Step-by-step Photoshop environments - Chapter 1

Take a look inside chapter one of the Step-by-step
Photoshop Environments eBook…

To address a scene containing a lot of detail and information, you need to have an order to work in and above all, patience. For this tutorial I was commissioned to draw a seaport – an original place, with an invented civilization, showing different situations, crane movements, people, vehicles; many elements together interacting with each other. To deal with something of this magnitude, with so many things to draw in the same composition, you have to plan in advance.

This tutorial will explain how to draw a complex scenario step-by-step. I'll talk about how ideas arise, what the sources of inspiration are, how to work with perspective, composition, digital painting techniques, brush management and final details. Although almost all the issues can be found in art books or manual drawing, I'll show different techniques and ways to address a drawing. The goal is that the tutorial should serve primarily as a guide for those artists who are getting started and need some order in which to address their projects with.

In the first part of this tutorial I'll be looking at coming up with the initial idea, developing the scene and adding light and shadows.

Ideas and Sources of Inspiration

First, we need to know what topic we will draw and what concept we want to express. From there we can find ideas and inspiration. Not all artists proceed in the same way when they start an image. I like to find different pictures, which do not necessarily have to do with what I want to draw. Sometimes I only have an idea of what the sky should look like and thus, I look for different skies: sunset, night, cloudy ones, etc (Fig.01).

Fig.01

Fig.01

Other times I'm just interested in color, and look for photos where the colors awaken a feeling or ideal climate for the topic I'm researching for my drawing. Looking for images on the web for this image, I found a very interesting scene: the sight of a battleship parked in a yard. I found the color of the image was great, as well as the composition and the feeling of vastness (Fig.02).

Fig.02

Fig.02

In this picture I found my idea and I realized what I was looking for. The world that revolved in my head, that I could not yet identify, was great, majestic and something that showed power and distance.

Raising the Scene

Based on the picture I found, I decided to have a huge ship as the central focus and thereafter arrange all the other items relative to it. So, I produced a sketch of my initial idea (Fig.03).

Fig.03

Fig.03

As the image would show the greatest amount of detail and elements, I chose an aerial perspective, because in this view I could increase the size of the ship and provide greater detail on the scale of things. Basically, to make an aerial view we should move the horizon up, so we generate the "airplane" effect (Fig.04).

Fig.04

Fig.04

To begin detailing each object with the lines of perspective, I use boxes and buckets for the initial composition, and I break them down into more interesting shapes afterwards, using the lines as a guide to reach the final design (Fig.05).

Fig.05

Fig.05

If we use simple geometric shapes, it will be simpler to detect faults and it will help us to have a better understanding of proportions and distance. I almost never have a clear idea of what I'm going to draw inside a cube. This is a way to explore your designs and ideas throughout the process, which takes patience. For more accurate work it's necessary that you have the shapes and structure of your image correct at the beginning of your drawing.

As we draw things, ideas appear that serve to define other ones. Sometimes, I like a building or design and what I do is repeat it again in another part of the drawing to create uniformity and consistency in style. It doesn't necessarily have to be identical; if we maintain the same or similar parts then we will be respecting the aesthetic of the original design. Furthermore, repeating the same object in a scene helps to accentuate distance. In Fig.06 you can see the complete drawing and the red markings indicate where I have repeated buildings.

Fig.06

Fig.06

Lighting

When we have an image as complex as this one, it is much easier to pass into color if we have previously defined the shadows and volumes in black and white. This is one of the great advantages of digital technology; it accelerates our work and makes use of color easier.

For my picture I chose evening light, because it produces stronger contrasts and lengthened shadows in objects, creating beautiful spaces of light and shadow that help our composition. As always, what I do first is to define the position of the sun in the picture. When we know where the sun is placed, we can cast shadows and mark points of light and volumes in each subject (Fig.07).

Fig.07

Fig.07

Again we can define and sculpt each element in more detail, because light and shadow will act as a guide to help us to achieve this process. Fig.08 shows the before and after of this process, from line to volume, using an element of the drawing.

Fig.08

Fig.08

I generally work with a certain degree of uncertainty, unsure of how my final image will look.

Cast shadows

I have often been asked how I know where shadow should be placed, as well as how I can detect it. To do things well, we must first know where the light source is and also whether it is natural or artificial light, because its intensity and the way its casts shadows varies according to this. Natural light casts shadows in parallel and artificial light projects radial shadows, since the latter is closer to the object (Fig.09).

Fig.09

Fig.09

Considering where the sun is, we can draw lines starting from the direction of the sun to the object. With this technique we can define where the light and shadow of the object itself falls, and what is cast by it (Fig.10).

Fig.10

Fig.10

You can also cheat with the shadow's location; it does not necessarily have to match the light source. We can use this resource to compose images from spaces of light and shadow to make our work more striking. Fig.11 shows the image with harsh shadows.

Fig.11

Fig.11

In the second part of this tutorial we'll move on to looking at adding color, managing brushes and telling a story through your painting.

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To see more by Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, check out Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 4
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Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop
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