Establishing the lighting
I used 7 lights and 2 bounce cards in this scene.
Environment (overall): 1 key, 1 fill
Environment (FG): 1 fill
Alice: 1 key, 2 fill, 1 bounce card
Cheshire cat: 1 fill, 1 bounce card
I mostly used V-Ray Rectangular Lights to light the scene but for some areas, I converted geometries into light meshes to get more control. I felt this method was useful for lighting the characters because the geometry had created core shadows and contact shadows that were difficult to get rid of with just rectangular lights.
I created a plane and assigned a V-Ray material diffuse set to white for the bounce cards. I used those in areas where I just needed to lighten a little (for example, in between the Cheshire cat's tail and his body). The key was to have an even lighting to get the flat look. Another way to achieve the flat look was to rely on surface shader, but I didn't want to use that route, mainly because I wanted the shaders to respond to lights and have that subtle highlight and shadowing that follow the curvature of the geo.
I added a tiny bit of self illumination (a diffuse map with Gamma Correction connected to the self illumination slot) to help get rid of the shadows where the geos met. Instead of adding more lights to flatten it, I felt that approach was quicker and easier.
Trying different primitive shapes for the light meshes and figuring a simple sphere worked well with Alice
Texture and customizing in Photoshop
Before texturing, I did a simple block-in using just the shaders to get an idea of the overall color palette, and only started on the actual texture painting when the lighting was close to final.
I had a few action buttons in Photoshop
that I'd created to speed up the process. I did my best to work non-destructively, and kept things organized (for example, by naming layers) so that I could easily make changes later.
To get this painterly style, I avoided using photos and mainly used custom Photoshop brushes to get the hand-painted feel. In the end, I grabbed a paper texture from online and overlaid it on top to add a subtle grunge. I did this to all of my textures.
An example of how my Photoshop interface is set up
Creating the hand-painted feel to the textures
Compositing in NUKE
I had broken down the scene into foreground, mid-ground, background, Alice, and the Cheshire cat. I added fog in NUKE
to separate the mid-ground from the background. I figured it was faster to add it in post so I could make changes easily later. The multi-mattes were very helpful because it gave me more flexibility in comp to finalize the look.
This is how I organized my components in NUKE
Showing the raw render on the left, and the composited render on the right
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