The Humble Indie Bundle inspired me to do an image based on our game Lugaru, and I took some notes about the process of creating this image. It took me a few hours to draw and color, which is a long time compared to a lot of the pieces I have done, but I am pretty happy with the results. Be sure to check out the video in HD. My notes are below.
I like to start an image by doing a sketch. Gradually I build up the sketch until it's fairly detailed. When I originally started drawing I was inspired a lot by comic books, and so I feel most comfortable working in a linear style. Classically trained artists will usually move to shading almost immediately, and many digital artists prefer to paint on top of existing images. Those are great techniques, but I still enjoy starting with lines the most.
When I go to shading I like to block in the major light source and focus on getting the cast shadows right. Most of the information about the form comes from these cast shadows. Proper shading is really complex. You have to take into account light bouncing around if you want things to have a really substantial look to them. This means receding areas get less light, and exposed areas get more light, even if they are in the shadows
I really like the smudge tool in Photoshop. Often I will collapse layers before using it. By smudging things around, you get a nice range of values you can use your color picker on. I often alternate between using the brush and the smudge tool when working on shadows
It's important to be willing to make major changes to your image at any stage. When I'm working on an image and I feel like I'm having a hard time getting the shading right, I'll fill in an area to reduce the contrast before starting on building up the highlights again. Often the differences between convincing shading and something that doesn't look right is a matter of a barely perceptible difference in tone.
One great trick with digital art is to flip the image horizontally. This often gives you a fresh look at the image, and you may notice problems you missed before.
When I start coloring I usually use an overlay or multiply layer to block in the basic colors. Then, I add another overlay layer and use a contrasting color to help create more color depth. While I find it easier to get the shading right by working in grayscale, it has the major drawback of making coloring more difficult, so it's important to spend special attention to adding rich colors.
Finally, once all the major components of the image are complete, I start to detail things. This is the most time consuming step, but it's really important in terms of giving an overall sense of polish. Many novice artists will start off an image by doing a lot of detailing, but if the fundamentals of an image aren't right, it won't help the image much.
For the background, I wanted to keep it simple. It's easy to overpower an otherwise cool image with a busy background.
Thanks for watching this video and stay tuned to the blog for news about our next game, Overgrowth!
You can download a wallpaper sized version of this image here.