I’ve written about my process in the past, but I think it’s important to regularly update as there are always tweaks to be made in an effort to grow.
With that in mind, let’s explore the process behind my card design for Light Grey Art Lab’s RoleModels show!
I had a pretty clear vision of the general character design from the beginning, so I worked through a few sketches (mostly involving some sort of magical glitter).
The glitter was becoming too much of a distraction so I decided to pare it down to a concentrated light of enthusiasm emanating from my fingertip (though that was added after the rough sketch below).
From here I started working in a setting and getting a feel for how these elements would work within the formatting of the card (the yellow bands were the areas meant for player stats and so on).
I was really liking the character work but the overall composition was feeling too flat. I went back to the sketchbook and attempted to create something a little more dimensional.
Notice the really tiny thumbnails at the top? I should’ve been doing that from the start. I was too focused on designing the character that I wasn’t thinking about the entire image. Those small sketches then helped me sort out that I needed to crop the figure to create something a little more intimate. From there I went to the sketch in the middle of that page and placed it in my file!
With a general composition that I was happy with, I moved on to work with colour.
I’ve been asked about this in the past, and generally haven’t given much attention to my colour process.
So I wanted the focus to be on the dazzling distraction in front of Brother Kolb’s face. Because of this I knew I wanted the light to emanate from the mysterious gem and this informed the shadows and such. Aside from that, I really had a heck of a time blocking out colour. I tried to keep to a really limited palette at first (at this point I also introduced the basic setting.)
It wasn’t quite working so I explored changing the colour of some elements to introduce more variety.
I even tried a full-on Samus Aran Varia Suit.
That actually got me on track and I explored more purples (from Samus’s Gravity Suit) and pushed forward to the below image (and lost the Bowie mask in the process).
I scraped the random light in favour of a glow worm and introduced a stealth-attack momma bug to add a small narrative to the image.
One thing I try to always do before committing to a colour scheme is check it in grayscale. For many this isn’t new, but for those who are interested, I’m checking the distribution of values.
Since the contrast was working in favour of the focal point, and there weren’t any major clashes with the values of each element, it was time to proceed to the final artwork!
With the rough colour blocked out, it was time to get up to my usual tricks. First I drew the shapes on separate Photoshop layers.
Those giant eyes are vacant and terrifying, thus I moved on to the shading/textural work.
I’ve explained this in the past, but for newcomers I’ll go over it again. With the shapes on separate layers, I lock the transparent pixels so that I can focus on one element at a time. The separation also allows me to ensure the defining lines are kept crisp and it’s a far less painterly approach. Below is a GIF going through the basic stages of me building the image.
I know it looks like a big leap, but really it was all planned out during the previous stage. At this point it’s simply a case of using the rough colour reference and introducing a bit more detail.
And that’s it!