What design elements would boost the realism of my flying fantasy creature? Hilary Jenkins, Scotland
I start by designing the creature in 3D using the digital sculpting tools in ZBrush. This software has the option of working in symmetry, which helps me create a balanced body shape. I want to give my giant flying beast wings that are similar to the shape of large birds, without the typical silhouette that’s created by feathers.
I end up with a wing shape that’s somewhere between an albatross’s soaring and an eagle’s gliding profile. I add the antenna-like elements to give the creature extra balance, but am careful to ensure that they don’t affect the original silhouette too much.
After this sculpting stage I duplicate the creature, place them in a flying formation and do some quick render passes directly from ZBrush. I then import the renders into Photoshop and composite the images together. Now I paint over the creatures to better integrate them into my background. Because I already have the basic lighting information from the 3D renders, I only use quick washes of colours on Overlay, Soft Light and Color layers to add colour and more definition to my creatures. I also decide to change and erase back the silhouette of the wings slightly, to make them look thinner and fragile. This is one step that would have taken a long time using the original 3D model.
After deciding on a base colour I finish the creatures by applying some patterns to the wings and some additional complementary colours to the body and antennas. I bring the image together by adjusting the contrast and brightness, and fixing the hues using the Color Balance tool.
The key to painting giant flying creatures
is ensuring that their proportions feel correct
and look familiar.