting to rush it a bit. But do refrain from that! Be patient and stay focused.
It's always good to have a navigator in your scenes. With the navigator, you can view the overall painting in a small individual window without having to constantly zoom in and out. Professional tip: you can turn on the navigator (under Window) to ease your viewing of the overall painting (Fig.11)
Final Touch Ups
Look at your painting from a distance. Close your eyes halfway to view the colour combinations again. Look out for areas where the colour is "popping out". Fix it; add final touch ups and details. Detail is the key here and it can either make or break the painting. Adjust the colours for the last time. Finally, hit "Tab" on your keyboard to close all the windows and leave the file alone. Turn the file into a full screen by pressing the "F" shortcut key. Take a good look at your rendering - look closely this time. When you have a smile on your face then you'll know you have a great piece of artwork that you can be proud of.
As you work towards finishing your painting, it is a good idea to close all windows and have your artwork turned into a full screen from time to time. By having your painting alone on the screen, with no other windows clustering your monitor, any "mistakes", in term of colour combination or choice of colour used in certain areas, will be more obvious. Therefore, if you feel your artwork has some artistic problems, but you cannot seem to put your finger to it, then this is a good option that you can opt for!
Type "F" once = full screen, grey background
Type "F" twice = full screen, black background
Type "F" three times = back to normal window mode (Fig.12)
I hope you have enjoyed going through this tutorial and I thank you for reading it. Happy painting!