Fantasy tropes with a twist, garish colours, futuristic cities, mixed emotions and more.
I want to go against fantasy archetypes. What approach would you recommend?
Mairead Kersley, Northern Ireland
Subverting tropes and expectations for a fantasy creature or character is a great way to create an interesting depiction of your subject. While there’s something reassuring and familiar about tropes in any context, it’s somewhat more difficult to design a subject in a creative way, when that subject has been designed a million times before.
Fantasy as a genre has an extensive list of tropes! All you have to do to subvert them is sit down and think about opposites. For this article, my approach is to write out a fantasy bestiary, and categorise them into good, evil and neutral. After that it becomes pretty easy to choose which subject you want to depict against type.
Colour and lighting can strongly support your narrative as well as the tone of your piece. Want to paint a typically evil creature as friendly or cute? Use bright, saturated colours. Warm lighting and cool shadows works well for this. Looking for ways to make a good character look evil or foreboding? Try featuring some desaturated colours and gritty textures.
There are many ways to get creative with your subversions. I avoid the predictable evil ‘black’ unicorn and instead choose a muted, rusty colour scheme for my beast.
Use a Color Dodge layer to paint highlights with a gritty, textured brush. Be sure to first double-click the layer and then deselect Transparency Shapes Layer. Can you see the difference?