Cre­ate strong colour con­trast

Fol­low keyframe artist Ri­cardo Guimaraes as he de­vel­ops a sci-fi il­lus­tra­tion that em­ploys con­trasts in colours to boost its vis­ual im­pact

ImagineFX - - Issue 167 December 2018 - Ri­cardo Guimaraes Lo­ca­tion: US Ri­cardo is a keyframe il­lus­tra­tor with over 15 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. He’s also an Aca­demic Spe­cial­ist at Michi­gan State Univer­sity. www.rgillus­tra­tion.com

Ri­cardo Guimaraes as he de­vel­ops a sci-fi im­age that em­ploys con­trasts in colours to boost its de­gree of vis­ual im­pact.

Work­ing with colours is one of the most dif­fi­cult tasks for the dig­i­tal painter nowa­days. Pri­mar­ily be­cause all the colours of the spec­trum are read­ily avail­able in the Color picker, and the temp­ta­tion is usu­ally to go for the brighter ones and use too much colour. Har­mon­is­ing them then be­comes a night­mare and the end re­sult of­ten feels dis­con­nected.

But what if we do want to use bright and con­trast­ing colours? For­tu­nately, there are ways to use these colours to­gether. In this work­shop I’ll demon­strate how to cre­ate an im­age with vivid colours and how to in­te­grate them to cre­ate a strong com­po­si­tion. After cre­at­ing our com­po­si­tional sketch, we’ll es­tab­lish our strong­est colour state­ments in our colour sketch, then ex­pand our colour range in a log­i­cal man­ner and keep our fo­cus at the colour con­trasts and choices. We’ll then cre­ate the ac­tual il­lus­tra­tion us­ing a mix­ture of paint­ing tech­niques and pho­to­bash­ing.

We’ll use mainly Pho­to­shop’s Mixer Brush Tool, which can cre­ate tex­tures with­out too much ef­fort. By the end of this work­shop you’ll have more con­fi­dence to work with stronger colours in your im­agery and will know how to make smart de­ci­sions to har­monise which­ever colour scheme come to mind.

1 Cre­ate a sketch of the com­po­si­tion

This is ac­tu­ally the back­bone of your com­po­si­tion(s) and if you skip this step, things will be­come much more dif­fi­cult later on, as there’s lit­tle room for guess­work. Here I be­gin with a few ba­sic shapes, try­ing to es­tab­lish the graphic na­ture of my com­po­si­tion early on. The sim­pler and more sep­a­rated out the el­e­ments, the bet­ter at this stage, be­cause af­ter­wards the read­ing of the com­po­si­tion will be based on this.

2 Time to de­velop the colour comp

At this stage I be­gin es­tab­lish­ing my stronger state­ments and colour con­trasts. I de­cide early on that warm yel­low will be my main, purest colour and as a con­trast­ing colour I go straight with the blues/pur­ples for the en­vi­ron­ment. The trick here is to make these colours slightly less vi­brant. No­tice how I keep the purest and more vi­brant colours for the ar­eas of light in my im­age.

3 Set­ting up the en­vi­ron­ment

I be­gin es­tab­lish­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, be­cause what­ever goes into it will be in­flu­enced by its light and colours. I start by plac­ing an im­age I found on­line that has the colour scheme I need. Usu­ally I’ll crop and dis­tort such im­ages as I see fit, un­til I find a good chunk that re­flects the colours I’m look­ing for.

4 Paint with the Mixer Brush

I choose the Mixer Brush tool (found un­der the Brush tool) and use the Dry, Heavy Load set­ting. I start by sam­pling colours from the im­age I’ve cho­sen and be­gin paint­ing to cre­ate my en­vi­ron­ment. For more dy­namic paint­ing tex­tures, I uncheck Load Solid Col­ors Only, which means now I can se­lect por­tions of the photo and paint with that.

5 Put to­gether some ref­er­ence pho­tog­ra­phy

Once I have the pose for my char­ac­ter es­tab­lished, I carry out a photo ses­sion us­ing my­self as the model. I try to match the light di­rec­tion as closely as I can and if pos­si­ble, the colours that I plan to use in the com­po­si­tion. Luck­ily, I have a yel­low jacket lurk­ing in my wardrobe that I can use as a ba­sis for the out­fit of my char­ac­ter, and I use a BB gun as a placeholder for the fu­tur­is­tic ri­fle.

6 Paint­ing the fig­ure

I then pro­ceed to paint the fig­ure us­ing the Mixer Brush to pick up small ar­eas of the ref­er­ence photo. I pull down the jacket, us­ing colours from the photo, al­ways bear­ing in mind that these colours – even though they’re in shadow – will still be vi­brant. Any sub­tleties I might have in the end will be given by their tonal prox­im­ity with the sur­round­ing ar­eas, rather than by neu­tral­is­ing colours.

7 Make use of the Cam­era Raw fil­ter

At this point I col­lapse all the lay­ers and open Pho­to­shop’s Cam­era Raw fil­ter (Fil­ter> Cam­era Raw Fil­ter). I will do a lot of work at Cam­era Raw, but a bit at a time. For now, I’ll just use the Grad­u­ated Fil­ter (G) to cre­ate a blue gra­da­tion and change in tem­per­a­ture down in the lower left of my im­age, mak­ing this por­tion of the im­age cooler than the top.

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