Production designer and artist, Rasmus Berggreen, reveals the Photoshop skills behind his Nordic image, 'The Last Goodbye'...
This illustration is made for my personal pet project, Fall of Gods. It is based on a Norse mythology-inspired story about the warrior VÃ¡li, who sets out to bring back his murdered family from the underworld. I have always dreamed of doing my own take on this subject, as I haven't seen a project yet that has fully captured the essence of the mythology. This piece in particular depicts the moment where the main character VÃ¡li says goodbye to his brother and, in true Viking tradition, is put to rest at sea in a burning ship.
The book itself will be full of illustrations, with a distinctive semi-realistic feel to the images. To me, it's important to build up a dense atmosphere and a great sense of scale, so to achieve this I used specific matte painting techniques.
Matte painting is used in the film industry to convey realistic settings on the big screen. To achieve this realism, it is often necessary to combine a lot of different photos; the challenge being to produce a coherent look. As I am aiming for an illustrated feel for my book, I think of my pieces as concept art that just applies matte painting techniques.
I will demonstrate these techniques in the following article. I will go through several process steps including a rough sketch, color blocking, building-up the painting and applying the final finishing touches. I'll then finish with some highlights and tips.
I knew from the start that I wanted to capture the moment where the main character VÃ¡li has to put his brother to rest. It is an emotional moment, as the main character grieves his loss.
So how do you capture that specific moment best? My solution was to create a very calm image, broken up by the dynamic and fierce flames from the ship. That shows the characterâ's inner struggle.
Here is my initial sketch made with some almost dried out markers, and a pen. (Yes, they should be refilled).
This is one of the most crucial steps, as this is the point at which the direction of the painting is determined.
In this project, I considered the composition and whether the image read well. I used a Chalk brush in Photoshop because it is quite rough so I didn't get caught up making too many details (which can easily happen when you get excited). To me, the most important elements of a great design are shapes and lighting, and that the whole color palette seems coherent.
Once I'd considered the direction I was going, I started all over again. I started by defining my horizon, sky and water, and of course the image size. I knew this was for print, so I made sure the image was at least 4000px and in 300dpi.
The foundation was much lighter than my original painting was. I did that to make it easier to control the values later on in the process, as I had a broader range to navigate. I returned to this at a later time when I tweaked the image with the curves filter.
Blocking in shapes
I then blocked in the shapes of the cliffs. I used the Lasso tool, and simply followed my color sketch, but also made sure that the shapes seemed realistic as well as interesting.
It is a good idea to have a strong silhouette as you can apply texture on top in a very easy way, and still make sure your shape has clear edges (see pro tip section). I knew from my concept that the image would read well, so I tried to follow that quite closely.