Monday, August 24, 2009

Work8 Process Works

Woot, another process works for your delightment.

So, the premise of this piece: After months of decent work streaks with Imagine FX magazine, they decided that I was up for a new challenge - the cover. They sent me a notice and I took it up. This work was and is to date my most paid single piece work (I'm not gonna disclose any numbers), and my most extensive work, taking up more than 40 hours in total.

But like any other professional works, the commissioner was very picky and precise since real money was on the line, not just on the commission fee side, but on sales return as well.

Okay, so let us begin then.

Warning: This work is fucking massive. Around 60 steps overall, and to this date it occupies 12 gigs on my backup drives.

So the work process began with providing them a couple of thumbnails. The precise description they gave me was 'Anime girl and mechs' so I was given a basic concept to work with. For most part I tried avoiding Five Star Stories or Gundam Wing styled mechs in favor of more realistic, down to earth mechs. What I gave them is 4 distinctive mech style in different views. They wanted me to have 2 thumbnails for each one, with hatch open and hatch closed.

In the end the number 2 won out in their secret meeting of death and agony (dunno lol) and they had forwarded their intention to me. The guys at IFX made sure that I keep them updated with the progress as this whole cover project was a very sensitive process.
As soon as I was given a go I began painting in details in black and white to make sure of the overall design - before I moved onto full color. Personally, this is my greatest regreat working on this piece. It proved to be fatal as it forced me unnecessary amount of extra work painting both in black and white and then color, as opposed to straight to color techniques which is much faster.

At this point it was clear I could not paint the mech accurately without having a full view of the mech. I then had the canvas size increased and added rest of the body - which looks quite awful at this time. At the moment I'm still unsure of which direction to take this mech to. This whole concept brewed gradually over time as I added more piece in and painting further in detail.

And here I extended the canvas beyond the top hatch so that could be included as well. The upper body now looks noticably more structured, but I'm still feeling a little uncomfortable with the general design.

So I play around with the design for a while and finally settled with this. Before settling in, I tried couple different things with how weapons are laid out and what the weapons will be for. The basic concept I came up for it was an all-purpose mech that's able to carry anti-personal, anti-tank missions.
Here I add in some perspective guidelines for later use with backgrounds and proper mech placement. It may be easy to mistake it as a one-point perspective, but it's really a two-point perspective. There's a trick I learned from Andrew Hou on how to accurately do this, but I'll save that for another time.

The background is added roughly just to get the basic idea. You notice that I'm already going with the whole garage/warehouse concept for the background.

The hatch perspective is corrected and the design tweaked. I really wanted to draw the hatch as if it will actually fit.
Just adding more details here... I also change the perspective on mech's feet so it'll be more in line with the perspective guidelines I laid down.

More details, but here I'm really trying to think how the mech will move and function, adding all those joints and sockets while giving spaces so the parts can bend and extend. Proper implementation of functionality to your art may not be the most 'artsy' thing, but it does add realism.

Flip image trick again, but then I do this after drawing the hatch closed... The girl is actually safe under that closed hatch layer. Don't you worry.
At this point I send what I have to IFX guys for periodic check-up and they tell me to drop the hatch in favor of just the girl. I immediately delete the hatch layer following their message.

Now I feel that I have laid out most of important stuff and I feel confident enough to move on to coloring. I first use a layer with 'color' option to subtly give color to various parts - mostly blue.
I have a bad habit of throwing blue on everything I'm not sure how to color. Don't do that.

The image is flipped back to continue painting normally.

Here I'm indicating cast shadows and cockpit glows. I don't remember my precise thoughts back then, but I must've decided to go with this particular color concept quite early on.

The cockpit receives some detail works. I also improve the color of the girl probably with combination of color layer and overlay layer. (That's how I always do it when something is off color)

And a touch of normal layer on top, and painted to bring out the mech. Common newbie mistake is that they don't really detail something that's inside the shadow, but you gotta think of the reflected light casting to the shadowy area.

At this very moment I was like, 'Fuck it. The perspective sucks and my life sucks.' and then erased the entire background. Something just didn't seem right and I really wanted it to look and feel right. If you can't get the perspective right the first time, you can always redraw the damn thing until it does.

And my solution to it was to pop a layer on top, use shift key to draw straight lines, and erasing parts where the mech intersected. The result was pretty clean perspective indicators which happened to be very accurate (well, it wasn't really an accident, but anyways).

A thing about my painting style is that, quite frankly it's schizophrenic. I'm all over the place and it really slows down my process overall. Anyways, more detailing.

Here I have laid out pretty much everything that's gonna go in the background, plus most of their colors. I'll probably do coloring tutorial some day.

Bit more details... and indicators for 2 chars I'm gonna put in and then remove...

More details, shades, and shadows. I'm running out of things to say.

Larger car, step ladder, florescent lights on the ceiling, and darker shades overall to bring out the cockpit.

For now I remove the laptop wire connected to the mech, for the same reason I put electrical cords on 'City of Discontent' at the last part.
I'll just skip on things that are obvious to spot from now and concentrate important changes/directions.

Overall detail improvements here again. It's starting to look pretty polished.

Some improvements on the fueling car, junks by the toolbox and the whole left wall. Those parts from here on is left pretty much untouched.

Here I test out how I'm going to do the ceiling, but it's a big pile of failure. I'm gonna be throwing that upside down fairly soon. Same goes for the bullets.

Biggest change in a while: I finally decide to do something about the girl who's been looking pretty dull over the course of the process. Interestingly enough I thought the gloss on her was one thing she needed the most.

Obviously it was too much so I tone down the gloss.

And fixed her damn leg for the same reason I fixed the hatch steps above. I can't and shouldn't have her sitting sideways when the mech is almost facing forward.

And I darken the scene overall, while reaaaaaally bringing out the girl via overlay layer. I recognize that it is a mistake almost immediately.

And revert back to more subtle brightness. You can also notice that I'm getting really conscious of the hatch light as an actual light source (as opposed to arbitrary glow) and use that source to cast shadow on the mech itself.

Here I use overlay layer to do all sorts of wonderful things again. This ends up making the girl white instead of beige.

You can't see it but I'm merging all the layers I made every few minutes or so. I'm basically doing all this in few layers or none. I merge them here too - including the overlay I just created above - so I can paint the details over it.

More details and improved depths.

More details plus some light reflections are indicated as grayish bleed on the mech's ass.

I'm pretty cautious when introducing new elements while painting. I carefully test out the camo on the mech on a separate layer just to see if it will work; and it does.

But then it's not the time for full camo yet. The mech still needs polishing before additional details can be implemented - just like how the wood must be sanded before it can be varnished.
Also I scale down the girl's head. I thought it was big at the time but I kind of regret it now.

Moar details.

And more. When you can't seem to be able to produce very detailed art, first increase your image size to something like 5000x6000 pixels or so - and really zoom in while working.
This piece however went up to something like 8k and 10k.

Much like what I've done with the chain bullets on the shoulder, I just used the same one bullet, copy & pasted them to really cut down on repetitive process.

Just a bit more detail until I can start my camo...

Now the ceiling is gone. In this place I'll be just painting in some textures and add florescent lights.

I was probably approaching my critical mass moment where I just collapse and give up the whole thing. At least I'm nearing one very soon down the line. There were so much to go but so little time.

Camo camo.

So this is basically how I painted my camo. A separate layer on top, and just painted all normal like, but in one stroke per area - using black and white. After that I just reduced the opacity and it just looked damn good like that.

The ceiling light is added with a slight indication of cover in shape of a grid. I just made one grid graphic (in flat view) and used the transform tool to manipulate it in perspective. Works great in certain situations.

Just like that.

Veeerrry minor detail improvements. See if you can notice it.

Same deal.

Alright so this is where those guys meet their agonizing end. I pretty much broke up at this point and went in to 'FUCK IT' mode. It was like 11am in the morning and I hadn't slept for nearly 50 hours and I needed to sleep. When it's like that, those extra guys are just a burden, not a character.

I quickly move through places where it lacked details and try my best to wrap it up. The deadline is approaching.

Yeah. I had planned for it a VR display controller since I could not find a reasonable way to add traditional joystick / buttons, but I left it for later since it would be difficult to add in something floating and semi-transparent in mid-painting. So I just add in something really simple to just pretend something is there.

And then some of them didn't work out too well so I remove some of them to avoid excessive crowding.

A VR keyboard is quickly added just so she can pretend she's got some buttons she can mash...

All of a sudden I realize the piece is finished (well, not really but anyways), so the next phase I go into is this violent orgasm where I just let out sigh for at least an hour (while uploading the file so I can send it to my commissioner). When you've exhausted yourself to meet a deadline, the feeling of relief is so great it's almost as if your soul is escaping from your body.

Luckily the tutorial (for ifx) of this piece wasn't due the same day the cover was so naturally I went to sleep after sending over the file. That probably was the sweetest, most delicious sleep I've had in a while.

As a professional, however, I don't recommend you to exhaust yourself in this way EVER. Even if it means delaying the deadline, it's better that you take time and go over your work thoroughly. That way you get to sleep, you get to eat, you get to be healthy and your work looks better.

For your pleasure, 50% file above as usual. (edit: nevermind. blogspot resized my file...)

After finishing and sending the piece, There were parts I immediately realized I could have improved or made mistakes with. The mini-gun barrel is not bound at the end, the mech's feet needs WAY more detail and etc.

But anyways, the guys at IFX loved it and the response was generally extremely positive. This work to this date is my most faved piece on DA.

Working on something that is beyond 10th hour mark is just extremely boring and I don't think I'll be capable of pulling off something like this for a long while - at least until I'm feeling crazy again.

Oh, and btw, lemme know if there's something wrong with this article. I didn't proofread it as it was too massive lol.