• CGSociety :: Tutorial
    Poster Illustration
    9 January 2006 - Leong Wan Kok

    When creating your own poster/illustration, it is always a good idea to first think of the background story for the artwork. Think of the world environment in which your characters dwell, the kind of personality your characters will have and the places where they stay. A vivid idea of how the world looks will ease your way during the painting stage. This process of brainstorming will also help you to create a piece of artwork that is not only memorable but have more depth, and in a way have a “longer read”. I always strive for illustrating a piece of artwork that is not only conveying a unique/original impression, but has a sense of story behind it as well.
    As you can see here, all the design work has been finalized, and so has the layout. I usually work out my black and white layout on A4, then later scale it up to A3 size, transfer it onto another clean sheet of A3 paper using light box and start inking them (depending on the requirement). I always ink my own artwork. By this stage, you should now have a clear idea of how the shadow and highlights will work. Lightly sketch out the shadow area also if you need to.

    Although inking on A3 will take a longer time to finish compare to A4, it rewards us with a better quality work, as all details are more visible and clearer. Don't limit yourself at this stage if you think of any great design idea to add on for the poster. The design shouldn't stop at this stage. Let the good ideas grow continuously. Sometimes I redesign my piece as I progress, if I think of a better idea, but of course if you do this, keep your mind on the deadline. Especially if it is a commissioned work and always email the new design to your editor to get their approval. Finally, when you scan the picture, remember to set it at 300dpi.
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    Here are some of the character designs for this work. I work out all the ideas during this brainstorming period. Don't worry about how rough it looks during this stage, the important thing is to let the ideas grow. You will never know what will happen next and never ever throw away any of your rough sketches. If the idea isn't suitable for the current work, save it, as there is a strong possibility that it will be perfect for your next project; cherish all the ideas you have.
    The first step here is to get your scanned image into your software application (in this case Adobe Photoshop) and then open a new layer on top. I have decided to have a dark brownish look for this piece so I first chose my desired color and then hit edit > fill. I then set the layer mode to multiply.
    On the same layer, start your rendering for each element in the artwork. Choose a soft edge brush for this and build up the tones layer by layer. Don't worry about the shadows and highlights, we will deal with them later. Concentrate on the proper toning and the color combination. I usually work on the same layer in this stage. Each element should have its own layer. but if you are not comfortable with using the same layer, add more; it is up to you. Very rarely do I work out a color scheme now, at this late stage. For each piece I do, I always have a clear idea of how the color combination will look before this time.
  • After completing the color tones, the next step is to deal with the shadow. Open a new layer and set it to multiply. For creating shadows, I always start by making a selection that represents the shape of the shadow, using the “lasso” tool.

    Choose the right color for it and hit edit > fill. It is faster to fill the area with color than to paint it in. The shadow now has a sharp and harsh edge so to soften the edge, change your tool to “eraser”, and before you start editing the shadow, adjust the layer opacity to 30%. Set the “eraser” opacity to 45 %, to get a better result. Slowly dab it to erase the parts that you don't need. This step will require more attention and patience, but it can be very rewarding once you do it correctly. As always, practice make perfect!

    Let's move on to rendering the highlights. Open a new layer and leave it as “normal” mode. I always choose to use the “brush” tool instead of the “dodge” tool for creating the highlights for a character. This enables me to introduce a set of different color variations, and certain subtle colors for the bounce light.

    When creating highlights for steel it can be very helpful to first go and do some research. Take some reference photos of the kind of rusty steel you like or you could also gather them from the Internet (ie. royalty free images), or buy some texture CDs. A few trips to Google will clarify how steel should look.

    Before using the texture it's best to clean up the lighting on the photo. Make sure the texture is neutral in term of lighting with no obvious shadows or highlights. Also, make sure to get the proportions right. You don't want to have an image with a surface texture that is way too big for the object. Scale them to fit the perspective of your layout as well, otherwise it will definitely look weird in your work.

    Set the steel layer opacity to 50 percent, and “normal” mode. Then edit the part that you don't need using the “eraser” tool bit by bit. Next, change the “eraser” opacity to 40 percent. Select the “dodge” tool for the highlighted areas, and the “burn” for the shadows this time. Add in some small scratches here and there, to indicate the worn areas also.

    Finally, open a new layer and set it to “normal” mode. Work out all the extra details such as the dirt, color variation, clouds etc. Use adjustment layers if you want to adjust certain layer's brightness, color variation, level, etc. This way you can make some changes or delete the adjustment layer if or when you no longer like the effect. This is a very useful method indeed.
    Leong works as a concept artist in an animation company in Malaysia. Beside his interest in animation, Leong has a strong passion for comics. His published comics can be seen in both local and Singapore comic magazines, in which he is known by the nickname “puyuh”. Leong also makes his own toys from the designs he manipulates via the computer. Besides working on his comics and toys, he has also created a series of his own posters; The AstroCityzen Poster Series. He started this series in the early of 2004 and every now and then a new poster has been added to the collection. This collection of posters is just for himself, however, he is compiling an illustration book for release in late 2006.
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