Use SketchUp to build a cas­tle

Donglu Yu shares her process for quickly de­vel­op­ing an eye-catch­ing 3D base in SketchUp, be­fore tak­ing the art­work to fin­ish in Pho­to­shop

ImagineFX - - Contents -

Quickly de­velop an orig­i­nal build­ing in SketchUp. Donglu Yu shows you how.

I’ve used a range of tech­niques for my dig­i­tal paint­ings. How­ever, it’s al­ways a chal­lenge to pick the best angle for a com­plex scene by start­ing off with black and white sketches. More­over, I’m not a fast mod­eller, and at­tempt­ing to make a 3D base has al­ways slowed me down.

Two years ago, I started to ex­per­i­ment with SketchUp. I was sur­prised at its sim­plic­ity and how easy it was to learn. In this work­shop, I’ll ex­plain the main func­tions I use in SketchUp to speed up the paint­ing process that later takes place, and how to un­der­stand a com­plex scene from ev­ery pos­si­ble cam­era angle.

An­other great ad­van­tage of the soft­ware is that it’s com­pletely free to use. And you can down­load it eas­ily no mat­ter which stu­dio em­ploys you. If you’re a 3ds Max user and your stu­dio is of­fer­ing Maya to its em­ploy­ees, it would be very hard to con­vince the pro­ducer to buy an­other soft­ware li­cence just for you. With SketchUp, you’re no longer bound with li­cence-pur­chas­ing is­sues.

In the sec­ond part of the work­shop, I’ll take the ba­sic passes I get from SketchUp and bring them into Pho­to­shop to start the paint­ing process. I’ll also ex­plain a few im­por­tant dig­i­tal paint­ing no­tions along the way, such as value struc­ture, ap­ply­ing tex­tured brush­strokes, ad­just­ing colour tem­per­a­ture, paint­ing over photo tex­tures, adding char­ac­ter for scale and so on. So, let’s get started!

Make use of SketchUp’s core tools 1

My goal with this soft­ware isn’t to master it com­pletely, but rather to con­cen­trate my en­ergy on get­ting to grips with the es­sen­tial tools that I need to ac­com­plish the mod­el­ling process quickly and ef­fec­tively. The tools I use the most are the Line, Arcs and Rec­tan­gle tools, the Push/Pull and Off­set tools and also the ma­nip­u­la­tion tools, such as Move, Ro­tate and Scale.

Add recog­nis­able ar­chi­tec­ture 2

To speed up the mod­el­ling process, I use real-world ar­chi­tec­ture ref­er­ences to help me place the win­dows, arches and tow­ers. I crop some pho­tos that I took at Las La­jas Sanc­tu­ary, in the Columbian city of Ipi­ales. To ap­ply the tex­tures, I click the ob­ject faces, then select the small folder icon within the Ma­te­rial panel to browse to the tex­ture I want to use. Plac­ing this rough tex­ture pass on the ba­sic 3D vol­umes helps me de­cide when I’m ready to con­tinue with a more de­tailed mod­el­ling pass.

Mod­el­ling a sim­ple base 3

Here’s the model I’m mak­ing in SketchUp. As you can see, this isn’t a fully com­pletely 3D scene. Some struc­tures are float­ing in the air, and the edges can be worked on a lit­tle bit more. But this is more than what I need as the base of my paint­ing. Don’t fall into the trap of mak­ing ev­ery­thing per­fect in 3D. We’re mak­ing con­cept art here, not a 3D fi­nal prod­uct.

Use SketchUp’s var­i­ous Styles mode 4

Styles dic­tates how your model will be dis­played in SketchUp, a bit like the fil­ter ef­fects on im­ages in Pho­to­shop, if I have to make a com­par­i­son. You can view the model as line art, brush work, sim­ple tex­tures and so on. For my paint­ing base, I need two Styles: line art style and the sim­ple style. I’ll use them as passes to guide my paint­ing process.

En­hanc­ing the shad­ows 5

Shadow is a pow­er­ful tool to create in­ter­est­ing com­po­si­tions. In my pre­vi­ous ap­proach to thumb­nail stud­ies, it was al­ways a chal­lenge to imag­ine the light­ing sce­nar­ios. How­ever, it be­comes sim­ple with the Shadow set­ting in SketchUp, which en­ables you to pick a spe­cific time zone, date and time of the day, to see the ef­fect of the shadow and light on your model.

SketchUp’s Scene Man­age­ment tool 6

This is where I save the dif­fer­ent cam­era an­gles that I’m happy with. Be­ing able to ex­am­ine your scene from 360 de­grees is prob­a­bly one of the big­gest ad­van­tages of hav­ing a 3D base, com­pared to tra­di­tional thumb­nail sketch­ing. Not only you can ro­tate your cam­era freely, you can also eas­ily ad­just the field of view. This makes it pos­si­ble to use a wide lens and tele­scopic lens. In the Scene Man­age­ment win­dow, you can click the dif­fer­ent thumb­nails to switch be­tween the saved cam­era an­gles and to pick the best op­tion for the paint­ing.

Mov­ing into Pho­to­shop 7

Now after all the hard work I’ve done in SketchUp, I’m bring­ing the passes that I need into Pho­to­shop. Just in case there are many passes to be im­ported, you don’t need to open each of them and drag them one by one into the paint­ing win­dow. Pho­to­shop has a great func­tion for this: sim­ply go to File> Script>Load Files into Stack…

Spread­ing colours 8

It’s im­por­tant to let the 3D passes work as a guide for you, with­out al­low­ing them to limit your cre­ation process. I re­duce the sim­ple tex­ture layer’s Opac­ity and create a new layer on top of it. I then use my tex­tured brush to spread colours freely on the can­vas. As you can see, I don’t even let the colours on the ba­sic tex­ture layer dic­tate my pal­ette. I’m us­ing a light pur­ple/blue tone to bring up the colour vi­brancy in the paint­ing.

Over­lay­ing the 3D layer 9

At some point dur­ing this freestyle paint­ing process, I re­alise I need my 3D base back to give me more guide­lines for the ar­chi­tec­tural struc­tures. So I du­pli­cate my sim­ple tex­ture layer and over­lay it on top of my paint­ing. I ad­just the Opac­ity of the layer, to blend it with my im­age.

Value ad­just­ment and adding depth to the scene 10

I take a step back from the paint­ing and an­a­lyse my value struc­ture. I plan to do a back­lit light­ing sce­nario, so I brighten the sky to pop out the cas­tles’ sil­hou­ette. I also ap­ply a fog layer at ground level, which gives the fore­ground more breath­ing space and the im­age greater depth.

Bring­ing in photo tex­tures 11

I ap­ply pho­tos to the top of the paint­ing to add more de­tails to the main cas­tle struc­tures. Here are some cathe­dral pho­tos that I took dur­ing my trip to Mex­ico; the ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails are ideal for the up­per part of the cas­tles. I cut out the parts that I need and use the Trans­form tools to dis­tort the per­spec­tive so they fit nicely with my paint­ing.

Paint­ing over the pho­tos 12

I’m be­ing care­ful with this photo in­te­gra­tion part, be­cause I don’t want it to de­stroy the nice brush feel that I’ve de­vel­oped so far. I use a small tex­tured brush to con­tin­u­ously paint on top of the pho­tos so they can blend bet­ter with the rest of the paint­ing. Dur­ing my ca­reer I’ve de­vel­oped my own process for this stage: photo-bash­ing, paint­ing on top of the pho­tos and eras­ing part of the pho­tos. I re­peat this cy­cle for as long as it’s needed.

De­vel­op­ing edge con­trast 13

I love to keep the brush feel in my paint­ings, but how can I do it with­out the im­pres­sion of los­ing de­tails? The an­swer is edge con­trast. Ev­ery im­por­tant form, ob­ject and char­ac­ter in my art needs a clean sil­hou­ette. The sil­hou­ette can be painted with tex­tured brushes, but its value needs to main­tain cer­tain con­trast lev­els with its sur­round­ing val­ues. This en­sures the viewer can dis­tin­guish the forms with­out be­ing distracted by the brush­strokes.

Adding life and hint­ing at a story 14

We are al­most fin­ished. At this stage, I love to add some char­ac­ters to show the scale of the scene and hint some vague sto­ry­line at the same time. I add a dragon to fur­ther en­hance the fan­tasy theme of the paint­ing. I also add some birds in the sky – an old but ef­fec­tive trick to bring in some life in large-scale com­po­si­tions.

Fi­nal ad­just­ments 15

I al­ways fin­ish my paint­ing with a few ad­just­ment lay­ers, to tweak the con­trast, colour tem­per­a­ture and bright­ness of the scene. I also like to ap­ply a sub­tle chro­matic aber­ra­tion in the im­age (sim­ply to go Fil­ter> Lens Cor­rec­tion…> Cus­tom, and play with the Chro­matic Aber­ra­tion slid­ers). I click OK once I’m happy with the re­sult. I hope you have en­joyed this ar­ti­cle and have learnt a few tricks to speed up your work­flow!

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