Dongjun Lu is a full time concept artist working in the film and video game industries on titles that include King of Avalon, Toukiden, Nobunaga's Ambition 14, Romance of Three Kingdoms, and Assign Dragon to name a few. He also as 5 years of teaching experience and has taken the time to share a few of his essential tips for digital painting with us, using his work Knights with Dragon, as an example. See what Dongjun had to say, and be sure to visit his design website to see more works and tutorials.

This is one of my personal works which was done during the days I was painting some dragons for a client. This is also the one of study works for understanding of dragons and knights. In the Initial stages, I was thinking of creating a female knight with a giant dragon behind of her. But when I went to composition part I found she was a bit lonely, so I tried to create more male knights around the dragon.

The concept design part of the dragon made me very tangled. The first difficulty is the pose of the dragon. I have to study the inside anatomy and muscle structure of the dragon with the pose. And also I have to think about how she can make good composition with the female knight. Neverthless, I tried to turn the dragon body opposite direction with the head, but it was still not working. The second difficulty was how to make the details of the dragon such as scales, horns and dragon reins. I searched many reference images of lizard, bone and horse reins. They gave me initial inspirations of details for dragon.


1. Composition and Perspective

The first step is a quick sketching of the big composition. In this stage, you don’t have to think too much of the details. We should put more attention on the big relationship of compositions. In this sketch, I purposely placed a rim lighting on the face of the female knight and strong lighting on her weapon. The main reason is that I want to bring the first focal points to those area.

2. Exploring Design and Colors

After deciding the lighting, we should put our more energy on the designs and colors. The design part here took me a lot of time. I searched a lot of references to get inspiration. You can use some textures to apply to your sketch and to help. The main color map here is dark purple combined with bright orange. I chose these colors using sunset reference images, or just by going outside to study them. Even the rock on the ground is also combined with those colors to bring out contrast.

3. Adjustment and Rendering

I did a big change of the composition here. Such as the pose of the dragon and the size of the knights and designs. I believe that there should more negative space like sky and far away buildings to create a spacious feeling and perspective. In this stage, we also need think a bit more about the focusing areas. The female knight and dragon head should be rendered to high details. Following are the dragon hand and other knight. The best way of making details is that paint the forms and add designs as much as you can. After that apply textures to render out highly detail.


1. Armor

This is how I paint details of female knight armor which belong to one character, We should pay attention on controlling the density. For the left hand on the shadow side of shield, for instance, I left a sketched feeling.  

2. Dragon Head

There are many details on her eye and mouth area so that we still can feel the density fluidity on the dragon’s face.

3. Rocks

I used some textures for some certain area of the rock. I reduced the details on the shadow side and leaved brush feeling there. Too much textures showing here will makes the overall composition too tight.

We want to thank Dongjun for these quick, valuable tips!