Ross Tran shows how to work up a strong fan­tasy im­age ef­fi­ciently and with con­cise tools and meth­ods, while still main­tain­ing your artis­tic voice

ImagineFX - - Front Page - Ross Tran

This cover was a great chal­lenge for me to em­bark on. My task was to take an old-school clas­sic vibe and mod­ernise it for to­day’s au­di­ence with my artis­tic in­ter­pre­ta­tion. One of the main in­spi­ra­tions I leaned to­wards was Frank Frazetta’s art. It was tricky to take his essence, yet still keep my voice.

I’m go­ing to be show­ing you how to cre­ate a great dy­namic pin-up in a smart and editable for­mat, while keep­ing your voice. Many artists and de­sign­ers to­day have a prob­lem where ei­ther they start an im­age and jump into it too quickly with a messy work­flow, or get so tied up by the process an­a­lyt­i­cally that their voice doesn’t show through the piece.

Ver­sa­til­ity and com­mu­ni­ca­tion are some of your best as­sets. Be­ing able to com­mu­ni­cate to the client about what they want, what you want, and how best to rep­re­sent their prod­uct or project, yet still keep the in­tegrity of what you want to say with your cre­ativ­ity are great skills. What I like to do is pro­vide at least three op­tions: two lean­ing more on what the client wants and one that’s more my own. Do­ing this will help com­mu­ni­cate that you’re a team player and that you take di­rec­tion, as well as show­ing you’re not afraid to jump out­side your com­fort zone to ex­press your artis­tic opin­ion.

I hope this process will help guide you through the steps on how to ap­proach things in an or­ganic and struc­tured way, yet still keep­ing the fun and en­ergy. Ul­ti­mately, I’m really happy with the process and out­come of this cover!

1 Graphic shapes

I like to start sim­ple. It’s good to es­tab­lish some­thing clear and im­pact­ful. With a strong foun­da­tion, the rest of the process should be eas­ier. Af­ter a couple of vari­a­tions of the comp, we land on a bar­bar­ian-esque lady and a fe­line. I want the shapes and colours to be really bold and it’s a good gen­eral rule to have things on sep­a­rate lay­ers when work­ing for a client!

2 Shad­ing and light­ing

I want to es­tab­lish my light­ing quickly. I like to make con­cise de­ci­sions early, to serve as a foun­da­tion when I need to find an­swers to prob­lems later. I quickly lay some tonal shad­ows with an air­bush. I put down ba­sic shad­ows of the anatomy and try to es­tab­lish a good value read. With the shape on its own layer, I lock the layer and have more free­dom to ex­per­i­ment.

3 Re­fin­ing and de­sign­ing

I de­cide that black hair is too clas­sic look­ing. I re­mem­ber I want to use my own voice and cre­ate a mod­ern piece. I love hav­ing a sort of white/pur­ple hair. I think hasn’t been done much be­fore and it’s fresh and ex­cit­ing. As I put it down on the can­vas, the re­sults are clear and I’m re­lieved. I com­mit to that de­ci­sion and start to re­fine and de­sign. It’s good to have your own in­spi­ra­tion up next to you. Your ex­pe­ri­ences and things you’re in­spired by trans­lates into the pieces you make, so it’s good have some things to draw from.

4 Back­ground im­ple­men­ta­tion

If I work on the char­ac­ter too much it might not fit its sur­round­ings, so I start on the back­ground. Mint Cyan and Salmon Pink are some of my go-to colours that I find ap­peal­ing. I want to be loose, so I use an air­brush to find a nice, ab­stract com­po­si­tion for the back­ground. I want the most con­trast on the fo­cal point, so I light the bright white light be­hind her head.

5 Back­ground com­mit­ment

It’s great to work loosely, but I need to com­mit or the stage will go on for­ever. I try to de­sign all back­ground shapes think­ing of the over­all im­pact I’m go­ing for. I want an essence of a moon or sun be­hind her, cut­ting through the com­po­si­tion dy­nam­i­cally, fad­ing off into in­ter­est­ing pinks. It’s good to al­ways keep in mind your in­ten­tions. Here, strik­ing is my key word.

6 De­sign­ing and re­fin­ing

Now I have my el­e­ments in or­der – the back­ground, com­po­si­tion, girl and gen­eral shapes – I start to de­sign my char­ac­ters. I pull from what I know – I work the main place­ments like her cos­tume and fea­tures. I want her to be soft and dra­matic, so I give her a heavy cat eye to en­hance her at­ti­tude. I be­gin to com­mit to the white/pur­ple hair.

7 Pol­ish­ing el­e­ments

I start to pol­ish, making things clearer and iden­ti­fi­able. I know it’s a pan­ther so I look up some ref­er­ence and start to pol­ish away. The client wanted a knife of some sort, so I im­ple­ment that. I start to light her a lit­tle bet­ter so it pops off the page. I’m be­gin­ning to see the vi­sion come to life and start to get ex­cited. So I bring in the el­e­ments I love most: tat­toos!

8 Cri­tique and foxes

I send my version to the client and re­ceive feed­back. I switch the side of the paw, be­cause I thought it was the other paw. I think it’s im­por­tant early on to es­tab­lish which way left and right are. Be­cause ‘the left paw’ can mean the pan­ther’s left paw or the paw on the left side. I make the eyes smaller, which gives it more at­ti­tude, and change the knife. I start to im­ple­ment the fixes.

9 Ef­fects and lay­er­ing

Ev­ery­thing’s in or­der now: the pose, the shapes, the sub­ject and the colours. It’s time to add ef­fects and layer some rough­ness to it. I love the rough­ness of can­vas, so I in­tro­duce tex­tured brush strokes through­out. I also add de­bris, dust and break­age, to give that ex­tra layer of im­pact. I start to re­fine and pol­ish things along­side of it. Ev­ery­thing starts to come to­gether.

10 Ap­ply­ing Color Dodge

Once I’ve got the fe­line’s pupils fin­ished, I get to the stage that is the prover­bial cherry on the top for all my im­ages! At the near end of my process, around 80-90 per cent in, I like to Color Dodge my paint­ings. It stim­u­lates a tech­nique close to light. So I brush over my paint­ings with an air­brush on Color Dodge mode and it in­stantly pops my paint­ing. I have to be care­ful not to overdo it. Too much of any­thing is a bad thing. This is an in­stant sat­is­fac­tory step, so please enjoy!

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