I'm excited to announce that this 2014 Winter Term, I will be teaching online at CG Master Academy! My good friend Erik D. Martin has laid the foundation for a spectacular Digital Painting 1 class and I will be co-teaching with him. Thrilled and honored to be teaching alongside some of the most talented artists in the industry at CGMA. Enrollment just opened up so please be sure to check it out!
Earlier this year I was asked to to a process breakdown for one of my old pieces for a tutorial website. Thought I would re-post here. Hope this is helpful!
First I start with a very small thumbnail, searching for an
interesting composition that will tell a compelling story. Even though this is
just a small color comp, take your time because this will be the foundation for
your entire design. Be sure to zoom out at this stage so that your canvas
is very small on your screen. This way you can pay attention to the overall
composition, the big shapes, and the organization of the elements, instead of
getting caught up in the details that we will address later on. As a general
rule the 3 things to think about that will determine the outcome of your piece,
in order of importance are:
Next, I overlay a line sketch to design all of the
individual elements, focusing on correct perspective, dynamic lines, eye
movement, and focal point. Once you've decided the story you want to tell, the
question is how do I utilize everything in the piece to reinforce that story?
Value structure is important so if a piece is complicated
with a lot of layers, it's a good idea to do a black and white study of the
basic value structure, deciding how you want to light the painting. In this
piece I went with a typical dark foreground, medium midground, light
As I'm designing I will constantly flip the canvas horizontally,
which does 2 things. It gives me a chance to look at the piece with a fresh set
of eyes, and in doing so will also help me to see any perspective issues that
need to be corrected.
A general composition rule is to divide your canvas into
thirds and place your major focal points at any of those intersections. Outside
of those intersections, your composition can arguably become flat, less dynamic
and promote less eye movement.
In this composition I decided to use a very fluid form
language, with the shapes of the rocks guiding the eye in a circular direction,
never leading off the page, but rather inwards toward the focal point.
Regardless of where the viewer's eye enters the canvas, and what direction it
travels, the lines will always direct towards the area I designate as the first
read. Further I will choose a second and third read and be sure to develop these
as "mini compositions" within the page.
From here I overlay my original color comp as
"color" under layer properties. What this does is transfer my
original color intentions, but now with my newly developed value structure
Then I will start to define the 3 dimensional shapes I have
drafted, making sure to follow the light logic I established early on.
With the sun setting beyond the horizon, light has to travel
through more dust and moisture in the air, thus turning the sky more red and
yellow. My highlights on the ground will be warm reflecting the little light
that is left in the sky. My shadows will remain cool, and less saturated.
I add smoke to the scene to provide more atmospheric
perspective, depth, and movement.
Only when I feel the overall composition is working will I
start to add details. Adding lights to the man made structures will help provide
the viewer with a sense of scale.
Towards the end I felt like the background structure needed
more contrast to draw the viewer's eye in. So I added highlights indicating the
sun direction. I also felt the background wasn't dark enough given the low
sunlight, so I darkened the rocks. My last layer is set to a "hard
light" under layer properties. Then using an airbrush I paint in a glow
around the highlighted surfaces, reflecting the light into the dusty air. At
this point I feel the piece communicates the story, mood, and visual language
that I originally sought out to accomplish, just enough so that it does not