Collaborate on a vehicle design
From sketch to finish, see how three artists at Foundation Art Group work together to draw, design and light a Final Fantasy-inspired airship
Three artists draw, design and light an airship.
Join us and dive deep into the mindsets of three artists and designers, as we take you behind the scenes at how we work at the Foundation Art Group ( www.foundationartgroup.com). In this special workshop, we’ll show you how we collaborate to draw, design and paint a Final Fantasy-inspired airship. The most important factor that we want you to keep in mind while reading or watching this workshop is that a strong foundation is key. Although we’re using standard art software here, all our creative decisions reflect our group’s primary focus: education.
Many artists rush to learn the latest software tricks, or try to emulate trending painting techniques, while too few spend their time developing their core design and drawing skills. That’s why we’ve focused this workshop on using basic tools and software: pen and paper, SketchUp and Photoshop. The techniques used when working in the software are also very limited. And our collaborative approach is meant to give you a taster of how artists work in a pipeline, at industry level.
In SketchUp, we’ll be bashing together parts of models found throughout their 3D Warehouse (see step 6). It won’t require a lot of 3D techniques to do so – just a familiarity with the program. Meanwhile, in Photoshop, we’ll utilise basic Adjustment layers, as well as photos for textural detail.
However, the fundamental of this workshop all began with the sketches of the flying ship. We want to show you how some rough marks on paper can result in a strong design that’s ready to be passed up the pipeline. Okay, here we go!
PART 1 John Park: rapid idea development 1 Generate plenty of rough sketches
After gathering reference and doing your research, it’s time to begin sketching out some loose forms and ideas. It’s best to do these in a flat profile view, since we’ll be filling them in with black shortly. Go wild! The more you explore here, the more you’ll have to choose from during subsequent phases.
2 Identifying a strong silhouette
Now comes the fun part! It’s time to get out your brush pen or black markers, and fill in your shapes. Don’t restrict yourself to the lines that you previously laid in – instead, think in terms of both positive and negative shapes. Giving your airship a unique form and visual language will also unify the design and help sell the idea to your art director or prospective client.
3 Lay in your markers
Now I select a few of the silhouettes to explore. With a 30 per cent grey marker, I lay in a three-quarter perspective view version of my ship. This will now help me visualise my forms and loosely sketch on top to reveal the designs that I have in my head. This is a technique that’s used by many professionals, and helps to quickly generate variations and new ideas.
4 Refine your lines
Here we have three sketches all in difference phases. The middle design is in the original markers, while the top one has been loosely sketched on top of, and the bottom is been refined a little more. Consider blowing up the sketch, reducing the opacity and further refining your drawing, because this will help save time later on down the line.
PART 2 Daniel Park: taking the idea into 3D 5 Working in SketchUp
The second part of this workshop will be to take the approved idea and bash together a rough model using Google’s SketchUp ( www.sketchup.com). 3D is a daunting tool for some artists, but SketchUp really helps to bridge the gap for beginners. There is a free version of the program, and learning how to navigate and rough in geometry is a user-friendly experience.
6 Visit the Warehouse!
One of SketchUp’s main advantages is being able to use the Warehouse. This resource is filled with designs that have been uploaded by SketchUp users for sharing with the community. At this stage in the process, it’s a great time to look around, find a couple of rough models to get you started, and begin to break things apart so you can use them for kit-bashing.
7 Kit-bash individual assets
As you can see, utilising the contents of the SketchUp Warehouse can give you a great head start on designing a fantasy vehicle. I’m only using parts and pieces of models here, and I’m still staying true to the original design. Most of the hard work was done earlier when we laid out our sketch – now I’m finding pieces in the Warehouse to bring that idea to life.
8 Finalising the rough 3D model
Here’s an almost complete version of the model. You can tell that I’ve utilised pieces from the Warehouse throughout the model: turbines, boats, drills, and so on. At this phase, I’m also unconcerned by the texture information provided from the pieces because – just as with real-life kit-bashing – we’ll be painting it grey very shortly…
9 Save out multiple passes of the model
Now it’s time to save out the model for further refinement. I save out a line pass, a shadow pass and a general 3D model pass of the ship. These three passes alone will be able to give us a very nice head-start when it comes to finalising the design in Photoshop.
10 Composite everything together
With a white layer on bottom, I take all three passes and align them perfectly in Photoshop. Then I set each layer mode to Multiply to reveal the layer underneath. I would also encourage creating a mask by selecting the area around the outline, inverting the selection, and filling it with black on a new layer.
PART 3 Matthew Zikry: lighting and textures 11 Lay in the shadows
It’s time to refine a shadow pass of the model. Here, I fill in the mask with a 25 per cent grey value. On top of that layer, I create a Levels layer and clip that into my mask layer. I can then drop the white point until we get a dark version of the ship. Now I mask that layer and paint white to reveal the shadows.
12 Overlay a range of textures
With my shadows in place based off my general lighting direction, I find multiple photos of various textures that I’d like to add to my design. I utilise Overlay layers at this point, and crush the black and white points of my textures so that the shadows underneath are left intact.
13 Refine the textures
At this stage I have a good idea of how my textures are beginning to read on the ship. Now I make use of additional photo textures on Normal layers, while adjusting Levels and Curves to match the layers underneath. The benefit of working in greyscale is that it enables me to focus purely on values, and not complicate the process with colour.
14 Putting in the finishing touches
A few final touch-ups and we’re done! I brighten up the top sail, as well as some of the railings on the ship. I also darken some shadow areas on the boat itself, to further reinforce the lighting scheme. With all textures, materials and shadow information in place, the airship is ready to be passed on to the next phase of the production pipeline. Thanks for joining us!