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This tutorial is a detailed, step by step demonstration of my process in the making of a creature illustration. As a side note, this assignment was a Concept Art test for Cryptic Studios. I did get the job, so in that respect, this piece was a success.

Step 0: Comps / Thumbnails

The first step in creating any image is the ideation process. This is the part I really have fun with.  Since the assignment is a creature illustration, I create a set of creature thumbnails. Sketching small and staying loose allows the ideas and shapes to flow. I sketch about 20 mini thumbnails during this process (Fig.01 & Fig.02).

Fig. 01

Fig. 02

I use a combination of gray markers, from 20% gray to 70% gray, just to create shapes and show form and lighting. To line, I use a brush pen and a fine tipped felt pen.

Fig.03 shows the last group of creature sketches. I start by favoring a reptilian creature for this scene until I finally settle on the Minotaur creature on the bottom left.

Having decided on the creature's design, it's now time to design the scene. I sketch small, 2" to 3", thumbnails to establish the overall image. I try to stay very loose and sketch quickly and allow the ideas to flow. I sketch about 10 thumbnails for this image and the ones selected here are the strongest compositions. After some revision and feedback, I decide to develop the thumbnail on the lower left.

Fig. 03

Step 1: Cleanup / Line Drawing

Now I have my creature and the scene sketched/planned out, I scan in the comp and begin to clean it up in Photoshop. I want the focus of the image to be the creature so I develop him first. My focus here is to have a clean, solid line drawing that will create a strong foundation for the rest of the image. This is a really important point; if the drawing is solid, then everything will fall into place and the rendering process will go very smoothly (Fig.04).

Fig. 04

Step 2: Light and Shade

Now that I have a solid line drawing I begin to add light and shade (Fig.05). The steps are as follows:

  1. I paint a flat, 25% gray underneath the line art. The setting is at night, so the creature will be relatively dark.
  2. I create a multiply layer over the flat layer. I paint the shadows using a 50% gray and 25% gray (for core shadows)

I create an Overlay layer above the shadow layer. Using a 85% gray, I paint the lights and highlights. At this stage my focus is on good separation of lights and darks and good edges to make the forms turn.

Fig. 05

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