How to paint over a 3D base
Following on from last month’s workshop, Scott Zenteno takes the 3D foundation into Photoshop and turns it into a fully rendered illustration
Scott Zenteno takes a 3D sci-fi mech urban scene into Photoshop.
Here, I’ll be revealing how I take a 3D model to a finished painting. In my process for video games and theme parks, once a space is modelled it’s my job to do a PoV (point of view) shot that captures the mood, form language and story moment.
Once those three elements are chosen, it’s all about utilising every artistic decision to emphasise them. First I use value to direct the lighting and set the mood, then drop in colour and refine the look of the architecture, providing a variety of forms so that the space isn’t too repetitive. Finally, I build out the details of the set to tell the story of what’s happening within it.
It’s important to keep in mind that the 3D model is a base and not a restriction. Even though the space is rendered and communicates depth effectively, it doesn’t have a tone or mood to it. I’ll be flattening some of the shapes and reinterpreting the design work to avoid tangents and bring the focus to the valuable areas; in this piece, the mech and the large umbrella-like structures. Detail is one of the strengths of 3D, but for an image like this the atmosphere is more essential. Grouping some of the shapes into silhouettes help to create a more painterly, impressionist look.
1 Initial value considerations
Using just the Lasso tool and a large Soft brush, I’m able to create hard and soft edges efficiently. I chose a lighting scenario that showcases the mech’s dimensionality and highlight some of the more interesting architectural elements in the environment. In addition, I want to contrast the lighter parts of the mech against the dark environment.
2 Basic colour mock-up
I always want to challenge myself to explore new scenarios, so I try to approach colour abstractly. I create palettes that might seem crazy or illogical, and then tame them with atmospheric elements that make colours feel believable. The purple tone adds to the sci-fi feel, because it’s not a colour usually seen in nature.
3 Building noise 3
To mass out non-focal areas, I drop photos in using Multiply, Overlay and Screen layers. It’s important to control the use of photos to prevent them from dominating the way I create the image. All I want from the photos is texture information and colour jitter.
4 Key architecture
This phase is all about rendering. I want to define the repeating objects because they’re the iconic forms in the space. Since there’s already a soft sponge of light implied on the forms, I use a Hard brush to sculpt the light and shadows. Adding bright atmospheric perspective mist helps to make the architecture pop.
5 Hard shapes over soft
I select the Lasso tool again and add billboards of light to justify the use of colour. I also backlight the city to clearly silhouette the architecture against the sky. I decide to change the design of the cylindrical architecture to break up the evenness of the design, and direct the viewer’s focus on to the bottom third of the composition.
The brief was about the last mech standing. To tell that story and break the symmetry of the environment, I include wrecks to add variety to the scene. Since most of the city comprises cylindrical and circular forms, I want to establish that the mech is boxier and is a military model.