The making of 'Soldado XX'

Freelance illustrator and artist Jose Parodi shows us how he created Soldado XX in Photoshop

I developed this character based on soldiers from the Second World War – I used different concept and elements to make him appear more sci-fi. I will show you my simply step-by-step process from the initial sketch through to adding spot colors and up to apply light and shadow. To follow this making of to make your own image you will need to have a basic understanding of Photoshop and if you have access to one a tablet; I also recommend having some basic knowledge of anatomy.

Structure and pose

Here we start with only a few lines forming a mannequin or base structure to develop the character; at this point we only care about the position and anatomical proportions and we aren't looking for lots of details. You can try putting together a sphere and cylinder structure or use a simple line-skeleton – the most important thing is to have a base that will guide us when adding the details. It is important to get down the pose or dynamic movement of the character as it helps to show the attitude of the personality.

<h5>A simple mannequin or base structure is useful when designing a character</h5>

A simple mannequin or base structure is useful when designing a character

Building up the character

With our rough mannequin figure in place we can start to add definition to the body; adding in the limbs and bulk of the torso. In this step we seek very give the character a general shape without adding to much detail, here we only see a very basic idea of the character and how it will develop. At this point it is good to take a step back and think about what the final look of the image will be. I was going for a Second World War soldier with a hint of sci-fi.

<h5>We are starting to see a general idea of the character</h5>

We are starting to see a general idea of the character


We know that we are going for a Second World War era soldier so it is important to find plenty of reference images, such as stills from old movies, photographs etc. These will help to strengthen the era appropriate feel to the character and give it greater credibility in terms of shape, color, and texture (which we can define after we have clean line drawing or character line art).

<h5>Reference images are vital to getting the correct look</h5>

Reference images are vital to getting the correct look

Line art and blocking

Now we go over the top of the rough lines to make clean solid line-work ready for blocking and coloring. Once we have the clean lines we can fill the form to define a gray area; try to avoid exceeding the edge of our character which can produce a very indistinct outline.

<h5>Clean line art and blocking</h5>

Clean line art and blocking

Spot colors

Fill each element individually with colors based on the references we gathered earlier – in this case grays and greens. Block the layer in Photoshop to avoid exceeding the edge, the selection of colors should be explored seeking the best combination, and the color palette to be used must be previously analyzed. This step is perfect for exploring colors. You can go back and forth with the different colors until you have found the perfect combination for the final image.

<h5>Try to use colors that are relevant to the character</h5>

Try to use colors that are relevant to the character


In this step we must start now to give texture to the surface (leather, cloth, metal, and leather), porosities, cracks and crevices are small details but very subtly enrich the surface of the elements of the character. At this point we detail the small things, the level of detail and polish of the elements depends on what you want to show – this can be from a single spot or even a super-extreme detail, one must know to balance the level of detail (the detail of the elements depends on what we want to focus on).

<h5>Adding details and textures</h5>

Adding details and textures

Lighting and shadows

Lighting and shadows are used to create a sense of volume and depth to the character and his equipment; this ensures that he does not look flat and gives three-dimensional effect. Lighting must be explored and implemented appropriately depending the final scene. Here we have a simple character and he has a few spots of indirect light on his head and back, this helps to enhance the character. We must not forget the character's shadows and projected elements. All this about light and shadow is very important because it helps us to highlight what we want the feel character to be. Try to play with the colors of the character, in this case I chose a blue- violet background textured haze very soft.

<h5>The final image of <em>Soldado XX</em></h5>

The final image of Soldado XX

Related links

To see more of Parodi's awesome work have a look here
Have a look at our artist interviews
Check out this eBook for more tutorials on creating mood in digital paintings

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