Can you help give my war­rior’s ar­mour a mot­tled shell look? Seb Laughton, Eng­land

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Donglu replies

To em­pha­sise the ar­mour de­sign, I open up Pho­to­shop and start work­ing on a char­ac­ter pose that will sell the de­sign. Usu­ally a three-quar­ter view of the char­ac­ter is best be­cause one side of the shoul­der plates and the chest plate would be clearly vis­i­ble, with plenty of de­tail­ing on show.

I sketch out the fig­ure’s pose and the ar­mour pieces first, mak­ing an ef­fort to in­te­grate some shell shape out­lines to the ba­sic ar­mour de­sign. Then I do a black and white sketch, which is good for de­ter­min­ing the vol­umes of the de­sign. I al­ways start with a mid-tone back­ground, and use dark grey and light grey to bring in the shad­ows and high­lights. This method is sim­i­lar to the tra­di­tional oil-paint­ing process.

Then I start to gather a range of in­ter­est­ing shell ref­er­ences from di­verse sources such as books, mag­a­zines and the in­ter­net. Then I cre­ate the ba­sic colour pal­ette from these im­ages and start the ba­sic colour­ing phase.

Once the pri­mary colours are all down, I care­fully in­te­grate some photo tex­tures on the ar­mour pieces to fur­ther en­hance the mot­tled shell qual­ity, which mostly comes from the sub­tle colour nu­ances and its over­all shini­ness.

And fi­nally, I paint over the photo tex­tures so that they’re bet­ter in­te­grated with the draw­ing base.

Here’s the fi­nal re­sult – no­tice how I’ve en­sured the ar­mour looks like it’s made from the shell ma­te­rial, rather than look­ing like a shell layer has been pasted on it.

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