In this tutorial I will be showing the process behind the creation of Breakfast Wars, as well as some general techniques I use to create my artwork. Starting with how I approach sketching my initial designs, I will detail the steps I take that lead to the final rendering. I hope you can apply this method to a variety of your art projects and achieve consistently good results. Having been influenced by concept artists like Harald Belker and Scott Robertson when I first got into this stuff, I'm sure you will see echoes of this in my process and work.
I usually start off with a pencil and paper to work out my idea before heading into Photoshop. For this illustration I looked at a lot of different photos of kitchen appliances while trying to decide how the robots in a kitchen could look. It helped to draw some juicers and toasters from reference to warm up and to better understand my subject matter before I jumped into designing the bots. One of the design problems I faced was how to make plain kitchen appliances look like menacing, lively robots. After looking at some picture of animals I decided that a frog and a crab stance would work well for the toaster and the juicer respectively. Whenever I design I always focus on the subject having a great silhouette or outline so the frog and crab design elements just complement that (Fig.01).
Before I added any light or dark tones to the image I set the sketch layer to Multiply and lowered the Opacity. I then created flat base colors on a layer to block out the different parts of the subject and placed this layer under the sketch layer. In this way it also worked as a selection mask for when I began to add value to the image. This is how I start almost all of my illustrations (Fig.02).
Next, I picked where my light source was going to come from and I created a layer where I began shading. I am aware that this step seems like a big jump from the last one. All I did in this step was simply mask out one part at a time and shade the robots while working only with a soft black brush. If I am shading a complicated part I will create a new layer to work on the tricky part and merge it down to the main shadow layer when I'm happy with it. If you use this method then it's important to remember that shadow consistency is the key to realism. Don't be afraid to be generous with your shadows; it's okay to start dark as you move onto the light layer. Consider your lighting too: is it soft light or a direct hard light so that it creates sharp cast shadows? Where is the most of the light coming from? In the case of Breakfast Wars I chose to backlit the scene (Fig.03).
Much like the previous step, here in the light/reflection layer I slowly built up definition by masking out the parts one by one while working only in white this time. As with the shadow layer it helped to work in multiple layers for more control before merging it all into the light layer. I decided that the bots would hate highly reflective chrome and glossy surfaces so it was helpful to think of the robots as reflecting the light in their surroundings and not as matte forms reflecting the light of a singular light source. I also had to take into consideration the fact that the light would also reflect off the brightly lit counter top and onto the bots. I used a Hard brush for the most part at this stage and not a Soft brush because the nature of glossy materials calls for hard edged reflections (Fig.04).