Im­prove your con­cept skills

Dis­cover how fun-lov­ing Richard An­der­son sketches a char­ac­ter con­cept us­ing stylised brushes and an easy-to-grasp work­flow

ImagineFX - - Issue 152 October 2017 -

Richard An­der­son sketches a strik­ing char­ac­ter con­cept us­ing stylised brushes and an easy-to-grasp work­flow.

For this work­shop I’d like to show you a re­ally fun way to sketch char­ac­ters from just your imag­i­na­tion. I’ll be show­ing you how to cre­ate Pho­to­shop brushes to mimic the tra­di­tional brush pen and marker tech­niques used by pro­fes­sion­als.

I’ll start with a tex­ture brush to sketch in the light­est val­ues, build­ing the ges­tures and form of the char­ac­ter. Dur­ing this early stage I’ll also go over some tech­niques to fol­low when pro­duc­ing cover art work and lay­outs. I’ll then move on to the darker val­ues, bring­ing in de­tails from the lighter sketch form.

Once the de­tails are in place I’ll show how to use eco­nom­i­cal brush strokes to de­scribe a lot of vis­ual in­for­ma­tion in a short amount of time. And then, once we have the most in­for­ma­tion about the char­ac­ter down on the can­vas, I’ll go over quick ways to ad­just colour and cool de­tails within min­utes. This is when I’ll ex­per­i­ment with shapes within the form and sil­hou­ette. Pay­ing at­ten­tion to the over­all de­sign will make ev­ery­thing look uni­fied and, quite frankly, cool!

Fi­nally, I’ll ap­ply the fi­nal touches of quick over­lay sketch­ing to give the sketch a wa­ter­colour feel, which will in­tro­duce va­ri­ety and depth to the char­ac­ter. Hope­fully, by the end of the work­shop you’ll be in­spired to cre­ate your own fun char­ac­ters!

Bash out some 1 thumb­nails!

I like to start an il­lus­tra­tion or char­ac­ter con­cept by do­ing small, quick thumb­nails to ex­tract ideas out of my head. That means good and bad ideas. It’s nor­mal to have old im­ages float­ing around in your head from some­thing you once saw or in­spired you. My method of leav­ing those mun­dane im­ages or ideas be­hind is to bust out a bunch of lit­tle sketches, to get the best ideas pos­si­ble on the can­vas.

2 Nar­row­ing down the choices

For this work­shop I pro­duce just a few thumb­nails be­cause the idea is rel­a­tively sim­ple: a woman and her dog. But if you’re just start­ing out, I’d rec­om­mend do­ing a pile of thumb­nails – say, 50. It may seem like a lot, but you’ll be glad you did and you’ll be­come a bet­ter artist for it. Th­ese two thumbs have some­thing that we’re look­ing for so, I take pieces from both and mix them up.

3 Fi­nalise the sketch

By tak­ing el­e­ments that will work for the cover and com­bin­ing them, I can demon­strate the gen­eral lay­out and idea that I’m go­ing for. This helps to con­vey the at­ti­tude and over­all ges­ture for the woman with the dogs. Now I’m ready to move on to the fi­nal il­lus­tra­tion.

4 Start­ing the paint­ing stage

I start my fi­nal il­lus­tra­tion by lay­ing down a neu­tral skin tone. You can see on the left of my im­age that I have a ba­sic value colour pal­ette laid out within easy reach, from which I’ll use the Eye­drop­per tool to pick from. I use one of my cus­tom brushes at this stage – it’s an an­gle brush that works like a real marker pen, and helps me achieve in­ter­est­ing-look­ing and dy­namic an­gles.

5 Sketch­ing in fa­cial de­tails

Work­ing from light to dark is a good – and tra­di­tional – way of work­ing. Us­ing the pre­vi­ous value and shape block-in, I cre­ate a new layer above and start sketch­ing in with a burnt si­enna colour (a nice, neu­tral choice). This brings out the de­tails of her eyes and smile. I re­strict my­self to just draw­ing in the smaller de­tails for now.

Block in larger el­e­ments

On a new layer above the rest, I Ctrl+click the lay­ers be­low to make a se­lec­tion. Press­ing Ctrl+H hides the se­lec­tion out­line. Then I in­crease the brush size and block in larger de­tails such as her dress and boots. The Imag­ineFX team ask me to give the dogs a me­chan­i­cal ap­pear­ance, so I ap­ply a grey tone to them.

7 Darker tones for form

Just like be­fore, I start a layer above the rest, load the se­lec­tion, hide the se­lec­tion and now I have a pal­ette to erase and paint on. I’m start­ing to bring in the idea of the char­ac­ter de­sign now. I toy with a punk rocker look, but no­tice that it’s bring­ing out more of the form as well. By us­ing the pal­ette brush with broad strokes I’m also able to in­tro­duce more de­tails to the ro­bot dogs.

8 Mak­ing the char­ac­ter pop!

I feel that the black dress makes my char­ac­ter look a lit­tle dark, so us­ing the steps be­fore I cre­ate a new se­lec­tion. With that se­lec­tion I cre­ate a new layer and change the mode to Color Dodge. Us­ing the same brush as be­fore I put down large strokes with yel­low to make her pop a bit. This tech­nique en­ables me to con­trol the amount of sat­u­ra­tion and opac­ity in the piece.

9 Bring­ing in sharp edges

Now that I’m close to fin­ish­ing off this con­cept piece , I com­press all vis­i­ble lay­ers be­low and press Ctrl+Alt+E to merge the vis­i­ble lay­ers into a new layer at the top. I turn off all lower lay­ers, take a Round opaque brush and start clean­ing up the edges, to bring in nice, sharp edges.

Now I know I have my fi­nal form and I think ev­ery­thing is just about done, I like to walk away for a lit­tle bit, maybe 30 min­utes or so, and then come back with some fresh eyes. This helps me to look at ob­jects anew and per­haps no­tice some­thing ‘off’ that I didn’t see pre­vi­ously. In this case I feel that there’s too much con­trast in the char­ac­ter, so I ap­ply a lit­tle lighter grey value on a new layer that’s set on Lighten mode.

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