Thumb­nail Cre­ation

ImagineFX - - Workshops -

1 shape lan­guage

A step that’s of­ten skipped in the de­sign process – as well as in port­fo­lios – is the thumb­nail cre­ation process. Chances are that you won’t land on your best de­sign right out of the gate. This is where thumb­nail ex­plo­ration comes into play with the ad­di­tion of study­ing real-world ref­er­ence. Don’t worry about de­tails at this stage. In­stead, fo­cus on shape lan­guage and just hav­ing fun with the shapes you’re cre­at­ing. By do­ing so, your fi­nal de­sign will be that much more thought out and be­liev­able, and it’ll have your pas­sion for the cre­ation process shin­ing through.

2 keep ex­plor­ing!

You can never do too many thumb­nail sketches. This stage is vi­tal and en­sures that you’re ex­plor­ing as many av­enues as pos­si­ble. A lot of times, we’ll get a spe­cific idea in our head and think that de­sign is the fi­nal. Although this does hap­pen on rare oc­ca­sions, chances are you’re far from land­ing that awe­some fi­nal de­sign. Thumb­nail cre­ation will ease the process and sur­prise you at the same time. That’s why it’s so fun!

3 Look beyond the norm for ideas

The first thumb­nail that in­ter­ests me is num­ber 16 (seen in the im­age from tip one). One of the im­por­tant as­pects about choos­ing thumb­nails is find­ing an in­ter­est­ing sil­hou­ette. In this case, a multi-legged crea­ture with a strange torso ex­cites me and I go with it. I try to find sil­hou­ettes that don’t fol­low stan­dard shapes, which verge on the cliché. For in­stance, it’s com­mon to see crea­tures with hulk­ing shoul­ders with small heads. There’s noth­ing wrong with that; how­ever, I’m aim­ing for a non-tra­di­tional de­sign.

Out­side the Box

Num­ber 21 (also seen in tip one) in­trigues me, specif­i­cally be­cause I never in­tended for my crea­ture to look like fun­gus. The sil­hou­ette is work­ing be­cause we have a fa­mil­iar shape while it still looks un­ex­pected. When­ever I sketch crea­tures, I try to en­sure there’s a unique­ness with a touch of fa­mil­iar­ity. But I’ll go into more de­tail about fa­mil­iar­ity in a later tip. With this thumb­nail, I ex­plore plant shapes and try to imag­ine how this crea­ture will move and eat. Let’s see what the third choice brings!

5 real -world in­sects com­bined

This thumb­nail in­trigues me be­cause it’s a mix of in­sect shapes. In­sects have been a ma­jor in­flu­ence in my crea­ture de­signs. In this par­tic­u­lar case, I use shapes from crick­ets and spi­ders. The rear legs of­fer a unique shape, with them bow­ing out­ward and able to sup­port the crea­ture’s weight as well as aid­ing in jump­ing. I’m also choos­ing this as the third thumb­nail to de­velop be­cause some­thing about it says ‘other worldly’ to me. It’s a shape that’s not com­mon and should of­fer fun pos­si­bil­i­ties. Us­ing un­ex­pected shapes can turn into awe­some de­signs down the road.

I try to find sil­hou­ettes that don’t fol­low stan­dard shapes, which verge on the cliché

6 Take in­spi­ra­tion from na­ture

One of the most en­joy­able stages in the crea­ture de­sign process is head ex­plo­ration. Here, I’m ex­plor­ing the first round of head de­signs. I know that I want some­thing in­sect-like and creepy. So, I be­gin look­ing at ref­er­ences of Earth in­sects and arach­nids. When­ever you’re stuck and don’t know where to go next in the de­sign process, just take a good look at real-world an­i­mals! They of­fer all of the an­swers and give you clar­ity when com­ing up with new de­signs.

7 main­tain­ing the Shape Lan­guage

It’s im­por­tant not to limit your­self when ex­plor­ing with thumb­nails. So I’m do­ing a sec­ond round of head stud­ies just so I have a good num­ber of ideas. It’s easy to get car­ried away with ran­dom shapes and not-so-be­liev­able fea­tures. With th­ese head stud­ies, I make sure that all of the shapes stay within a uni­fied shape lan­guage. For in­stance, num­ber 5 (above left) looks like a com­bi­na­tion of an earth­worm’s head and bark from a tree. I make sure that all of the shapes ta­per like a worm’s head and the ends look like bro­ken bark.

8 Head De­sign Fi­nal­i­sa­tion

Re­fin­ing the head is so much fun. This is where you can re­ally bring the crea­ture’s per­son­al­ity out. Here, you can see that I go into de­tail about the crea­ture’s face, func­tions and over­all aes­thetic. I go into the im­por­tance of call-outs in tip 12, but here you can see they’re use­ful for de­scrib­ing a func­tional fea­ture. And make sure that your crea­ture has per­son­al­ity. This doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean fa­cial ex­pres­sions, but the skull de­sign, eyes, mouth, mus­cles and over­all shape are very im­por­tant.

9 Es­tab­lish­ing Anatomy

Ap­ply th­ese three stages of anatomy de­sign to your de­vel­op­ment process, and see how far you can push the be­liev­abil­ity of your imag­i­nary crea­ture…

A Mus­cles and tis­sue

When think­ing about your crea­ture’s anatomy, con­sider the bone struc­ture first. This stage is of­ten for­got­ten be­cause we want to jump right into the cool skin tex­tures and mus­cles. I sketch the crea­ture’s skele­ton on the left fol­lowed by what the mus­cles will look like at­tached to the bones on the right. Now we have a clear in­di­ca­tion of the mus­cle struc­ture in front view. The skull should be drawn be­fore any other bones be­cause even the skull can show per­son­al­ity, which dic­tates the fa­cial struc­ture later on.

B Put­ting the legs on show

Next, I’m paint­ing a rear view with lots of en­ergy so that I can see this crea­ture in ac­tion and what mus­cles are help­ing it push off the ground, as if it were run­ning or at­tack­ing. Rear three-quar­ter views are just as im­por­tant as front views in sell­ing your de­sign, be­cause we’re not lim­ited to just one an­gle. I’m fad­ing the arms off be­cause they aren’t the fo­cal point here – the legs are. I want to make sure the legs get the at­ten­tion they de­serve.

C Com­bin­ing anatomy el­e­ments

Now, I go into de­tail about the ten­dons and mus­cles of the arms and then jux­ta­pose that on to my orig­i­nal pen­cil sketch. I’m choos­ing the arm for the close-up be­cause it’s a com­plex ar­ray of ten­dons, lig­a­ments and mus­cles. If you have a cer­tain area of your crea­ture that needs clar­i­fi­ca­tion, this be­comes your chance to go into de­tail and ramp up the be­liev­abil­ity to your de­sign. Be­cause I’ve jux­ta­posed the mus­cle ren­der­ing on top of the pen­cil sketch, we can now see un­der­ly­ing anatomy.

Rear three-quar­ter views are just as cru­cial as front views in sell­ing your de­sign…

10 Pro­por­tions

Out of the three sketches I de­vel­oped ear­lier, I’m choos­ing the third ideation be­cause of the unique­ness of the sil­hou­ette. Pro­por­tions are key be­cause it helps so­lid­ify a de­sign. Its arms, legs, torso and head aren’t too long or too short. The shapes are just the right size so we don’t ques­tion some­thing be­ing out of place. This crea­ture has unique pro­por­tions so I must make sure it re­mains be­liev­able us­ing real-world ref­er­ence.

11 Skin Tex­ture

Skin tex­ture is ex­tremely im­por­tant be­cause it adds re­al­ism to your cre­ation. It also gives the viewer a close look at your crea­ture’s en­vi­ron­ment, eat­ing habits and evo­lu­tion. With skin tex­ture, I’m fig­ur­ing out what type of en­vi­ron­ment my crea­ture lives in. And with this in­for­ma­tion, I can be­gin to tell its story.

12 Im­por­tance of Call-outs

Call-outs en­able you to ex­plain a cer­tain fea­ture about your crea­ture. Move­ment, weaponry and feed­ing are just a small num­bers of fea­tures you can have for your crea­ture. The prob­lem I see with a lot of crea­ture de­sign is too many am­bigu­ous sur­faces with no real thought be­hind them. Call­ing out cer­tain ar­eas and ex­plain­ing what they are helps make the crea­ture more be­liev­able. I use call-outs to give my crea­tures a sense of pur­pose.

13 En­ergy

Show­ing en­ergy and move­ment gives a real sense of how your crea­tures moves as if it were stand­ing in front of you. Con­vey­ing that type of re­al­ism will be help­ful when you’re send­ing your sketches off to the art di­rec­tor and mod­el­ling de­part­ment. They need to get a real sense of how your cre­ation will be­have as a liv­ing, breath­ing cre­ation. En­ergy brings your de­sign to life.

14 bring in a de­gree of Fa­mil­iar­ity

Es­tab­lish­ing fa­mil­iar­ity means you’re bring­ing recog­nis­able shapes into your crea­ture de­sign. In­deed, this ap­proach should be ap­plied through­out the de­sign process. Th­ese fan­tasy in­sect sketches are based on mood boards that fea­ture im­ages of dif­fer­ent in­sect species, be­cause my crea­ture is heav­ily in­flu­enced by bugs. The more I paint th­ese fan­tas­ti­cal ex­trap­o­la­tions of re­al­world crea­tures, the more fa­mil­iar I’ll be with what ac­tu­ally ex­ists on Earth. This will help me cre­ate a be­liev­able crea­ture in the end.

15 Anatom­i­cal land­marks

Through­out my years of de­sign­ing crea­tures, one as­pect that I can’t stress enough is de­vel­op­ing good anatomy to sup­port your crea­ture de­sign. With­out ac­cu­rate and be­liev­able anatomy, you might as well stop sketch­ing your crea­ture un­til you learn to study this one cru­cial el­e­ment. Ear­lier in my Es­tab­lish­ing Anatomy tip sec­tion, you can see the depths I go into when de­sign­ing a crea­ture. One thing I tell my stu­dents is by study­ing the skele­tal and mus­cu­lar struc­ture of to­day’s an­i­mals, you can bring a won­der­ful sense of fa­mil­iar­ity and be­liev­abil­ity to your cre­ations all at once.

16 Fi­nal Sketch

I com­bine all of the stages of my de­sign process into a sin­gle sketch. A side view keeps things sim­ple and can show enough of the crea­ture to get a sense of its pro­por­tions, tex­tures, and build. Don’t limit your­self to just do­ing a side view, though. A front three­quar­ter view is also ef­fec­tive and can show anatomy as well. When mak­ing your fi­nal sketch, think about what story you want to tell the au­di­ence. Is your crea­ture be­liev­able? If so, you’ve done your job as a crea­ture con­cept artist.

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