The making of ‘NortWinder’

Massimo Porcella reveals the process behind his image NortWinder, sharing top tips for using SketchUp for concepting.

In this tutorial I'm going to show you how to create a quick fantasy mood concept, starting from the initial concept sketch using SketchUp and explaining the use of colors and textures steps-by-step.

Step 1: SketchUp (blocking composition) and base colors

The very first step for this concept is to use the 3D program SketchUp to obtain some shapes and blocks as a base for the composition. To draw a simple rectangle shape in SketchUp simply click on the dropdown box on the circle icon on the toolbar and select Rectangle. You can then create the rectangle by clicking onto the canvas to anchor the first corner then you can set your second corner to create the rectangle. You can then use the Push/Pull Tool to pull the rectangle up into a 3D shape. The Line tool allows you to draw other shapes in the same way.

Then, I use a render to set some mood, playing around with lights and shadows. You can do this in SketchUp using the Shadows Toolbar (View > Shadows).

Once I am satisfied with my composition, I export the file into Photoshop, go to File > Export > 2D Graphic which will bring up a dialogue box of options and save as a JPEG. In Photoshop I start to put down some base colors with the Gradient tool in color and Soft Light ? these subtle tones will be the main color palette for the mood.

Step 2: Texturing base

Once the base colors are set I start to add textures to the entire scene. I add in theses textures in Soft Light and Normal mode, using the Eraser tool and a soft brush set to the Transfer option (creates a fade on both ends of your brush stroke) and erase some parts of the textures where necessary. Then taking a texture brush, I mix the two techniques together. Finally, I trace a line of clouds and roughly sketch out the sky.

Step 3: Background, sky mood and details

I now begin to work very intensively on the background, adding little details to the mountains and sky, strengthening the light by adding shades in Soft Light mode and increasing (painting over) the texture on a Normal mode.

I also add the atmospheric mood of the sky (painting in normal mode with active transfer option) to give more depth and movement to the scene.

Step 4: Details and contrasts

I accentuate the light and contrast further with a Curves mask to increase the mood which characterizes the scene. The next step is to refine the entire environment, so I proceed using a brush in Normal mode, painting all the details in the foreground.

Step 5: Character

I move onto the character sketch, by tracing out the rough lines first I obtain a defined black shape (like a silhouette). At this point I start to paint the volumes with Normal, Color and Active Transfer to have a better control on the brush.

Then I began blocking in the character with the Lighten layer mode on, I add shade to match the character's color with the environment mood. Finally I add some light spots on the outer parts of the armor to give more contrast to the character.

Step 6: Details and finishing touch

At this point I add some details to the scene to give dynamism. I paint the lights and rays that come out of the pillars to highlight the focal point of the scene and I paint some stones here and there (blurring them with filters) to add some movement.

The final step is to add contrast the focal points of the environment by using the Sharpen filter (Smart Sharpen), increasing a lot the details of the cracks on the pillars, and adding further contrast to everything with a Curves level.

Related links

Check out Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop Elements in our shop
For more from Massimo, check out their website

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