Making of 'Speed Runners'
The concept illustration 'Speed Runners' was a personal project, mainly geared towards helping me get quicker results with my concept work. At the time, I was involved in creating a series of illustrations based on science-fiction themes using a ZBrush to Photoshop pipeline. 'Speed Runners' was a direct result of that multi-platform experiment.
A little over a year ago I had the opportunity to attend the Gnomon Workshop, where artists Barontieri and David Levy had shown the process for creating their incredibly dynamic concept art. Part of that process involved the use of 3D software to model abstract shapes which could be rendered and later composited in Photoshop. Although I had already dabbled with a little 3D illustration, I remember being very intrigued by the use of 3D as reference for creating concept illustrations. Having the chance to see these professionals at work really created the initial spark I needed to test the waters on my own. At that time I was not nearly as flexible with the use of 3D applications as I would have liked, so I set out to learn what I could and settled on ZBrush as my 3D application of choice, based solely on its small learning curve and flexibility.
When I initially began the illustration, I had been experimenting with different ways to design generic ship models in ZBrush using a technique created by a user named "SaltaPiedras", of the ZBrush Central forums. This technique involved the use of texture masks which could be used to create deformations based on hue (Fig.01 - 04).
Essentially, I would begin by creating a rough model using ZSpheres, and increase the geometry to very high levels. A generic texture mask would be applied to the model and deformations could then be created using the deformations properties panel in ZBrush. I took this process one step further by exporting a high resolution render of my results and then importing it into Photoshop where the illustration process would take place (Fig.05).
I began playing with ideas for the layout and decided to have the ships hovering over a desert-like environment with a backdrop of a decayed city skyline. Additionally, I wanted to portray an evening sky which would allow me to play with some interesting colour variations. Living in Colorado there has never been a shortage of breathtaking sunsets that contain an incredible array of colours, so I decided to take a note from nature and incorporate colours that would be found in a typical Colorado sunset (Fig.06 & Fig.07).
With my layout and colour palette in place, I began working on the decayed city. Because I wanted to concentrate focus on the ships, I created the city using simple brush strokes and kept details down to a minimum (Fig.08).
Painting the ships was a bit of trial and error. After cutting out the ships and placing them in the scene, I wasn't completely satisfied with how they sat in the composition (Fig.09).
Using the Free Transform tool, I adjusted the size of the ships until I was happy with how they flowed inside the space. I then accommodated the angle of the ships further by using the perspective lines as a guide. With the perspective in place, I duplicated the ship layer multiple times and began playing with the layer properties. I used several layers in Multiply mode to adjust the contrast of the ships and began to establish light and shadow areas before flattening the ship layers to one single layer. Colours were painted in several stages using Multiply mode on separate layers, and painting opaquely directly on the ship layer (Fig.10). White thrust and smoke were added to the rear of the ships, as well as action lines on the floor to illustrate the sense of rapid movement. Final details were incorporated with the creation of swirling cloud formations and lighting effects.
Altogether this concept illustration took less than two hours to make; however, there are a handful of issues with the image, including problems with perspective, multiple light sources and lack of overall cohesiveness. Whilst the idea behind this type of illustration was to design and execute a concept quickly, I always make a habit of creating mental notes regarding these type of mistakes so they can be avoided when the time comes to take concept art into a fully developed illustration.