Bright lights, big city

See how Aaron Grif­fin stream­lines his work­flow and adds life with cus­tom brushes

ImagineFX - - Editor’s Letter -

I love Aaron Grif­fin’s art, and the way he ex­plains his process in this work­shop is an ab­so­lute treat.

Hey won­der­ful read­ers! In this work­shop I’m go­ing to be talk­ing through my process of cre­at­ing a glow­ing spirit an­i­mal within a night time city scene. I’ll be dis­cussing the foun­da­tions of sketch­ing out a big­ger scene and the key stages that make up cre­at­ing an il­lus­tra­tion of this kind.

There are a va­ri­ety of meth­ods I can choose from when tack­ling the ini­tial sketch phase. In this piece I fo­cus my at­ten­tion on shapes and val­ues, build­ing up a strong black and white com­po­si­tion. I’ll talk about the ef­fi­ciency of work­ing in this method and how it pro­vides a solid base to work from. It can be easy to be­come lost in small de­tails too early or try­ing to work too fast with the aim of just get­ting more work done. Some­times the best thing you can do is work slower, smarter and just sim­plify your process.

I’ll then colourise my sketch us­ing dif­fer­ent blend­ing modes and colour lay­ers. I’ll also be dis­cussing my brush set­tings and their ef­fec­tive­ness to add more va­ri­ety to your work­flow.

Along the way I’ll pro­vide light­ing tips and tricks that can re­ally help your glow­ing el­e­ments ‘pop’ in the scene and pro­vide great fo­cal points in a big­ger com­po­si­tion. So, with­out fur­ther ado let’s get stuck in!

1 Re­search and Ref­er­ences

When I’m given a brief, a loose con­cept usu­ally builds up in my mind. Be­fore I be­gin sketch­ing how­ever, I like to ex­plore my ideas by re­search­ing and col­lect­ing a va­ri­ety of ref­er­ences. I ar­range my ref­er­ences into a mood board (a col­lage if you will) – I find this a great start­ing block to sketch from.

2 Work­ing with shapes and think­ing about val­ues

This will be the quick­est yet most im­por­tant stage to the paint­ing. I sep­a­rate my com­po­si­tion into small, medium and large shapes. In the Buf­falo sketch for ex­am­ple, my largest shapes are the fore­ground build­ings, the medium shapes in­clude the fur­thest sky­line and buf­falo and the small­est shapes will be the neon and win­dow lights.

3 Work­ing from a thumb­nail win­dow

To cre­ate a sec­ond win­dow as a thumb­nail go to Win­dow>Ar­range>New win­dow for… and then shrink the win­dow. It’s eas­ier for the eye to read smaller im­ages and spot mis­takes. I then make sure my val­ues and com­po­si­tion read well at this scale be­fore I move into colour. I try work­ing faster and more ef­fi­ciently by plan­ning my marks care­fully.

4 Colouris­ing your val­ues

I be­gin build­ing the base colour us­ing a gra­di­ent over­lay, choos­ing pur­ple tones for the shad­ows and light blues for the light­est val­ues. Above this base I add Color and Hard Light lay­ers to burst pink hues into the neon and then blue around the buf­falo. A Hard Light layer is ideal for colouris­ing and ad­just­ing val­ues si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

5 Make use of Color dy­nam­ics

You’ll of­ten find that your colours and val­ues look flat or mo­not­o­nous. To help break up these ar­eas I use Color Dy­nam­ics from the Brush set­tings panel. By ad­just­ing the Hue, Sat­u­ra­tion or Bright­ness and tog­gling Ap­ply per tip, you can brush in a va­ri­ety of colour/value shifts. This is great for adding vis­ual in­ter­est.

6 Make use of Dodge/Burn tool

I of­ten hear peo­ple say­ing, “Don’t use the Dodge/ Burn tool” but I love this tool! By se­lect­ing shad­ows, mid­tones or high­lights from the top left panel you can change colour and val­ues si­mul­ta­ne­ously. For ex­am­ple, High­light dodge pushes the high­est val­ues first and boosts sat­u­ra­tion in mid-val­ues; Shadow light­ens the dark­est val­ues first with­out boost­ing sat­u­ra­tion; and Mid­tones works some­where in be­tween.

7 Adding the build­ings

I paint my wall tex­ture us­ing pho­tos for ref­er­ence. I work in black and white so I can over­lay the val­ues onto my colour base. Paint­ing my own tex­ture will also help main­tain a more painterly feel when ap­plied. I then change the layer blend­ing mode to Over­lay and ap­ply the tex­ture (above). This pro­vides a base to then paint over.

9 Adding the re­flec­tions

To en­hance the im­pres­sion that my buf­falo is in­te­grated into the en­vi­ron­ment, I add small de­tails in the fore­ground and streak the light down­wards. Wa­ter re­flec­tions work in the same way as a mir­ror by bounc­ing its du­pli­cate im­age di­rectly op­po­site to the viewer’s eye. Us­ing a soft Round brush I lightly add glow to the floor to push the over­all il­lu­mi­na­tion lev­els.

10 Paint­ing neon signs

I draw my neon us­ing a light de­sat­u­rated line, and add colour around the line us­ing Screen blend­ing mode, so it won’t darken the line when you paint over. I then se­lect the Dodge tool set to High­light, so that when I brush over the neon line it will be­come brighter and burst colour into the mid­tones.

11 Adding some life

In spirit of giv­ing these houses more life, I add small lights and de­tails to give the build­ings more char­ac­ter. I paint elec­tri­cal wires and clothes lines across the al­ley­way to sep­a­rate the build­ing from the back­ground, in­tro­duc­ing more depth. Cross­ing wires over the neon light helps to sep­a­rate the fore­ground and back­ground.

12 Estab­lish­ing your fo­cal point

I soften the neg­a­tive space around the buf­falo to act as a con­trast against its hard edges. This makes the buf­falo a stronger fo­cal point. I also re­move some lines of fairy lights and darken the win­dows to pre­vent draw­ing un­wanted at­ten­tion. I bring in sub­tle di­rec­tional lines through­out the piece to help guide the viewer’s eye back to­wards the buf­falo.

13 Cor­rect­ing your per­spec­tive

After tak­ing a day away from the paint­ing (some­thing I of­ten do, to then see my piece through fresh eyes) I no­tice that de­spite hav­ing a low hori­zon my per­spec­tive is very flat. My so­lu­tion is to cut/paste my buf­falo sep­a­rately and then use the Free Trans­form tool (Ctrl+T or Cmd+T) to skew the en­tire scene out­wards from the bot­tom, cre­at­ing a wider an­gle.

14 Fin­ish­ing touches

This stage is the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to make any fi­nal tweaks such as small de­tails or blend­ing edges. I add a flush of ran­dom colour us­ing my Brush Dy­nam­ics and add bokeh (out of fo­cus lighst par­ti­cles) in front of my light sources.

WITH­OUT DODGE/BURN

WITH DODGE/BURN

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