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Step 3: Foreground Elements / Defining the Vignette

To create depth, space and scale, I add foreground (FG) elements. This also gives the image a nice vignette, which is a fancy word for "framing" the image (Fig.06):

  1. First I use the comp sketch as a guide to draw the foreground shapes

Then I fill the drawing with my darkest darks (almost going to black). This pops these elements forward and creates a nice frame for the image. Fig.07 shows the final FG layer. I took time drawing and rendering the FG characters and the hanging stop light.

Fig. 06

Fig. 07

Step 4: Going "Opaque"

After combining the character with the FG elements, I'm ready to "render" the character. I create an opaque (100% opacity) layer above the line art and begin to paint over the line art. My focus is to refine the edges, model the forms and draw the viewer's eyes into the character. Of course, I follow the old illustrator's rule and put most of the rendering and detail in: #1 the head and #2 the hands.

A close-up of the rendering of the head and claw hand can be seen in Fig.08.

Fig. 08

Step 5: Background

Using the comp sketch as a guide for the perspective, I add the background (BG) elements. As the assignment is to create a night scene in Manhattan, New York, my thought process is as follows:

  1. First, do extensive research and gather reference material
  2. Choose a photo that matches closely and begin to tweak the image in Photoshop

To get to this BG image shown in Fig.09 will require a lot of photo manipulation using transformations, filters and hand painting to make it my own and fit the art style. This step could be a tutorial in itself. I use this technique to save time and to keep the focus on the character.

Fig. 09

Step 6: Intergrating the Background

Here I add background elements to better integrate the background with the character in the middle ground (MG) (Fig.10). This is all hand-painting at this point. Because the BG image is well laid out, I only have to do a minimum of perspective drawing.

Fig. 10

A close-up of the details added here can be seen in Fig.11. It's mostly figures and cars to really show scale, action and story-telling.

Fig. 11

Step 7: Final Tonal Render

I add some finishing touches to finalize the tonal render (Fig.12):

  1. Some smoke and flame loosely painted to create movement and soften edges

Using a multiply layer, I create a drop shadow to really set the character in the scene. I then flatten the image to begin the next step.

Fig. 12

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