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
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.