The White Sorceress

This illustration was done to demo a pipeline of 3d to 2d. This pipeline started out in film and game studios during the concept art phase. The 2d artists would use lowpoly, crude 3d items and paint over them to flesh out details, colors and materials or do a light pass on a scene before the level artists and the lighting artists would actually implement it in the engine. But lately, technology has evolved and it no longer takes a lot of knowledge to use 3d for presenting ideas, light them and texture them. Marmoset 3, Unreal, Unity and even Blender Game give you the option to build up a scene, add materials to models and light it realistically for an impressive presentation. I use this pipeline to do illustration. If the idea is solid enough, then you can cut down a lot of time in the painting of details phase.



So let’s break it down.

  1.  The Ideea: a white, good sorceress during the money shot. She has a bird companion which she summons; it represents her warrior spirit and her “extended fist”. The girl is the embodiment of good, but a strong, independent woman, capable of fighting strong opposition. The shot needs to look empowering, powerful, memorable (and other seo-friendly industry-standard pop-culture sticky terms). That makes it “sellable”. Very important.1_referinte.jpg
  2. Costume design: somewhere between the classic Valkyries and your generic – run*of*the*mill – rpg sorceress class lies our design. Catchy, sexy – bling – bling yet simple and sugestive.2_schite_costum
  3. The scene setup: a rough sketch of how the characters are set up, what they do, what relation is between them and a hint of the environment. Oh, about the environment –  it’s set to support the presentation of our 2 subjects. Anything that can empower the idea that the sorceress is clean, noble, “urban”&”high value” if you like. I could’ve placed her in a cave but…not the same effect!3_primul_draft
  4. 3d Block-in: I use Blender (it’s free) to set up my scene with the architectural elements, posed characters and most importantly – the lights. Blender Engine is like a Dacia 1300 car (also known as Renault 12): it’s awful at first drive, but after 2000 km you start to appreciate its simpleness and easiness to fix problems. And in general it gets you there even if you choose to drive through Boulderland.4_blockin3d.jpg

5 and onwards to the final image: this is the simple process of painting, overpainting, repainting, suprapainting and postpainting. You know, like in the good old days.




Securibot – step by step process

Hi folks! I decided to do a little step by step on my design process. A big thanks goes to Anthony Jones, this man is a great inspiration to me.

Intro: I always begin with an idea and a little backup story. Without it, it’s all a random act of technical display. For this piece I chose a subject that I explored too little (until now) – robot heads. I imagined a security robot and invented a little back-story for it. I tried to come up with a cool design and also to display some visual cues about the functionality features and the universe in general. During the brainstorming I do self art direction, choosing reference material according to the theme.


Securibot_step_1 copy

1) Using a big round brush I start putting down blobs of ‘material’. I call it material because at this point color is of no real importance for me. I am only interested in establishing some cool shapes and a visual language. The colors only serve to indicate the material. I am aiming for 3 final materials: a) soft rubber-plastic, b) hard metal-ceramic masking panels, c) LEDs and spot lights. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________
Securibot_step_2 copy
2) From shape to form, I start defining the edges and planes. This stage is critical to the design. The visual language is composed of slick rounded forms and flat planes. I am aiming to show forms that are rounded because of two reasons: a) in my little context story this robot is used in interior spaces (hospitals, banks, office buildings, malls) and it must not look too oppressive. Although not a brawler or roughneck, it should communicate a mix between the classical police enforcer and the polite, at-your-service bureaucrat. How do I do that? Using a ‘dance’ of rounded edges and flat planes: strong, vertical frontal plane tamed by curved, sleek sides. Oh…and trends are also important 🙂
Securibot_step_3 copy
3) It is still looking like an angry dog, and that will be addressed soon. I am almost done with the light material, pretty happy with it as a big form. This will change a little as I refine, but the big landmarks have been established.
4) I started with detailing the dark material into forms. I am thinking of design and functionality. This isn’t just a mask, like the light material, this is actually the bits that allow for movement. I will render this into a plastic-techy material, like a smart rubber. I find this to be an ideal solution for aesthetic reasons (it’s rubbery, soft and dark, contrasting to the shiny hard, metallic mask) and functionality (it’s flexible, allowing for bending).
5) Rendering. From now on it’s more exploration and detailing, while molding the piece into a coherent mass of pixels. That means I am looking for ways to make the character tell a story (or at least give hints) through details. As you can see, I changed the frontal plane to something more rounded, taming the angry, blocky look. I added a soft part resembling a nose, as I wanted to make it a little more human. That change in the dynamic of the lines turned our robot into a more calm, neutral individual.
6) I changed the temple area into a more complex system. I made that decision because there already were two big, simple light areas around it. This way I introduced more visual balance.
7) More details. As you can see, I am moving from big shapes to small, while trying to maintain a balance between simple areas and condensed details. Hinges, straps, lids, structural stamps, screws and bolts, these are all great space fillers and also add functionality and authenticity to the design.
8) This step might look somewhat redundant, but actually it is very important: reestablishing the light source. During the design a lot of the initial form might get flat due to constant exploration and brushwork. After I am happy with the overall design, I do this extra light pass, to reinforce those areas, insinuate more 3d into the piece and show more materiality through specularity. Also, I take a break because the next step is crucial and i need to tackle it with fresh eyes.
____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Securibot_step_9
9) Finishing the head. Phew! After careful consideration, I add a final pass of detailing, establishing the personality of the ‘face’ Neutral look, neither, threatening, too friendly, dumb or smart. I add more complexity to the ‘chin’ and ‘mouth’ areas to contrast with the big grey eye-resters on the left. Remember I was talking about 3 materials, on of them being lights? Finally, here it is. I think they are a good indicator for 3 things: technology, stance and aesthetic. The default stance in my depiction is orange – right between green (friendly, assistance) and red (hostile, threatening). Also, it serves the purpose of the robot “Behave, I am dangerous!”, as the yellow/orange + black color scheme is used in nature by wasps, hornets, poisonous frogs and reptiles.
10) Finally, I painted the torso, for better framing and pose. Also, it adds to the personality. Same proportion rules, same visual language, alternating between materials, rounded areas with hard surfaces. Same process. Voila!

Afterthoughts: in the presentation image I added some stickers, more details and changed the torso a little bit to make the robot bulkier and give it more resolve. Traps and deltoids, that’s the trick 😉

I hope this will be helpful for some of you. It’s in no way academic or a ‘must do’ process, it’s just how I am doing things. I will follow up in the future with more processes and case studies, in which I’ll talk more about design, aesthetics and “why did you do that and not the other thing?” situations. Cheers!