Illustrate Vivid Worlds in 8 Easy Steps
Hi there, my name is Joycelyn Ong and I hail from Singapore. I’m currently a student studying at 3dsense school majoring in digital design & illustration course. Reading has always been one of my favorite things to do since young and I love how authors/writers could illustrate a vivid world with just words that draw me in. I love to illustrate vivid worlds, giving it life and the vast, limitless opportunities to play with.
This article will walk you though the 8 main steps that I complete in order to create my artwork.
To begin with, a great piece of work must be able to hold it’s ground when it comes to storytelling. I firmly believe in having a good story/ concept because it is what the audience would want to relate to when they look at your stuff. You want them to be captivated by everything that’s going on and immerse themselves into your world, your story.
Be aware of composition, it’s the major key determining if the piece would pass or fail.
My idea behind this piece of work is about the discovery of remnants of a lost civilization. A simple idea to start the ball rolling. As the creator, I must firstly be able to feel the mood and the atmosphere. Literally I must be there, in the world that I imagined. Know what it feels like before I start any piece of work.
The one good rule I always keep in mind is that everything is of relative purpose. The elements that make up the entire image must have a relationship with one another, and they must have their own purpose/roles to play in my piece. Once I manage to nail it down, it’s time to collect some good references.
Search high and low, relentlessly for images that come close to your ideal world. It helps in paving the right track, so you do not stray off easily. I have a visual library of artists whom I usually referenced from. I would then handpicked certain elements from various artists that I feel would fall in place with my world, and study them.
(Artists credits: Karl Simon Gustafsson, Jonas De Ro, Li Shuxing, Clint Cearley)
Before jumping into anything, first and foremost do proper planning. Do sketches, do thumbnails. This is the part where my story is still in the rough stages, the elements, lighting, compositing all these together. At this point, nothing has to be refined; refinement will only come when the base is solid.
Be aware of composition, it’s the major key determining if the piece would pass or fail. Make sure things flow and the essential focal point(s) are readable. This is a crucial starting point as I wouldn’t want to mess up mid-way and waste time fixing your mistakes. I usually pay attention to shapes and my lighting direction in this stage.
After I’m happy with the basic stage, it’s blocking time. This is a testing ground for me as I would start to add in more rough elements into the composition. It’s mostly a trial and error thing, sometimes things would work, sometimes they don’t. Gotta be flexible to making changes whilst not forgetting the main storyline. Gradually building it as closely as possible as how I imagined it.
Sourcing for photos takes up a lot of time so, it’s good to always have a photo library. It speeds up your progress so, you don’t have to paint every single detail. Save those precious time for the refining part. I eventually swapped out the lion-esque head for an angel maiden, opting for a more peaceful aspect than the initial warship.
Sourcing for photos takes up a lot of time so, it’s good to always have a photo library.
I personally find this a really good way to test and push certain stuff. It’s like the last stage for me to tweak or make any further changes to the composition or elements. Sometimes it’s hard to visualise certain things until you test it out.
6. Paintover/ Colour tweaking
When I’m finally satisfied with the overall feel, I began to start colourizing the photo images, tweaking them to match my lighting and environment. Hence, it’s important to pick photos with similar lighting, so it saves you hassle during the paint over process. Painting over blends everything together, unifying it into a whole piece. I also tweak my works on the go. I like to experiment with adjustments and layers, discovering new effects that further enhances my works.
Finally, arriving at the beauty stage. This is where my technical skills, aesthetics, style and observational skills come into play. At this point, I get to decide how much details I apply to different parts of the image. I never fully detailed every single aspect of my works preferring to keep some places loose. As overdoing it would result in a loss of breathing space because of the overwhelming details.
I would spend more time detailing the focal points to make them pop more and subtly make it flow loosely as it spreads to the background. I also pay extreme attention to the overall read of the image. Choosing to brighten and darken areas accordingly. I also make the ship smaller as it was touching the edges of the canvas uncomfortably.
The last stage that I always have the most fun with. Adding more enhancements, further refining details, to tighten up the image. I then added humans from different factions to further enhanced and solidify the story as a whole piece. The finishing touches are like cherries on top and breathes more life to the entire image.
The finishing touches are like cherries on top and breathes more life to the entire image.
And that’s the end of this tutorial. These are usually the main points that I focus on when I create my works. I tend to experiment with my workflows a lot and trying out different styles as I believe there are always things to learn from. Staying in your comfort zone will get you nowhere and halts the progression.
Making as many mistakes as you can and learning from there is of utmost importance. Also never give in to the fear of failing, learn from it. Understand the reason behind failures and you will overcome it. I hope this walkthrough helps in your learning process!