As promised, and to honor the pre-release of Dragon's Maze here is the step by step of one of my cards for the set, Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts:
This painting was certainly a challenge. I was never great with perspective or set design, and this painting forced me to tackle both of those things and a figure at the same time.
So here is how I tackled this challenge:
1. The Brief:
It all started by a small brief describing a smart, scheming, magnetic and ruthless woman in her 30's. Her surroundings would be something between a lawyer's office, and a necromancer's lair. A room adorned by scrolls, strange devices, tomes, and somewhere slightly hidden in the background, the spirits that surround her.
When I read this (and after letting out an eager giggle...seriously, painting an evil woman!? YES!) I immediately began to research what this image would feel and look like. I dug through all my resources, to get color compositions, lighting, props and ideas ready. I looked at movies like Amadeus, Black Narcissus, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter: The Half Blood Prince and Gladiator for inspiration.
2. Initial doodles:
After all that research was done , I scribbled a lot of loose initial ideas:
It doesn't matter if they are in color or a simple little scribble, what matters is that they quickly show what I intend to do with the painting as a whole without focusing on any details. I answer a lot of questions at this stage, for example: What is composition like? What is the focal point? What is the angle of the camera? What is the gesture of the figure? Being loose forces me to think of the image as a whole, rather than focusing on details. From these little scribbles, I focus on a couple of them and turn them into a-
3. Detailed Sketch:
These are the two sketches I sent the art director for approval. Out of all the scribbles I did, I thought these two had the biggest potentials to be good illustrations.
I like to polish my sketches, because it really helps me with three big things:
- Helps me envision what the final painting could be.
- Provides a solid foundation for later steps. This includes drawing out the scene as best as I can, and establishing color and value relationships. Most important of those two is having a good drawing, as I've said before, an accurate drawing will save you a lot of grief later!
- Serves as a guide throughout the whole painting process. I love sketches, and usually find them to have an energy that finished paintings usually lack. Through out my entire painting process, I keep a small window open with this thumbnail up. It usually steers me in the right direction when deciding what to keep, what to focus on, and what to keep loose.
But first let's talk about-
Even though I have over 200 brushes ( and this is me sizing down! I used to have 700!) I realized I only use about 7. And then out of those 7, I only use these 3 on a regular basis.
I got #1 & #2 from one of those brush sets from incredible artists you find around. M@, Jamie Jones, Min Yum, Thomas Scholes & James Kei just to name a few of them. The 3rd brush is a basic Photoshop round round with a spacing of about 10%. #1 & #2 are the ones I use for almost everything, like a mass block in or rendering areas with texture. #3 is used primarily for rendering skin and other soft surfaces.
5. Blocking in:
Now i'm starting to block in large areas. I'm getting rid of lines, and really beginning to define light and shadow. I'm also keeping a close eye on my layer management (which may explain why in some steps, certain areas are missing!)!
At this point I realize I don't have such a clear grasp on the perspective. So I decided to do circles in perspective. This helped me think of the location and angles of objects in the scene a lot better, and it also served as the tops of glasses later on.
With digital media you can do things that traditional media would never allow you to, such as redesigning, and transforming the face. I realized that her head was too straight on, and too wide. I narrowed her face and made certain features smaller. Something that one would never be able to do, had it been traditional!
Now I'm switching back and forth between her costume and finishing the book area. I spent a very VERY long time on those books, as I had to constantly double check my perspective.
So at this point, I think I'm completely done with this. I've worked on the image as a whole, going back and forth between foreground and background. I added some last details, such as the glass work on the side, costume details, the railings on the window and the creepy ghost face behind the window. I finished the chair, and added all the texture to it. Done, right?...Wait. Something still feels...odd?
Why, her hand is GIGANTIC! I almost made an entire painting not noticing such a GLARING mistake! The reason for this was, that at some point I told myself her hand was foreshortened, without realizing that nothing else in her posture showcased that foreshortening. So with the power of digital, I re-sized her hand to look more human, less of a claw.
It's very important to step away from your pictures, let them sit for a day if at all possible. You never know what sort of crazy mistakes you'll see the next day!
After this fix, I did some slight color adjustments, did a quick unsharpen mask on it, and voila!
7. It's done!
Here's another gif showcasing the whole process!
That's it everyone! I hope this was helpful!
Remember to check out Magic the Gathering's release of Dragon's Maze on May 3, 2013. Also be sure to stay tuned here for a bunch of more uploads coming this week!
Till next time!
P.S. I have received many requests for the 3 brushes that I used, so here they are! :)