Paint ex­plo­sive en­vi­ron­ments

Pablo Car­pio makes the most of 3D and 2D tools.

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents -

For this work­shop I want to show how to paint a scene in the style of 70s sci-fi artists like John Berkey, Peter El­son and Chris Foss. Back in their time, there weren’t com­put­ers to make the amaz­ing pho­to­re­al­is­tic ren­der­ings that we can achieve to­day. I re­ally miss that painterly style, with the bright and vivid colours they used in their works. That’s why the ImagineFX team and I de­cided to tap into those colours and de­signs, and cre­ate an im­age with the same feel – but us­ing to­day’s dig­i­tal tech­niques. To pro­duce this kind of im­age there are two key things to keep in mind: bold shapes and vi­brant colours. As you’ll see in this tu­to­rial, most of my work­flow for this kind of de­sign is based on ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent shapes and po­si­tions, us­ing ran­dom­ness as a tool to find ideas that I wouldn’t oth­er­wise have achieved in a more log­i­cal way. I hope to share my un­der­stand­ing of how colour can be used as a tool to make a com­po­si­tion work, and how im­por­tant it is to find a bal­ance be­tween big and sim­ple shapes, and de­tailed el­e­ments.

I’ll also in­tro­duce you to ba­sic ZBrush and Cin­ema 4D mod­el­ling and KeyShot ren­der­ing, which can speed up your work­flow and high­light plenty of pos­si­bil­i­ties for your com­po­si­tions.

1 Com­po­si­tion rough sketch

The first thing I do when I start a new piece is to try and fig­ure out what the com­po­si­tion will be, by mak­ing some sketches. Af­ter com­ing up with some ideas, I cast my eye over my ideas and make my favourite one fit ImagineFX’s cover size. In this case, the scene rep­re­sents a big space­ship fly­ing away from a city that has just been dam­aged in a bomb­ing run.

2 Mod­el­ling the space­ship

Next, I jump into ZBrush and start de­sign­ing the space­ship. I take the Sphere 3D tool, make a poly­mesh and start wrap­ping and de­form­ing it us­ing the Move brush. I save the shapes that I like, sep­a­rated in .obj for­mat, which means that I can im­port them later into Cin­ema 4D.

3 Cre­at­ing the space­ship

Once the dif­fer­ent el­e­ments are im­ported into Cin­ema 4D, I start ex­per­i­ment­ing, mix­ing them in ways that will work well for my space­ship de­sign. I’m in­spired by John Berkey’s space­ships, and put to­gether a de­sign with some holes in the front with thin lines be­tween them. To de­pict the city I just use sim­ple cylin­ders and boxes.

4 Com­pos­ing and ren­der­ing

Once the space­ship and city are fin­ished, I use KeyShot to ap­ply colour and light. I want to gen­er­ate an over­sat­u­rated en­vi­ron­ment with a Martian feel­ing, so I change the tone of a nor­mal blue sky to make it yel­low and or­ange. I use a metal­lic blue for the space­ship, and make the red soil re­flect on the ship’s chrome base to pro­duce a vi­brant pur­ple colour.

5 Paint­ing the sky

When I have the ren­der­ing done, it’s time to move fi­nally to Pho­to­shop and start paint­ing. I be­gin by giv­ing some depth to the sky with a colour gra­di­ent be­tween yel­low and or­ange, and then adding clouds, us­ing some pho­tos and chang­ing the colour bal­ance and tone, to make them fit in with the back­ground.

6 Adding colour to the city

To make the city, I start do­ing some pho­to­bash­ing with build­ing ref­er­ence pho­tos. When I have them placed on the can­vas, I start play­ing with the Lay­ers mode and set them to Darken mode, so only the dark­est parts will be seen. Then I con­tinue paint­ing over them un­til I find a level of de­tail that I con­sider works well for the back­ground.

7 En­hanc­ing the Martian sur­face

This step is pretty sim­i­lar to the last one, but it’s im­por­tant to bear in mind that the pho­tographs used must fit the per­spec­tive. To make them work with the depth of the paint­ing, I dis­tort them to make the de­tails look smaller in the dis­tance. I also slightly boost the colour of the ground, by al­ter­ing the Color Bal­ance and the Sat­u­ra­tion.

8 Pho­to­bash­ing the ship

Now I turn my at­ten­tion to the ship. I look for pho­tographs of air­craft de­tails that I can use to add tex­ture to my space­ship. I set them to Darken mode and start play­ing around, find­ing shapes that I find in­ter­est­ing for my de­sign.

9 De­tails on the ship

Af­ter com­plet­ing the pho­to­bash­ing stage, I paint small de­tails on the space­ship, such as the light in­side the mo­tors and the yel­low pat­terns. To make these pat­terns I make a mask and change the tone and colour bal­ance just in that area. When it’s fin­ished, I con­tinue paint­ing over the ship, to try and de­fine the re­flec­tions and lights.

10 In­tro­duc­ing the back­ground space­ships

To add more story to the im­age, I put a cou­ple of small space­ships chas­ing the big one, to sug­gest that they’re de­fend­ing the city. These ones are fully painted, just us­ing a colour as a base and then a mask to cre­ate the light and de­tails over them.

11 Paint­ing the ex­plo­sion

To cre­ate the huge ex­plo­sion in the back­ground I use some pho­tographs of fire and put them on a Screen Mode layer. This will make the lights brighter and the dark tones dis­ap­pear. I also paint in some aerial per­spec­tive to the city and make it fit with the dis­tance and the colour of the sky.

12 Paint­ing trails and smoke

I add de­tails, such as lit­tle clouds, in the fore­ground to blend the space­ship with the colours of the sky. I also paint trails to give more depth to the im­age and fur­ther tie the ships into the scene. When paint­ing smoke, re­mem­ber that it has depth and vol­ume like other ob­jects and ma­te­ri­als: I make a mask over it to cre­ate some shad­ows and lights.

13 Ap­ply­ing fil­ters

I want to give the im­age a strong painterly feel, but no­tice that some of the edges are look­ing too sharp and there are no brush strokes. To achieve this, and to re­duce a bit of de­tail in the pho­to­bashed ar­eas, I use AKVIS to add an oil ef­fect and make some parts of the paint­ing ap­pear loose and messy.

14 Fin­ish­ing the piece

I con­tinue mix­ing the edges to lose some of the de­tail, us­ing the Smudge Tool and a tex­ture brush, which also helps to cre­ate some brush strokes, add mo­tion blur and merge the ship with the back­ground. Fi­nally, ImagineFX ask me to ad­just the ground, the light­ing on the main ship and re­move the smaller ships in the back­ground, to give the cover greater im­pact.

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